Monday, August 29, 2016

Make Day 1 Last All Year to Retain Students

Students are starting to arrive on campus. 
And most every college will be doing all it
can to make the arrival day welcome big and hearty. Presidents will walk around greeting students and parents. A few may even help carry something in. Administrators are on hand doing the same. At some schools, faculty are around to help out too. And of course, student ambassadors are everywhere helping, pointing, guiding and smiling to try and make the move in easier and friendly. Great start. Sort of like drop-off day at summer camp feeling.

Too bad it is like Tom Lehrer’s line in his song National Brotherhood Week. It’s only for a week so have no fear. Be grateful it doesn’t last all year. If he were singing about move-in, it would be Thank god it only lasts a day and not all year as it should!

Yup, as the last parents drive away, their tears drying, it all ends. The president goes back to his or her office. Administrators too. Now faculty will be available for classes and help when needed, we hope. The student ambassadors wash their polo or tee shirts and put them in a bureau to be pulled out at the next organized move in or orientation day. But the excitement and happy welcome end.

Dumb move.

The days after move-in day are some of the most important there are to build retention. They are the days the real anxiety builds. When the real work of college starts for students. When they need the most help. Where is building….? Where do I go to….? Who is the one to see for…..? How do I…..? My laptop needs and where ….? Do I need to….? And so and on.

But this is when we have decided to let the news students sink or swim; if they can figure out where the pool is on campus and how to get a locker. And what do I need to bring to use it and what are the hours and….and…. The jolly helpful crew is only out there on the day we have labeled move-in. That is the easiest day of all. It is just schlepping in stuff, material stuff. Now when the new students need to set up the psychological stuff, we are not there to help enough. And it is the emotional concerns that will be coming into play when the reality of I am here and where is that and will I fit in and like this place and did I choose the right place. I feel so all alone and I’m sharing a room with some people I don’t know and one is really strange and I’ll have to dress and undress in front of strangers and ….starts to disrupt the new students.

This is when a little irritation such showing up late for the first class at 8:00 am can become the first step on dropping out because I didn’t know how to get to the humanities lecture hall building and the signs don’t help because they just give me names of the buildings so the professor used me as an object lesson about never coming late to his class. And I so felt like a jerk and wanted to just get out of there. And then I wasn’t on his class list so he sent me to the registrars and where that is was a real mystery and there was no one who I could ask to help me out so I waited until later and missed the whole class. I am not sure I made the right choice. I feel so screwed up here.

And all was needed were some of those same administrators and ambassadors, and yes the president, out and about with tee shirts that say “ASK ME AND I’LL HELP” to assist new students. The administrators and the president really do not have any work more important than helping students. Yes, that is right. Students are their business. Their core business. They need to be seen and recognized as a positive friendly force. The ambassadors will be upper-class students, so they will not be dumb enough to schedule anything too early in the morning. Besides, all one needs to do is make a schedule so the campus is covered.

There should be someone at the entrance/exit of every dorm; at every parking lot walkway and at every intersection on campus with some in front of various administration buildings to let new students know if they are at the right place.
On the first two days of classes, there should be a full effort with everyone out there to help students. This way you’ll be sure to get both the Monday-Wednesday and the Tuesday-Thursday class schedules.

After the first two days, the ambassadors should still be at intersections and paths from the parking lots just to handle any issues or questions that might come up during the first two weeks. After that, set up a Q+A area in the main student building or a main lobby to continue helping any students and any visitors.

And to help you smile and learn some more chemistry, here is a link to Tom Lehrer’s Elements Song. It is certainly worth it and will make you smile.

Kissing the Year Off Right

And here’s an idea for the first days of classes that will make that first day a sweeter and memorable occasion. It is taken from an ancient Jewish tradition for students on their first day of studying. The day the youngster is to go off to school for the first time, the parents take a prayer book and drop honey on it. It is given to the student who then licks the honey off symbolizing the sweetness of learning.

If possible, have faculty do the following in class, but if not have student ambassadors or others greet students at the doors to classes. They greet the new students with a welcome and give each a Hershey’s Kiss or other small candy to start the year right. It sounds corny and it is. But it is also very effective in creating that set of feelings that this school is a (excuse me) sweet place. I have never heard from any school that did this that students were anything than very happy for that early morning kiss.


If this article made sense to you, you may want to contact N.Raisman & Associates to see how you can improve academic customer service and hospitality to increase student satisfaction, retention, and your bottom line.
UMass Dartmouth invited Dr. Neal Raisman to campus to present on "Service Excellence in Higher Ed"  as a catalyst event used to kick off a service excellence program.  Dr. Neal Raisman presents a very powerful but simple message about the impact that customer service can have on retention and the overall success of the university.  Participants embraced his philosophy as was noted with heads nods and hallway conversations after the session.  Not only did he have data to back up what he was saying, but Dr. Raisman spoke of specific examples based on his own personal experience working at a college as  Dean and President.  Our Leadership Team welcomed the "8 Rules of Customer Service", showing their eagerness to go to the next step in rolling Raisman's message out.  We could not have been more pleased with his eye-opening presentation.    Sheila Whitaker UMass-Dartmouth

If you want more information on NRaisman Associates or  learn more about what you can do to improve customer service

excellence on campus to increase student satisfaction, get in touch with us / 413.219.6939 and get a copy of our new book From Admissions to Graduation: Achieving Growth Through Academic Customer Service

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Enrollment Does Not End on the First Day of School

I just spoke to the VP for Enrollment Management at a large university. She informed me that enrollment looked slightly down from projections done in the Spring “now that the enrollment period is over”.

OVER? Enrollment is over? Is she nuts? Are the other seven out of ten administrators I spoke to who had similar thoughts also crazed? Is there some academic Alzheimer’s out there that affects the brains of college and university administrators when it comes to enrollment?

Enrollment is not over. It is barely underway as the second unique event of a multi-year process. Enrollment is not a singular event. It doesn’t end when a student signs an application, sends in a deposit and shows up on the start of classes day. It is a process as shown in the chart below. It is a continuum that starts with marketing and pauses at graduation. The real work of enrollment we call retention is just really beginning.

It’s the pet rock thing again. If admissions sells 100 pet rocks on Monday and 98 are returned on Wednesday, how many pet rocks were sold? Just 2!

So here is the process in its 8 steps as shown in the chart above. BTW, click on it and it will open larger in another window. Or so I was told.

  1. Marketing on-going
  2. Application - unique event
  3. Decision on-going
  4. Stitch In on-going
  5. Show unique event
  6. Retention on-going
  7. Graduation unique event
  8. Alumnus on-going leading to another retention process called fundraising.

The process starts and continues with marketing throughout the entire enrollment process. Marketing does not have to be the expensive activity of external advertising purchase but it does need to be as vigorous after the sale as before. Students need to be sold on their choice of your school every day. And if possible, every minute of the day. Students can make a buying decision “should I stay or leave?”- every day, every class, every encounter with people, the campus or even a mention of the school. 

Internal marketing can be as obvious as events, athletics, newspapers, newsletters slipped under doors or hung in bathrooms. The campus or building objective correlatives are also potential marketing statements that will influence buying decisions. Clean, safe campuses , walkways, good signs and even bathrooms are important.

POCmarks are also decision and buying points. If students encounter good customer service at the POCmarks, they are reinforced in their decision to stay – to self-retain. If they encounter weak, indifferent or poor academic customer service, well, that can end the enrollment process.

Repeat this mantra for success and greater happiness. Enrollment ends at graduation. Enrollment ends at graduation. Enrollment ends at graduation.
My work is just underway; not over. My work is just underway; not over.
I will retain students. I will retain students.

NRaisman& Associates has been helping over 450 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and Europe improve retention and enrollment through academic customer service since 1999. 

If you would like to increase retention  on your campus, contact us today at or 413.219.6939.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

If The College Don't Fit, Don't Admit: Dresses and Admissions

Retention can be understood in part by buying a dress. When a woman buys a dress she wants
something that will be a good fit. She also wants to be attractive, for her to look good in it and for it to be worth the cost of the dress in her mind. Like buying that dress, the final decision to buy or not is not an intellectual conclusion It is an emotional one. It is a decision that is supposed to make you happy. (Unless you’re a bridesmaid and have to spend a lot of money on what is almost always a bad looking, ill-fitting and costly ugly choice. But in the analogy that is the same as having to choose a school which is a runner up and not the top choice.) If the choice does not make you feel as if it is a good fit which means it is does not provide an emotional, affective and financial (time, money and effort) return of investment, then the dress is one that is discarded or returned. For a school, that means a student leaves it hanging in his or her historical closet and walks away from it.

This is an emotional not intellectual decision. The initial shopping can and will often be an rational one. I need a dress. I want it to be a certain color, size, hem length, style, price range and even brand. So I begin by looking for dresses that fit that initial logical set of considerations. Dresses that do not fit into the intelligent framework are not considered, at least at first.  For a school these considerations are often level of selectivity. location, size, majors, and name value. Those that do not fit into the schema are not looked at.

Then the purchaser goes to the store to look at dresses that could work and to try them on. The schools visit, tour and even stay over. This will eliminate some contenders but the decision to continue to consider is now an emotional one. What dress fits well? What dress looks right on me? What shade of the color I want is really the right shade? Does the length look right for me? Does wearing it make me feel good? Attractive?  More appealing? Does it make my butt look big?

The same is true of schools now under consideration? Did visiting or applying to it make me feel good about myself. Will it make me look smarter? More fit for the job I want? Does it make my brain look big? These are not intellectual issues but purely emotional ones that go to the core issue of “is the dress/school a good fit for me?”

The salesperson in the store will of course try to make the buyer believe the dress is a great fit, makes the buyer look wonderful and by the way, you look just right in that dress. Cash of charge?” In a similar way, the admissions office of some schools try to make the school a good fit by tailoring the image to the students’ desires. In fact, some intelligent schools even use CRM to totally tailor the school to the specific shape of the student’s interest. These schools will even have current students who are similar to the prospective student email or call to reinforce the feeling of a good fit just like a salesperson in a store may call over another salesperson to give her “opinion” on how the dress looks. If there are any issues, the buyer is assured that the situation can be altered to fit better. They are after the sale so they do all they can to convince the student that this is the right school and fit so apply here now.

The decision is made.  The dress or school is bought and brought home. But if that initial sale and fit become questioned there is a problem. If the dress is worn and in the actual wearing it feels too big, or tight or the color is wrong or the neckline off, hem too short or long or the color is not complimenting the original feelings about it.  In other words it is not a good fit finally.. The purchase either gets discarded (dropout) or returned (transfer).  The buyer feels she was oversold quite often and loses faith in the store. She decides not to go back so the store loses future sales as well as the school loses revenue it would have gained from the student who leaves.

So what determines a good fit? Will I get an emotional, financial and affective return on my purchase? These three roi’s will determine if it is finally a good fit. Now it has to be granted that there are times when the label of the dress, the name of the school will override the balancing of the three returns on investments. Sometimes  a person buys a dress primarily because the label is a designer brand and that name alone will make the person fit into the dress even if it is not a really good fit in and of itself. And because the name and the cost are high, the person will likely continue to wear the dress even if it is tight for example. It is so effectively satisfying to say “the dress? Oh, well it is a NAME BRAND”. Or “I go to XXXX”

But there is an additional factor in the decision to buy. The way the store treats the customer. If the employee of the store or the college is not courteous, does not provide good customer service, makes you feel unworthy or sells too hard and gets caught at it there is an automatic decision that this is not a good fit. The potential dress buyer or student leaves quickly. Equally negative is indifference to the customer. That is also a form of bad service.

And don’t be fooled by the cost of the dress or school and the student’s ability to by either. If someone feels the fit is there, wants the dress of school enough he or she will do what is necessary to get that dress if they feel they need it. For example, that ugly bridesmaid dress discussed earlier, the buyer will get it even if it is much more expensive than it should be because the need for it is there. The dress may be ugly but it is a definite fit for the need. The school may not be all the student wanted but if it where he or she can get a major leading to a life goal, the student will by it even if it is expensive. There are credit cards and student loans for that purpose.

But if the fit is not there, believe it or not it is better to do what you can to dissuade the person from buying the school unless it is a choice or a necessity. Because if you sell the school and the fit is wrong, you have wasted your energy, will lose money and a customer who will tell at least twelve others that the buying experience was very disappointing. Don’t go there.

To paraphrase Johnny Cochran “If the dress don’t fit; don’t admit.” 

If this makes sense and increasing admissions and retention are important to you, contact us to learn how we can help you increase both at or call 413.219.6939.
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