Monday, September 11, 2017

How To Make Irritating Students Less Irritating

I keep receiving reports that students seem more irritated,less patient, quicker to anger and less tolerant these days. That makes it tougher to
work with them and help them. Though we may all realize that a student’s anger and even insults are not personal, they sure feel it. This is especially so since students keep pointedly using that second person pronoun “you” as if it were a weapon since they believe you are the school when they speak or even may curse at you.

They see you as the representative of that cold, impersonal money-grubbing abstract “the college” that has caused some disaster in their otherwise imperfect life. They have not learned how to separate the particulars from the universal. And when they are talking to you, you are a true representative of the college. As such, you equal the entire collection of bricks, mortar, people, rules and offices that is the university. So, at that moment, in that encounter, the student believes you are responsible for any wrong done; especially is the wrong may have been committed by the office that underpays you.

Thus when he or she is snide, nasty or even shouts and curses at you, that action is not really at you but as you as a symbol of the college - unless you have done something to call for it. Yes it is irrational and even misplaced but it is real because the student is feeling some hurt or harm.

(The following is excerpted from The Power of Retention
Social critics and we in higher education have found the general lack of civility in our culture also exists on our campuses. This should be no surprise. The people who live in our Happy Bunny “It’s all about me” culture are our students and even some of our employees. They are our faculty, administrators and lo and behold, they are also us.
As Walt Kelly had his cartoon character Pogo put it so well back in the 60’s We have met the enemy and they are us. The people who attend and work at our schools are the exact same people in the exact same culture we think we have left behind when we enter the retreat for intellectual and academic pursuit we know as a college campus. But what we find is that what attitudes apply in the so-called real world outside of academia also apply on a college campus.

This reality can also explain differences in the ways we perceive and act toward one another. Our students come from a cultural group that has been immersed in a cynical, smart mouth me first attitude which has eliminated most of what older America grew up knowing as social civilities and courtesies. The Captain Kangaroo/Mister Rogers world of please, thank you and general polite regard for one another has been replaced by a hip-hop attitude that revels and condones a general rude incivility toward one another. Radio shock jocks use language and casually discuss topics on the radio some of our generation may well be taken aback by and even find anti-intellectual or uncivil. Language that might have been thought of as anti-social and rebellious is now everyday colloquial use in casual discussion even in classrooms and offices. Attitudes that would have been unacceptable and considered rude such as taking a phone call in class or napping during lectures have become the norm according to many faculty members.
Our parents and their parents and theirs all the way back to Young Socrates in the Platonic dialogues had difficulty understanding and accepting the current younger generation’s music, hair, language, attitudes, mores, actions. Each generation knew the student group was more out of control than the last.

Or as Paul Lind sang about it in Bye Bye Birdy

I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
They are so ridiculous and immature!
I don’t see why anybody wants ‘em!... Kids! They are just impossible to control!.... Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way way? Oh,what’s the matter with kids today?

Actually, there is a difference in kids today. More than in the past perhaps and that is causing some service clashes on campus. We, the boomer and yuppie generations taught them too well. We encouraged them to take the next step in being more rebellious, more anti-authority, discourteous, disrespectful and become self-centered, demanding.

In a large sense, we created the college students we encounter. Our generations rebelled against authority and carried that forward by replacing much of the processes of etiquette with a sense of privilege for the next generations. They were taught that they are as good as anyone else. You can be anything they wish to be. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Age is not necessarily an indicator that a person warrants politeness or respect. On the one hand, students were inculcated with a media and marketing liturgy of their importance in the quest for class-free equality. The motto of “don’t trust anyone over thirty” has continued though the age threshold has dropped to anyone older than oneself. We also turned them into cultural and consumer cynics as we taught them not to trust advertising, marketing or promotional media. Unfortunately for colleges that cynicism does extend to the marketing they do. As a result, we created the consumer mentality we not find so offensive when a student tells us “hey, I’m paying for your salary.”

Additionally, technology has allowed the members of the current college student generation to isolate themselves from the larger community thereby greatly reducing the many social and face-to-face interactions one needs to learn social and cultural mores, codes and folkways. The Educause Center for Applied Research reported in 2008 that 80.3 percent of college students report using social networking sites regularly, up from 72.3% in 2006. The social networking sites are also the most used of all sites on the web attracting the largest amount of the average 16 hours of web browsing and usage per week. The social networks of YouTube, My Space, Hi5, Facebook, Friendster, chat rooms, download pirating networks like The Pirate Bay and Mininova allow students to be in a community without any need to ever be with someone physically. These communities have different mores, traditions, codes as well as greater tolerance for negative or boorish behavior than the analog world of higher education found on the campuses of colleges, universities or even career colleges where behavioral codes can be a bit more lenient. Emails also permit the student generation to communicate with others without ever having to deal with in live, face-to-face interaction.

As a result, they learn social codes that can tolerate anti-social behavior such as flaming. Wikipedia defines flaming as
…the hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of a discussion boardInternet Relay Chat (IRC) or even through e-mail. An Internet user typically generates a flame response to other posts or users posting on a site, and such a response is usually not constructive, does not clarify a discussion, and does not persuade others. Sometimes, flamers attempt to assert their authority, or establish a position of superiority over other users. Other times, a flamer is simply an individual who believes he or she carries the only valid opinion. This leads him or her to personally attack those who disagree.
Flaming is not always tolerated on all websites or networks but it is common enough to be found on most interactive or participatory sites. Moreover, people can feel quite at ease with full freedom to flame without concern for retaliation since they can hide behind a user name or the oft used moniker anonymous that does not directly identify them in analog life. As a result of this anonymity flaming, bullying and an assertive nastiness that would not be well tolerated in a real face-to-face social interaction can be common. Furthermore, a communication problem can arise for student communicators when after either participating in or reading enough flaming messages the aggressive and mostly anonymous communication behavior transfers into real life interactions. Students do not necessarily learn or acquire the socialization needed to learn in person inter-personal skills. This lack of social communication skill development certainly limits them with the normative variations in successful inter-generational interactions. This can account for some of the clashes found in working with uneducated communicators and even trying to assist them on campus. Students with weak communication skills just may not know how to communicate appropriately with campus community members of a different age and role.

Technology is only one contributing factor that has blurred the distinctions between what the sociologist Erving Goffman described so well as front and backstage performances in his classic book Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. (1967) Goffman describes the social world of communication events as happening as if they were on a performance stage of a society. He divides the stage into its two major locations of front stage and back stage. As in a play, front stage is where the actors perform their formal roles. They are aware they are being observed and judged by the audience so they play the proscribed part. In society, front stage performers are aware they are being observed and thus perform using socially and culturally proscribed roles and language acceptable to the role they are playing and to the audience listening to it. For example, when a faculty member steps before a class to lecture, he or she does so using tone, language, gestures and the such that would be far different than when he or she is explaining how the day went to a spouse. He or she would use a very different tone, language and performance values when telling a child the same information just told to the spouse. The performance would be appropriate to the role and audience.

Backstage communications occur when the actors are off stage, behind the curtains so they cannot be seen by the audience. They can be more of their so-called natural selves as opposed to playing a specific part in the play. Their language does not have to be that used in front of the audience for example. Granted they are as Goffman notes, playing the role of a person in a play but not on stage at the moment. As a result, they are under less pressure to perform in a particular approved manner or speak specific lines appropriate to their formal performance role. Behind the curtains, they can be more relaxed and speak and act in a more relaxed manner if they wish.

Front stage social roles place pressure on the people involved to perform their roles appropriate to the interaction of the situation, the audience and social norms. If a young person is talking with a priest for example, there are normally restraints placed on the use of language, tone and attitude. If the actors realize they are involved in a front stage performance. The interaction is one that most academics have come to believe should be similar to that of a student interacting with them. But if a person does not realize that he or she is in a front stage performance or has not learned normative social interaction behaviors called upon for the role, there will be a resultant clash between the expected and the actual.

For many students today, the separation between front and backstage has eroded. Students have not been taught the front stage social roles that many academics desire and expect. Whereas academics expect some level of respect for their positions and/or titles, students do not show much deference to either. For instance, just because someone has the designation of Doctor attached to the front of his or her name does not impress students much. Being a PhD does not place much front stage pressure to conform to behavioral models including an automatic show of respect for our educational labels. This is a learned indifference that we have some responsibility for by the way.

When educational attire went from suits, shirts and ties for men and dresses for female teachers, this shift in costume signaled a change in the way students were top address educators. The formal attire was a sign that the teachers were playing a formal role. It stated that we are dressed this way to signal to you that we are in our official front stage roles and you should be too. Just as a costume change in a play lets the audience knows that the character is in a different mood or role so the shift from formal to informal attire sent a message to the audience – students.

The change to more informal, more relaxed dress how one might away from the classroom backstage type of attire was a clear statement that the roles had shifted. The attempt to forge a less formal and more relaxed atmosphere worked. Perhaps too well because it also took away the pressures to perform in socially prescribed front stage roles and behaviors. That carried over to higher education in which the dress can be even more backstage than in K-12. Over time, the informal roles helped erase the academic lines between front and back stage roles. As a result, many of their communications with faculty and others on a campus are backstage behaviors which are similar to those they might use with friends. The college personnel might be using more front stage communication modes so there will inevitably be a clash which will be interpreted by the college member as a lack of respect when it is a lack of communication alignment.

If one realizes that what is occurring is a clash of front stage backstage expectations. It may become easier to deal with the clash. If one can understand the clash of communicating modes not as a statement of disrespect but what it really is - the variance in communication styles between generations. It should also be easier to predict the clash and it is hoped, not be taken aback by it nor simply believe the student is not being respectful and not deserving of one’s attention and help.

How to Cope and Overcome Irritated and Irritating Students
1. Smiling but do not overdo it. There are psychological and physical values to smiling at an irritated student. (Actually we should smile at everyone and even when there is no one there.) Smiling affects mirror neurons in the limbic system which is in the most primitive part of the brain. This is where the fight or flight response takes place. To keep it simple, when we smile, we tell another person that we do not plan to attack. The smile also turns mirror neurons on in the other person. They reflect the smile within the person to affect emotions that start to tell the person to relax and feel happier.

However when one person is angry and the other smiles too strongly, that can possibly trigger a negative response. An emotional reflection that “this other person is too happy while I am angry. Is that smile mocking me?” A fun if overdone example of this can be seen in a sequence from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin has been dropped off by a car rental company at a car that is not there. He has to walk back to the counter through snow, slush and moving airplanes. When he gets there, the receptionist is on the phone having an inane Thanksgiving dinner planning session with someone. The combination of the no car and then her breaking most every customer service rule by making Steve Martin wait while she giggles on inflames him. When she finally gets off the phone, she turns to martin with an exaggerated, phony smile on her face. She asks the usual but wrong question” Welcome to Marathon, May I help you?’ His response “You can start by wiping that f’---ing dumb ass smile off your f---ing rosy cheeks”.

A too energetic and/or faked smile will be like the proverbial red flag in front of an angry bull. It’ll just make the student charge. A smile is correct and called for but it needs to be an empathetic one. A simple, small smile that says “I see you’re upset and I WILL try to help.” The smile you would use with one of your children with a problem. Students are someone’s children and will respond to this smile.

2. Give and Name- Get a Name This is a technique that asks you to do exactly what it says. You provide an irritated student your name and ask her his or hers. “Hi. I’m ________. And you are?” When you exchange names you create a small community of people who know one another. That makes it less likely the irritation will be brought into the discussion. Remember, the student is not irritated at you but the institution. The anonymous amorphous “COLLEGE”. It is also harder for a student to be angry at someone her or she knows by name.

3. Apologize This is a lesson that we learned from people like Captain Kangaroo on TV as discussed in much greater length in the chapter How To’sGood Morning Captain” in The Power of Retention. Captain Kangaroo taught us to use manners and be polite. One of the things we could learn is how to simply say “I’m sorry”. If for example, he thought Bunny Rabbit had played yet another trick but he was wrong, he would simply say “I’m sorry I thought it was you Bunny Rabbit. I was wrong.”

A simple statement of apology to a student can go a long way even if you are not at fault. Even if you had nothing to do with the situation. Often what the student is looking for is to have someone recognize that he or she is upset and may not be to blame. To hear someone accept the situation with a simple apology rather than turfing him to the next office can work wonders.

The apology does not have to be an acceptance of error or wrong either. Greeting an irritated student with “I see you are upset. I’m sorry for whatever caused it. How may I help you?” Or “Gee, I’m sorry something has caused you to be upset…” or “I’m sorry if it’s something someone at the school did to get you upset….”

The irritated student will not be expecting someone to accept any level of possible accountability. By saying sorry, you sort of accept some accountability not for you but for the student’s being upset. You are not admitting guilt or a wrong has been committed if you say “sorry you have been made so upset”. But you will be recognizing the student is emotionally stressed and the apology will start to lower the stress levels and in turn the resultant anger.

Sometimes the student’s response will surprise you. It may range from “well thanks, but you didn’t do it” to “about d—n time someone realized I was upset. Than you.”

4. Compliments This might strike you as the most odd thing you’ve read but believe me it works. When a student is approaching you, your desk or window in an irritated state one thing you want to do is to interrupt the flow of adrenalin flowing through the body that reinforces the anger. The adrenalin affects the limbic system’s fight or flight decision. The hormone pushes blood into the muscles to prepare for a fight or flight. The next set of signals the limbic system receives will determine the decision.

So the objective is to interrupt and lower the stress level and thus the adrenalin flow. What can cause that to happen most readily is to introduce a pleasurable event into the situation. A simple pleasure? Receiving a compliment!

Yes it may seem contrived or phony but so what? You will need not to encounter angry students or your own adrenalin level increases, providing stress that makes your heart pump faster. Blood pressure rises. Other hormones like cortisol are released adding physical and psychological stress that can and will cause physical weakening and make you more susceptible to illness and other health problems. So if you need to give a fallacious compliment to keep you and the student healthier, do it.

Here’s an example. “Hi, I’m _____ Just want to say that I like your tee shirt, blouse, hair, glasses, jeans, backpack...” whatever seems to strike your eye quickly. Say it casually too so it will sound less contrived. Then as the student’s anger is interrupted you can even follow it up with a normal secondary question such as “Where did you get the tee, blouse, glasses….”

The student will most often just tell you where the tee was bought or even stop and think about it. This absolutely interrupts the flow of stress and anger and opens up a much more comfortable and congenial path for you to then ask how you may help.

These four techniques are tried and true. Try them and you might just feel that this job is worth the short hours and high pay.

If this makes sense to you, get the full book The Power of Retention by Dr. Neal Raisman from which part of this article is drawn.
Looking for a speaker for you school, contact Dr. Raisman today at

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Hierarchy of Student Decision Making in Choosing and Staying at a College

Over the past two years, we have been interviewing and speaking with students students to listen and better understand what motivates them to make their decisions to choose a school or leave it.

There is much we learned from the 818 students we interviewed and spoke with. One of the things we came to understand is that there is a hierarchy of student need that guides a great deal of their decision-making in choosing a school, then deciding to stay or leave. This hierarchy takes the form of five questions they consider when looking at a college or consider leaving one.

  1. Can I get in?
  2. Can I afford it?
  3. Can I graduate?
  4. Can I get a job? (or get into a good grad school)
  5. Will I enjoy it?

In some ways the questions parallel the organization of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. They proceed from Primary Concerns, basic issues of necessity and immediacy, to practical considerations of Return On Investment to finally a Personal consideration.  But, the question of a satisfying experience is the last issue for consideration by students after all others have been sarisfied. This placement suggests a parallel to Maslow’s self-actualization. It can only be an issue after the very practical survival issues are addressed. Yes, the initial reaction and desire to attend a specific college is there but it is a first response to a school which is over-ridden in most all cases by the hierarchy of student decision to attend or stay.

The most obvious initial basic concern is getting in to the college. Potential students first decided if the school is one they will be accepted into. This even applies even if one of the ones they apply to is a "stretch school", one in which their acceptance is not assured. They know if they can't get into the school, there is no reason to consider other issues in the hierarchy.

Next they stay with basic concerns and decide if they can afford the school. Granted some miscalculate out of their initial enthusiasm for the college, but if students can not answer the question of "Can I afford the school?" positively they will not go further in the application process or will drop out when the answer to the question become a no.. 

Then they face the practical question of "Can I graduate" from this school. Students generally all believe they will do well and graduate but if they think that the school is too much of an intellectual stretch, they will pass on it for or drop out due to a fear that they will not make it through to graduation. 

This is followed by another practical question that deals with can I get a job if I do graduate from this school? If a student does not believe he or she will be able to get a job after graduation in the chosen major (except for some majors such as theater arts where there is a recognition going in that a job is not necessarily there at graduation) they will not go to that school or drop out from it. All students attend a school to complete the program, get the degree and get a job.

It is only after the basic and practical considerations are answered that a student proceeds to the more personal issue of "Will I like going to this school?" It is quite usual that after the practical needs are answered, students can convince themselves, at least initially, that they will "love" the college or at least have a good time. But if this final concern is not a positive on or in the case of a student who is already attending who finds he is not enjoying school, he will not go or drop out in most cases.  But if the preceding hierarchical questions are all positive, I can get in, I can afford it, I can graduate and I can get a job, they are often strong enough to keep a student in school even if the experience is not what he had hoped for. This is especially so in a "brand name", top tier school with a record of getting employment by its graduates.

This issue translates itself once a student in is in the school and all other issues are resolved. It becomes "Do I like it here? And most importantly "Do they care about me?" as we have seen in the results of the study of why students leave a school.

Keep in mind that initially the students come to the school because they have made an engagement with it similar to when a couple gets engaged once they have answered the basic and practical issues positively. The students have decided in advance (for the most of them) that they will "love" the school. Therefore, they will enjoy their stay. But that decision is one we can either support or defeat with the way we treat the students and the service we do or do not provide. We are the ones who can reinforce or break the engagement.

So what does this hierarchy tell us. It says that students have a very practical view toward their college experience. They are going to school to "get a job" after all and that is a very practical matter. And so customer service needs to focus on their concerns and how they see college. They see it, as we already know from the UCLA Freshman Attitudes study, the CIRP, as a means to an end. For students, that end is quite practical. A job. It also says that when we focus too much on trying to make students enjoy their experience, we are not serving them as well as we could. 

Yes, they wish to enjoy their time at college but they cannot do that until we serve their other more pressing concerns – paying for it, getting what they need to graduate and finally, an assurance they can get a job or get into a good grad school on the way to a career from their college experience.

If this is helpful to you, please consider having NRaisman & Associates help you reverse the student and revenue loss from students dropping out. We are the leaders in increasing retention through graduation through our workshops,training, presentations and full campus audit of academic customer service.and other retention strategies. We guarantee results.

           Contact us today at    or  call 413.219.6939

Get a copy of the bestselling book The Power of Retention by Dr. Neal Raisman and find out how you can increase service excellence on your campus. Just click here.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Vision of Academic Customer Service

In order to change the culture of a college community, it is necessary to have a consensus on a customer service vision for the campus.  Every person at the school must have the same concept of what customer service is. They must have a vision that overrides their personal definitions and concerns and everyone needs to encompass one that all can understand and embrace. A vision is not a set of lofty statements such as students are our business our only business that one might find in a seven steps to salvation  mission statement; meant to be read not enacted. A vision must be a practical guide to see how things work and should work on campus.

A vision is like corrective lenses on someone who is nearsighted and can only see her own office and work. Most everyone can see after all, but not everyone sees the same. There are differences of perspective and angle, of ability and cognitive function and some people really do have such bad eyesight that they need to have corrective lenses out in font of their eyes or they will walk all over students who get in their path. They just do not see them. So think of the college’s vision statement as a set of eyeglasses to get everyone focused the same and on the same object and purpose. 

I do not mind seeing the customer service vision statement as a corrective set of lenses either because most campuses do not see students correctly and some don’t see them clearly at all. Students may be ruder than in the past but that is not who they are finally and that must be seen.In fact, there are some schools that wear blinders to keep students out of their research and self-centered vision of the world.

The vision needs to start from an understanding of who our customers are. Students primarily,. There are more than one set of customers on a campus of course. There is the entire caste system and everyone in that academic caste system is a customer of one another but for this vision formation we will focus on students, the primary customer.

And yes, I know there are people out there who hate the idea of student as customer and the college as a business but all I can say by now is “get over it.” It is true and a fact. Colleges are businesses and here it is once and for all. We are businesses whose budget depends on selling the University (recruitment) to its customers (students and parents) by sales (admissions) and collecting revenue (tuition) by billing (bursar) based on the college's brand (reputation), products (courses, programs, degrees), services (advising, FA..) and creating a connection with the customer (client services) by employees (faculty, staff, administrators) (some in unions) who receive salaries and benefits, delivering product (learning opportunity) fulfilling customer need (degree and career/Grad school). Get the message?

So what should the vision contain? Six elements.  

1.       Providing a positive return on student investment;
2.       Making students feel welcome and valuable in the classroom and on campus;
3.       Providing the care, concern and services needed to retain students in a college or   
         university…from making a school into Cheers University… to scheduling and advising to  
         classroom decorum and assistance… to all the services that can yield success for students
        and showing them you want them to be there
4.       Doing all this with a smile and pleased attitude that one can help students succeed and stay in school
5.       The Hillel thing –Do unto students as you would want done for your son, your daughter, your mother or your father
6.       Following the 25 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service. (want a copy. Just click here and ask)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Make Every Day Like Day One on Campus to Retain Students

It was move-in day at OSU around here and the campus was humming with activity. Students are starting to arrive on your campus too to get ready for the school year, or semester, or few weeks for some. But that first day is a magical one for most all students and parents as colleges roll out their best for move-in day.

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, 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

Get Dr. Neal Raisman's best-selling books by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How to Figure How Much Attrition is Costing You Each Year and What to DO About It

The New York Times (6/7/17) had an article about the enrollment and revenue problems colleges and universities are facing. In it, the author Jon Marcus wrote:

Because of a dip in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds…
enrollment has been dropping for five years, meaning that there are about 300,000 fewer undergraduates to divvy up among America’s campuses than there used to be.

That makes each and every potential and current student vitally important to a college’s bottom line especially since public support of higher education has also dropped significantly over the past decade. Each student’s tuition and fees go to the bottom line of a school and thus is needed to help make the budgets, slashed as they are, work.

Yet, at least 52% of college students will drop out of colleges, universities, community colleges and career colleges before the year ends.  They will take over $250 billion out of higher education at a time when academic budgets are already feeling the hard slap of the economy. This also means that the tax payers have lost most of their investment in future college graduates and a stronger economy since most of the first money in is from federal and state funding. 

Your school may only lose a few 100,000, maybe a million or two, or three dollars…. What will that translate to? Cuts, jobs lost, equipment canceled, salary freezes, benefit reductions, release time gone, larger classes, fewer sections, more deferred maintenance, (deferred maintenance in America’s schools equals around $30 billion right now)general morale shot to pieces. That is bad but not be as bad as for some schools which will have to either merge or go out of business. The Department of Education has over 500 colleges and universities on its list of schools that are performing so financially poorly that they are under heightened review for fear they could go under.  But it does not have to be. The exact amount that your school will lose can be easily calculated. Just use Customer Service Factor 1 which calculates dollars lost due to attrition. (The following is excerpted from my book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service in Higher Education)

CSF1 = [(P X A= SL) X T]

In the formula, P represents the total school population; not just the starting fall freshman number. Most schools use the fall incoming freshmen number and that is an error. The assumption is that attrition occurs most in the first six weeks of the freshman year. That may have some validity for the freshman year but the reality is that students are leaving colleges and universities in any one of the average six-plus years of a four-year degree and in the four-plus average years of a two-year degree. Students leave a school throughout their experience at the college. In fact, some schools are beginning to realize this and worry about the sophomore bubble. But they really need to worry about the super soph sluff, the rising junior jilt, the junior jump, super junior split, the fourth year flee and so on. Every year, every semester, in fact every day is a chance for a student to drop out. Colleges need to be concerned with every student every day of their attendance, for it could be his or her last. So we look at the total population. 

Annualized tuition is the number a school should use to figure its real attrition. Not the retention between the first and second semester or the freshman and sophomore years which are very popular ones. That leaves out all the students who already dropped out before the end of the second term or semester. That number fudges failure. For instance, if a college began a year with 100 new freshman and 99 left in week one but the remaining student stayed the whole year and returned for a sophomore year, the freshman to sophomore percentage would be 100%.

In CSF1, A equals attrition. Again not just from freshman but an annualized attrition rate. And this rate is to include ALL students who leave for any reason. It does not matter if the student says he or she will be back. They are not in the population bringing in revenue until they actually do return. If they pay a place holding fee, that does not count them as a student until they are actually back in classes.

Fudge with the numbers if you have a need for delusion or are insecure, unethical or want to keep the Board feeling better, but when you use the formulas, be fully honest. It will help you understand why the budget is not working or may suddenly implode. No one likes surprises, especially ones that have parentheses around them in the budget and lead to freezes, cuts and the like. Using the formulas honestly can help forecast a reality to avoid surprises and initiate work on retaining students to maintain fiscal and operating health. 

SL stands for students lost annually from total population and revenue production. And T equals annual tuition at the school. So here is what showed up when we analyzed CSF1 for Mammon University. You may know it. Its motto is Omnes Por Pecunia. Anything for a Buck.
Its total population was 500 students 
Annualized attrition was at 39.6%
So SL (students lost annually) was 198.
Times an annual tuition of $13,000.
So, the formula becomes: 
[(500 x 39.6% = 198) x $13,000] =
a revenue loss of ($2,574,000)

To carry this forward, we can plug in other numbers and see how an increase in retention could add to the bottom line and thus the ability to pay for full time faculty, staff, their benefits, increases for adjuncts, instructional equipment, tutors, research release, new curricula and programs, maintenance, and so on. All those pesky costs that make a college or university better. 

If attrition dropped by 5% for this school, and we substitute 5% increased retention for attrition percentage in the formula. CSF1 = [(500 x 5% = 25) x 13,000] = $325,000 more revenue.

Plug your school’s numbers in, and see how increasing retention affects your budget and instructional strength while attrition will sap the ability to meet budget and mission.  Most of the billions of dollars, lost futures, economic growth and tax revenues can be avoided. All your college needs to do is engage is some real academic customer service. Yes, that’s right. ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE. Yup! Treating students as if they really do matter. Like they're your clients. That’s Academic customer service starting with as strong a focus and effort on retaining students as enrolling them in the first place. It costs your school at least $5,640 to recruit a student. Why lose them by not expending some inexpensive time and about $25-50 a student to keep them.

Hmmmm. A $25 investment against the loss of thousands, maybe millions. If only the Congress could have gotten that good a deal for the economy we’d be in much better shape. 76% of all students leave aschool due to weak attention to their real needs as educational clients and customers. It’s not good grades they are really after. That’s an academic misapprehension as wrong-headed as the old “look to your left, look to your right” or “this’d be a great place to work if it weren’t for the students…” 

Another delusion is that academic customer service is like the forced smile of an underpaid clerk in a store. College is not a retail store. Here the client can be wrong. Just look at test scores. But students want to feel as if they are valued and important. Students and their families want what the schools have promised but do not always deliver – fair return on significant investments of money, time, emotion and association.

Colleges sell themselves as Cheers U and the students really expect to feel as if they do know their name and really do care about them. They may be Cliff or Norm in real life but want to feel as if they have meaning and value. And it can start with some of the easy how-to’s of academic customer service from signs on campus, facilities through Capt. Kangaroo’s, Smiling like Dean Bill Schaar, telephone protocols, give a name-get a name and other academic service techniques. But it needs to start now if your school wants to save its budget.

If this is helpful to you, please consider having NRaisman & Associates help you reverse the student and revenue loss. We are the leaders in increasing retention through graduation through our workshops,training, presentations and full campus audit of academic customer service.and other retention strategies. We guarantee results.
           Contact us today at    or  call 413.219.6939