Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What is a Service Excellence Audit and What It Includes

Two of our most called for consulting work are our Service Excellence Audits and Mini-Audits. They are also the areas of our work that receive the most requests for details on
what they include and do. So, we decided to devote a posting to what Service Excellence Audits are.

Simply putting it, an audit is a complete study of the extant state of service excellence (academic customer service) at a college. We study every relevant point of contact between the institution,its people and the campus with students to determine strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the college's service to students. We also study the college’s appearances and physical services such as signage which are known as its “objective correlatives” to assure they are providing and presenting services that will increase the students’ ability to navigate the institution and feel welcome and comfortable.

We use a two-part study approach: off campus to test the customer service provided potential and current students, and on campus to inventory and study everything that has to do with service excellence. 

First is shopping the campus from off-site by contacting the school through web, email, and telephone.  We also perform an initial review of the college from materials provided to students for the purpose of better understanding the school to inform the audits. 

Second, is the on-campus work. For the on-campus aspects of audits, NRaisman & Associates starts with using a participant-observer academic shopper approach in its audits.  Trained professionals will come onto the campus and conduct experiential audits (mystery shopper) as unidentified, uninitiated participants on the campus. By directly experiencing the campus with  personnel unaware they are being observed, has been able to help schools improve their customer service, enrollment, and retention since we started providing audits in 1999.  

Next we conduct a thorough study of the college by visiting offices, checking physical aspects such as signage and studying  all other aspects of the campus that touch students. After that comes interviews with students, staff, administrators and faculty followed by focus groups to bore down on what we find initially. Here is specifically what we look at.

1.      Points of Contact;
2.      Objective Correlatives;
3.      and extant customer service;
4.      staffing appropriate to meeting service excellence objectives as well as performance management tools to assess individual performance success and

Point of Contact audits normally include review of:
  • the website;
  • technology as appropriate to providing services;
  • collateral materials;
  • telephone system and protocols, 
  • receptionists and areas;
  • catalog;
  • signage provided to orient and direct on the campus;
  • entrance signage;
  • interior directional signs;
  • entrances;
  • decompression zones;
  • lobbies;
  • parking lots;
  • walkways;
  • halls;
  • colors,
  • open spaces;
  • lighting;
  • landscape;
  • paths;
  • appearance of building exteriors;
  • appearance of building interiors;
  • observable safety concerns;
  • and cleanliness and general appearance including paint.

The objective correlative audits are more in depth on physical aspects and include the full physical campus including;
  • housing,
  • campus appearance,
  • landscaping and appearance,
  • campus flow;
  • pathways,
  • all buildings;
  • building exteriors,
  • building interiors,
  • bathrooms,
  • common areas,
  • cafeteria,
  • entrances and entrance areas,
  • handicap compliance,
  • lobbies,
  • bookstore,
  • office appearance and physical services,
  • functional flow,
  • student space and its utilization,
  • observable safety concerns,
  • cleanliness and general appearance including paint,
  • utilization of areas…

The customer service audit includes parts of the above with specific focus on primary active service providers and functions such as
  • Website
  • Catalog
  • Reception Areas 
  • Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Registration
  • Registrar's and Student Records Office
  • Bookstore
  • Administrative
  • Testing

As well as testing every level of customer excellence, such as:
  • Repeat visit syndrome—non-empowering incomplete information/transaction causing a student to come back again,
  • atalog information, ease of use and information retrieval,
  • Website ease of use and navigation
  • email use and responses to,
  • wait time - how promptly people are recognized and served,
  • acknowledgment of student presence and manner of the recognition given,
  • welcoming and comfort level generated,
  • how courteous your people are,
  • how questions are responded to,
  • requested information provided promptly and graciously,
  • accurate directions given,
  • general demeanor, and attitude toward customers,
  • availability of information at point of contact,
  • point of contact knowledge for students and/or where to get it if not available,
  • accuracy of information,
  • use of campus jargon or argot versus standard language,
  • language use, attitude, syntax, grammar, tone,
  • customer-first attitude,
  • time to completion required for successful interaction,
  • helpfulness and accuracy of written materials at points of contact,
  • location and availability of information and media,
  • people processes used with customers,
  • administrative processes affecting customers,
  • orderliness of the interaction and area of interaction,
  • telephone protocols used by customer contacts to aid or detract from service to campus callers,
  • general telephone skills and return call response, and
  • the environment provided for students in these areas and offices from layout and space through lighting and clutter as they affect the customer's sense of reflected value and service from entry to the campus through moving through it and finally the exiting experience.
Invariably, parts of one audit will overlap into another but the study focus, intent, concentration of effort and solutions provided can and do vary even when there is congruence of areas under review.

NRaisman & Associates then provides the college a detailed written report that generally runs 40-60 single spaced pages  on all aspects of the audit.  The report includes potential solutions to each issue we find.  It is the goal of NRaisman & Associates to provide solutions that can be implemented at little or low cost.  Our experience indicates that many issues can be solved easily and without a significant outlay of money. It is also our goal to be complete enough that additional assistance may not be needed.  

The solutions will include a recommended implementation that incorporates not only priority of the issue and solution but considerations for cost and campus culture.  We seek to assist the college solutions that will work while complementing its culture, traditions and mission to embed service excellence as a part of its culture. The study ends up providing a blueprint for how the college can improve it service excellence and thus increase enrollment and retention.

That, in a medium sized nutshell, is what a Service Excellence Audit is and includes. 

If this is something that you see as befitting your college or university in its goals to increase service excellence and thus enrollment, retention and graduation numbers, please contact us today at NRaisman &Associates or call 413.219.6939 to discuss the possibility of us conducting a Service Excellence audit for your school as we have for so many others..

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