Thursday, December 18, 2014

Customer Service Mini-Audits Example Results

What Does a Campus Mini Inventory/Audit Report Look Like?

Numerous requests have come to me to see what sort of information could be in a one to two day campus service mini-inventory I or one of my group might do. So here is a sample of an actual executive summary that went with a full inventory i.e. audit.  It has been anonymized (is that a real word?) and some parts have been excised to assure that.  The pictures have been left out too for the same reason. As a result, it could be your college or there may be some aspects that will sound familiar to you. That's okay. Just look at the recommendations and solutions. If they work for you - great.

Customer Service Mini-Audit Report of
The College
Audit Conducted on date
By Dr. Neal Raisman
The mini-audit I performed on the three campuses of The College indicated that strides had been made in the five years since my previous customer service review. Of the 28 people I interacted, 22 provided a quality of customer service which ranged between very good and excellent as I said at the presentation.  Two of the other six either tried to provide good care but were defeated by the system and the others need more help. It was my pleasure to be able to point out not just the way the 28 handled the issues but some of the individuals by name who worked with me. These I used as exemplars of how it can be done. Leadership and the people in student services are to be commended for the change. 

There do remain some issues and situations that could be addressed to increase customer service as well as enrollment, retention and morale. These concerns range from an old one mentioned five years ago – lack of or not fully helpful signs on campuses – to more difficult issues that effect both students and employees that may go to procedure and even policy. One of these could be having a negative effect on central aspects of customer service that affect performance and morale as well.

I recognize that in bringing some of this forward, I may be stepping into some policy or even political aspects at the College.  I do however believe it is my responsibility as a consultant asked to bring forward issues that may affect enrollment, retention and/or morale. 

1. As I mentioned in the presentation and in the one five years ago, the signage on the campuses is not helpful to students.  The signage that is on the campuses does not help students find where they would have to go to complete enrollment or find their way from function to function.  For example, the exterior signs that are on campuses may list locations by the names of buildings but there is not listing by functions such as admissions, registration, records, business office, or major area of study such as nursing, business, criminal justice, etc.    

The example below shows both the anonymous building names and the value of function naming as in Physical Plant – Shipping and Receiving. If functional helps vendors, it should help potential students and the community as well.

 
Students do not know where they need to go to do things by the name of a building. Moreover, none of the main entrances was clearly marked to assist or facilitate.  The closest to either naming by function or the main entrance was on the M campus where I did locate a sign inside a parking lot that listed functions within a building. 
  Unfortunately, if I did not happen to park in that lot, I may not have found other helpful signs on the campus. Moreover, this information was not repeated in front of the specific buildings with the functional areas within.  Redundancy can be helpful in signage. M campus was also the only campus with a sign over a door saying Welcome with some additional helpful information.  Without at least a welcome sign, there is not indication of a building’s front door. I had to wander about trying to figure out where the front door was of each campus. 

Moreover, the placement of signs is important if they are to be used and helpful. 
PHOTO REMOVED FOR ANONYMITY

Inside building signage was described by a faculty member at M campus who stated “This place is like a labyrinth.  If you don’t already know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Variations of the statement were repeated to varying degrees at the B campus as one person told me that admissions was in the L campus Building. Though M campus again made some attempt to help out with a general sign inside the main building, it was still difficult to locate offices since some signs were overhead and small while others had different locations and some did not have. This is apropos for all the buildings at M campus and B campus. 

The L campus does provide interior signage that coincides with color coding that can help people new to campus find their way around. Though some of the individual function areas could still be marked better with signs to help people find their way around, especially to admissions, financial aid, business office, etc. 
 
L campus also has very good interior signs that are quite helpful.
 
I suggest a College signage master plan be created that will create signs that provide information by the functions that take place in buildings along with the building name. The committee should also study interior signage and address the needs for signs that will help potential and new students as well as any coming onto campus with the directions they need to find where they need to go in the buildings.

If one looks at the signs used on all three campuses, (examples above) they are all different in style, color, etc. Signs are visual statements of identity as well as indicators to help people find their way to a location. It thus is suggested the signs should all have a consistent look, style, color and font to generate a coherent image and statement of The College no matter what campus an individual is on. 

2.  There is duplication and some inconsistency in forms used and provided. For example, when I was considering taking courses at two different campuses of the College, I had to complete two separate admission request forms. I was also told I would need separate and thus duplicate forms for other processes too.  This duplication of forms and efforts by the student should be eliminated and I hope that the new Datatel system will allow for singular input of materials to limit student and staff effort and work. 

On different campuses I was given different material.  For instance, there were two different FAFSA brochures provided; some different College generated information on programs; the payment plans and courses of study by major area. In this case, some people had out the older brochures (blue color) of major areas while another campus had some new ones (reddish) mixed in with the older ones. I am not sure if the information is different or the new ones have changes but information and brochures should be the same at all campuses unless there is a specific reason such as a specific program only at that campus. 

I suggest that a committee review all materials handed out to students. They should determine a common packet that will be used by all campuses to assure all forms, information and brochures be consistent throughout all three campuses of the College.  Without consistency of materials the College may be providing students at one campus lesser or better information than at another.  Moreover, it is possible that without a standardized information packet, students may be given incorrect information or direction. This would be very unhelpful but could lead to significant problems for the College not just for enrollment and retention but for inconsistency of materials provided to students to make decisions.

3.   .While on the campuses, I would act as if I were lost or confused to see the reaction of employees as they passed me in the halls. The hoped for results would be that employees would stop and ask if they might help me.  The outcomes were not as positive as one might wish. Granted there were not as many people in the halls as might have been during more populated terms at B campus and L campus.  M campus was in full session. 

At B campus, I entered six of the buildings and encountered at least one employee in every one. All but one woman in the Adams building either ignored me or looked at me and kept walking by.  Only the woman in Adams asked if I were in need of help. 

At M campus, I was passed by five employees. One faculty member whose name I recall as George stopped as I was looking around as if lost and asked if he could help me. After he directed me to the admissions office and I was walking about the halls again, he saw me and asked if he could be of additional assistance. 

At L campus, I was passed by six employees and finally assisted by a young man from the bookstore. 

There were then 17 employees who did not provide me any service and three who did; one twice. This became a subject of the presentation which I introduced with the story of Dean Schaar.  I then went on to show how to make sure that we all say hello to students and ask how they are as we pass them. There may be a need for more specific small group training for employees in extending themselves and greeting students. The structure of the large group presentation limited the specific person-to-person training though we did review the processes and manner to be employed. 

4.  There is a serious service concern that has to do with what educational services are made available to students as well as specifically to adult students at one campus.  Customer service looks not only at the processes through which one works with or assists the client.  It looks at the products that are created since it is the “products” of education, training and a degree/job that are finally a major determinant of student satisfaction. How we deliver a service can be quite secondary to what service we deliver. 

The College currently has a structure and program distribution that seriously affects its delivery of the most important service of all – the ability to gain the education and thus career a student seeks. The distribution also limits the College’s ability to expand enrollment and thus revenues by limiting the offering of programs to specific campuses separated by distances without public transportation.  Moreover, the scheduling of the classes with intermittent starts to twice a year or even to once every 18 months creates serious limitations on enrollment, retention and revenue. 

When I attempted to enroll in a graphic design course at B campus for example, the admission’s officer was very helpful and polite but told me that though I lived in B campus I would have to travel to either M campus or L campus to get one or another graphics program.  They were very different programs. The one in M campus, Graphic Design, was a  program which would require more artistic focus and ability while the one in L campus, Visual Publication, was more computer-based.  The two did not overlap and were distinct but not available at B campus.  This was more than disappointing because the College website simply states that The College offers the programs and not a specific campus.  The indication on the web and the College’s marketing was that it was available at the College and not just one, and only one campus. 

By limiting a specific program to one and only one campus denies a broader band of the community access to the program.  If I lived in L campus or in B campus, I would be denied access unless I had the mobility, time and money to drive the distances to the campuses that own the program. From B campus to M campus, for example was over 60 miles and took an hour and twenty minutes.  This is a de facto limitation on enrollment and access. Not only does it deprive potential students from the community to gain education and training in what is one of the hottest areas of study nationally, it deprives the College of revenue ands the ability to fulfill on its motto of No Limits on Learning.  
  
I was frankly surprised that a community college would limit its service to the community in this manner by making distance a restraint on access.  But I was even more surprised that after I made the drive from B campus to M campus to try and complete enrolling in Graphic Design that it would next to impossible to enroll and, if I were an actual student, achieve my career goal. 

As an adult with a job and family, I was informed that the program called for me to attend five days a week from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.  As an adult with a job and family, I would not be able to do so without great hardship.  I inquired about attending part-time and was told that I could speak with the program chair but it was unlikely I would be allowed to do so.  There were only 18 slots available and the odds of opening one to a part-timer were slim.  These 18 would start together and complete the program before another 18 could start.  I could not start by taking some evening classes since there were no evening classes at the campus. 

When I mentioned to various people that the campus was not very adult friendly and even seemed to discriminate against working adults, there were no disagreements. In fact, there were statements of agreement as well as sympathy and frustration.  The people I would talk with as I persisted in my attempt to gain all the information and material needed to enroll were quite sympathetic to my plight as an adult wishing to advance myself and family though education in a chosen field but their facial expressions showed they were powerless to help. 

Furthermore, even if I were admitted, I could not start in October as I had desired.  I would have to wait until the summer of 2008 before another class started.  A one year wait with no guarantee of being admitted! There are very few students who could maintain their enthusiasm that long.  They would either give up their goals and dreams or find another school that would to start the program. It is quite probable that the for-profit schools are benefiting from the inability of The College to serve the needs and desires of students placed in the situation I was. 

It is also not probable but assured that The College is losing revenue as a result of this situation of individual campuses owning programs, limiting the number of students as well as the number of cohorts to be offered. Not even considering State support, and supposing that there is some sustainable pedagogical rationale for limiting cohorts to 18, an additional cohort of 18 FTE would generate in excess of $21,000 which is more than enough to hire adjuncts to teach the courses.  Appropriate scheduling, such as a full time day and part-time evening courses at the campuses would provide enough tuition revenue to hire at least one, and perhaps two additional full-time instructors. 

The situation is not unique to graphics-focused instruction either.  There appear to be a number of the “campus, not College” owned degree programs that significantly limit the customer service to students and the community. The current program distribution also limits the College’s ability to maximize its facilities, fixed costs and revenues. Moreover, the defacto denial of access to the adult, voting population could cause a sense of disenfranchisement and increase the difficulty of community support for initiatives. 

The program distribution and ownership situation also caused employees to not be able to fulfill their objectives of assisting students and providing fuller service to potential enrollees. On all three campuses, I sensed a strong sense of frustration from employees at being forced to inform me that I would have difficulty obtaining the education promoted and advertised by the College since their campus did not offer the program. Though each was as helpful as they could be, they did indicate that they were sorry I could not achieve my goals without either disruption to my family and life or driving long distances to get to the campus which had the course of study and training I was seeking. 

I strongly suggest the campus-specific program approach be reconsidered to increase the actual range of service the College provides. Currently, there are very many potential customers who are not receiving any, or very limited service at all in specific study areas. Programs should be available at all campuses that can draw the enrollment to support the course of study.  Courses should be offered day and night, in a full-time and a part-time mode so as to not to discriminate against adults, and others whose schedules, families and lives do not readily permit a commitment to a full-time day only schedule even if it were not five days a week. If programs are determined to need to be limited due to a specific campus, there should be consideration given to having them at the L campus campus since that is the area population center as well as a more or less central location between B campus and M campus. 

If it is necessary to continue campus-specific programs, the advertising, the web site and all materials should so indicate the specific campus at the very least. The 2007-8 Catalog does indicate the program location. 

5. Staff indicated that they did not have some of the information they felt they needed to be able to better serve me as a potential student trying to make some decisions. I was told by a couple of employees that “I would like to be able to help and I should be able to but I am just not given that information.” The issues ranged from what sections might be offered, to whether or not students were being accepted into a specific program prior to January 2008.  These are bits of information a student would need to have to decide on attendance or not.  In one case, an individual in a registrar office had to say she did not know the schedule for the next term even though it was completed, had been sent to the printer, and was somewhere on line in the College’s computer system. She did not have access to the on-line information to be able to answer my question.  She was clearly both frustrated and embarrassed. 

The feeling of being left out of the information loop became starkly clear during the break after the first part of the presentation. Attendees would sidle up to me in the hall, tell me the agree with all I had said but that they were not included in the information loop or as active participants in any decisions that affected their ability to perform their jobs.  They had worked hard to help install Datatel but had not belief they would be permitted access to the date within so they could do their jobs better. The individuals who surreptitiously spoke with me also said there was little communication with them from the College.  They also said they felt they could not comment or engage in discussion with me even when I asked a question in the presentation for fear of getting reprimanded. This at least helped explain why there was so little reaction or interaction from the attendees when I tried to engage them in discussion...

It would seem important the College seek ways to communicate and provide internal customer service more effectively with some employees.  It may well be that there is communication taking place but for one reason or other, there is a significant group that is somehow either missing the information or is indeed being left out of the loop. The result is the creation of a feeling of disenfranchisement leading to a diminution of morale that affects the providing of customer service to students...

 Two for One Book Sale 

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offer good until January 1, 2015 
 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Four Seasons Hotel Secrets and Quiz

This is a quick one with a simple but very powerful message and a quiz. One you’ve heard from me before but is worth hearing again from Isadore Sharp, the founder and CEO of one of the top 100 companies to work for - the Four Seasons hotel and resort chain. Also one of the top hotel chains in the world.

The Four Seasons hotels are famous for thinking about how to make a customer’s stay more pleasant and worthy of return stays. For example, Sharp was the first to have free shampoo placed in his hotel rooms. He wanted to make it easier for people to feel like home at the hotel and that the four Seasons had thought of everything for their convenience and pleasure. He and all his people make certain that guests receive consistently excellent service so they are pleased to be able to spend more for a Four Seasons stay than most anywhere else and want to come back whenever they can.

Shampoo, you and I can get most places. Even breakfast at Hampton Inn but alas even my first choice Hampton Inns do not match the service of a Four Seasons. Or so I have learned from others not yet having had the opportunity to stay at one. Hilton, Hampton and Marriott more my level I have to admit.
Sharp‘s secret? Here is what he said to Fortune Magazine.
Personal service is not something you can dictate as a policy. It comes from the culture…How you treat your employees is how you expect them to treat the customer.

Second Four Season’s secret – hiring people with the right service attitude followed by training and more training and then some more. Then they are treated as someone with value who contributes to the quality of the hotel and guest experience. Employees are paid fairly, promotions are heavily from within, and all employees get to stay in Four Season hotels anywhere in the world for free.

But what really makes employees feel valued is they are empowered to fix a situation when it arises. They do not have to get permission to help someone or check with a supervisor. The assumption is they will know the rules and culture so use your best judgment and help the guest. And if they have an idea, they are encouraged to bring it forward themselves.

Compare yourself to the Four Seasons and other Top Companies to work for. If you are an administrator or manage, you are the you. If you are not an administrator or manager, grade your senior administration.

These are yes or no questions.
  1. Would staff and students agree you have a CULTURE of service to students and others? yes___ no____
  2. Do you know peoples’ names? yes___ no____
  3. Do you now names of five staff outside of your office area? yes___ no____
  4. Do you know the names of at least two maintenance or service staff? yes___ no____
  5. Do you come back at night to talk with evening staff? yes___ no____
  6. Do you walk the halls and talk with employees and students daily? yes___ no____
  7. Do you treat all employees as you do faculty and oh yuh students assuming you treat them well to retain their support? yes___ no____
  8. When you hire, do you go from the resume or dig down to get the people with a service attitude to hire people who like students? yes___ no____
  9. Has there been customer service training held on campus yet this year? yes___ no____
  10. Has there been customer training for management this year? yes___ no____
  11. Was there customer service training on campus last year? yes___ no____
  12. Were your last five hires promotions from within or external hires? yes___ no____
  13. Do your folks get raises at least equal to yours? yes___ no____
  14. Do employees who have been at the school at least six months get free coursework? yes___ no____
  15. Are employees encouraged to use imitative in solving student issues? yes___ no____
  16. Do all employees have an opportunity to bring ideas to the president? yes___ no____
  17. Do students know your name or who you are? yes___ no____
  18. Do you say hello to every student or employee you pass in the halls, parking lot or anywhere on campus? yes___ no____
  19. Have at least five employees come up to you and started a conversation with you outside of your office in the past two weeks? yes___ no____
  20. Is your 5 year average annual employee turnover rate 12% or less? yes___ no____
How many yes responses here? Go back and check some of your yeses. Be as honest as you can with yourself. Sure the quiz is going to help determine your final grade but let’s use this as a practice exam so you know where to improve. Multiply each yes by 5 and determine your grade.

Increase your success with a copy of the newest bestselling book From Admissions to Graduation by Dr. Neal Raisman and get another of his books free.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Mystery Shopping" will Increase Retention

academic customer service, enrollment, retention, customer service, attrition, college,customer service in university,

While working as a consultant for colleges concerned with meeting their
enrollment goals, a few consistent realities have become apparent to me. These are not necessarily factors that one would discover through a survey or a committee study and report. Neither are they par­ticulars that would be noticed immediately at your own college. And some realities might strike you as contra-indicated by our academic culture. Yet they seem to be key to enrollment success.

The first, and perhaps most significant, is a recognition that, at its roots, enroll­ment is a business issue for colleges. The recruitment, enrollment and retention process is a commercial interaction not unlike that of a store making a sale.

Colleges attempt to attract buyers (stu­dents) to purchase (enroll in) their prod­ucts (courses) and not return them (drop out). Furthermore, colleges attempt to sell extremely similar products within a very crowded, highly competitive, consumer-oriented marketplace which is shrinking. The coming recruitment year looks to be the smallest pool to draw from in the past decade.Most colleges offer a very similar portfolio of course offerings, programs and majors. A student can 'buy" English, computer science, business, math, technology, crimi­nal justice, accounting, psychology, etc., al any one of thousands of colleges. She can also purchase the course in numerous modes – brick and mortart, hybrid, on-line. There are almost no exclusive products.

And there are too many colleges with empty chairs. As a result, the competition for students has sharpened significantly. The age-old question of commerce-, "How do I attract buyers to my establishment rather than another?" is now echoing in the halls of academia: "How do I success­fully recruit students?"
                                               
Successful colleges find the answer in the recognition of the commercial nature of enrollment. Colleges need to look at themselves as competing commercial enterprises that are trying to attract stu­dents into their store to buy their academ­ic products. Like businesses, colleges need to be sure of not just their products, but of the store itself.

Is your college/retailer really structured for the buyer? Have you set up your busi­ness in a manner that best interacts with buyer psychology and patterns? Is the environment helping or hurting? Is your sig­nage hurting you? Are the processes., pro­cedures and registration flow patterns angering or pleasing potential buyers? Are commercial opportunities? How are you making the college-student interaction as seam­less as needed to start bonding your buyers to your store so they don't return the courses they just bought in the first three weeks or go to another establishment at the end of the semester?

What is true for stores is just as true for colleges in today's consumer-oriented market. Both stores and colleges know that their highest cost lies in attracting a customer into the store. The advertising, promotions and publications designed to bring potential customers into the store are expensive. So losing that customer once he or she has entered the store comes at a very high price-. Not only have you wasted money on advertising, but no sale was completed to recoup the cost of recruiting the customer. Worse, if they are not given good service, the customers will likely tell others how poorly the store treat­ed them. Customers are won one by one, but they are lost exponentially.

The same is true for colleges.

Recruiting is expensive.  Losing a student once you have gotten him or her on cam- pus is a double loss. You lose recruitment time and money, as well as the revenue that student would have provided. A stu­dent who receives poor service tells some­one else, the losses become larger and reputations are hurt as well as budgets of both students and the college.

So what will separate the successful store/college from the losers?

Checking the rugs
When I was house hunting, I often went into homes where people had lived for decades. As I looked at one I was inter­ested in, I immediately noted that the rugs were worn out. The owners did not notice this fact. They had lived with the rugs for many years and the rugs looked fine to them. What they did not realize is that they walked the same path each day, and as they walked, they wore down the carpet.

They did not notice because the ero­sion was incremental. To them, it looked the same as when it was first put in place. As a potential buyer, I brought a set of new eyes that had learned what to look for. My eyes immediately saw what they had accepted as just fine was not.. After all, to their eyes, it had always been that way.

Stores periodically bring in new eyes to check their rugs. Those trying to sell a col­lege education should do the same. Stores study their service, the store environment and layout, ease of purchase, the timing and flow of customers and the like. Winning stores want to make it as easy and pleasant as possible to buy the product there rather than at their competi­tor's store. To gain an edge, they also bring in new eyes to shop and study the store for needed changes.
Colleges need to ask the same ques­tions about their enrollment and registra­tion processes. "Do we really have cus­tomer service? Do we make enrollment easy for students? What are we doing that causes students to leave and go elsewhere?"

How can a college find out if it is pro­viding the services, processes and environ-, ment that will attract students and get them to buy the products? You may have to do what merchants do — bring in a fresh set of eyes to check your rugs.

How do stores find out how to please potential shoppers?  One solution is shopping the store by professionals. A college can and should do the same but with academic shoppers. In this scenario, a college or university hires a trained academic "shopper" or a shopping team on a campus to learn firsthand what a college's strengths and weaknesses are. The "shopper" acts out the full role of a potential student and parent trying to get the information he or she needs to enroll.

Bringing a trained eye, ear and a" professional bull detector" directly into a college's process, the shopper looks at every aspect of the college enrollment process. Academic shopping studies everything that touches on students and academic customer service from the front door through to the exit, developing a full report and suggesting solutions to strengthen a college's intake and retention of students.

Shopping determines if you have an enrollment flow that makes it easy for stu­dents or sends them all over a building or campus. Many students are lost when they have to step out of the flow to go some­where else. Once out of the flow area, they have an excuse to forget it all, since many of them are tentative about enrolling or staying anyhow. Give them a reason to leave the regis­tration flow, and they will be gone. Give them reasons to believe they are not getting the services due them, they leave.

There are some surprisingly simple fac­tors that can either help students stay or turn them away. For example, a major con­cern of potential students is: "Can I afford to pay for this?" But filling out financial aid forms can be a turnoff, especially for adults. When they get to the blank in which they must write the college's financial aid code for example, that means they often have to make another trip or another phone call. Many students put it off, eventually failing to complete the form or waiting until it is too late, rather than taking an extra step or admitting they do not know what the heck a college code is.

Having studied a number of colleges, I suggest the following quick fix to help you increase enrollment in the financial aid office: Post the college code in a promi­nent area. Even better, have someone stamp the college code on the forms. You could even tell students they can file more easily online and get a faster answer. Is there a computer for students to use? Sit the student down at the computer and have him or her fill out the request right then and there. lithe-"sale" is not complet­ed, you are opening the opportunity for someone else to grab your potential student.

The long and short of it is that colleges have to think about shoppers to increase their sales.

If this and the other articles in this blag make sense to you be sure to order a copy of the new best-selling book on academic customer service and success From Admissions to Graduation: Increasing Success Through Academic Customer Service by Dr. Neal Raisman.
For the rest of the year, each order of From A to G will be accompanied by a free copy of Customer Service Factors and the Cost of Attrition also by Dr. Raisman.