Customers? In higher education?

Blazing Saddles, No Stinking Badges scene-8x6At times higher education seems to be channeling Mel Brooks, “Customers? We don’t need no stinking customers!”  We have students that need to be educated. In fact, the term “customer service” can lead to a full debate on the merits of considering students and their families as customers or descriptions of how many students are “bad” customers. At other times you will hear reasoned dialogue describing the value of treating students as customers or well thought out concerns detailing how higher education is different.

Despite this angst in higher education we will take time during June to highlight the value customer service can have for leaders, in higher education and in other fields. At Minnesota State Colleges and Universities customer service is a crucial element in the role leaders have as managers of people and services. We define it as:

  • demonstrating a positive attitude
  • listening attentively and respectfully
  • responding effectively to internal and external customer needs, requests, and concerns
  • exercising creative problem solving

While I hope we get some good dialogue and I would enjoy some lively banter I believe strongly that we can be better educators and provide better opportunities for our students if we focus on “helping students make the most of their experiences on our college campuses.” (Boyd, 2012.)

Todd Thorsgaard

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