Based on the current presidential campaign in the United States the middle ground appears to be an impossible dream! However, I want to share an article with you today that encourages us in higher education to seek out the middle ground on customer service, even if we have some concerns about labeling students as customers.
Ricky L. Boyd, director of the Shaw Air Force Base Program at the University of South Carolina, reviewed the research on the pros and cons of customer service in higher education and suggests that we “all agree to disagree” (my words) and focus on the “basic tenets of the customer-service paradigm that could and should be utilized in higher education settings.” (Boyd, 2012) His work isn’t revolutionary but he does a nice job of translating the usual corporate-speak of customer service to a more familiar higher education language.
Tips for the Middle-Ground of Customer Service
- Treat students with dignity and respect (a basic human necessity and right.)
- Give students clear directions on how to solve their problems and issues (students are in school to learn – not to go on unnecessary wild goose chases to find answers for operational issues.)
- Be responsive to students and their families (being true to your word means a lot!)
- Give timely answers to student’s questions and regular feedback on their progress.
Boyd also translates Ken Wallace’s 15 Principles for Complete Customer Service to seven principles that appeal to a middle-ground approach in higher education.
- The success of the institution is dependent upon providing high-quality service to students – students affect the bottom line.
- Employees need to be reminded that every single one of them (faculty, staff, administrators, front-line, back-office, etc.) is in the business of serving students. Students deserve to receive assistance to meet their legitimate needs.
- Perception is reality. We need to understand our students and what is important to them.
- Each student is unique and has unique needs.
- Treat students the way you would want a member of your family or a good friend to be treated.
- Do it right the first time.
- Solicit feedback from students in all areas and truly listen.
All in all, it seems like this middle ground will be easier to find than our political middle ground. Our colleges and universities have an opportunity to help students get the most out of their academic experiences. It will take deliberate planning and action to expand customer service from just the student services functions to the work that everyone on campus does.
That is something I can vote for!