I imagine this isn’t a revelation to anyone who has ever worked with another person – no one is ALWAYS right – not even the customer. On the other hand, we know that customer satisfaction in higher education is the greatest predictor of retention and completion. (Schreiner, 2009) And a core component of satisfaction is the service students perceive they get from their college or university. Our students, our customers, may not always be right. But their success, and our success, is dependent on the service we provide and their satisfaction with it!
Neal Raisman, author of Embrace the Oxymoron: Customer Service in Higher Education defines customer service in higher education as how students perceive their return on investment in:
- Financial rewards – will they find a field of work or service that provides security?
- Emotional rewards – do faculty and staff treat them with respect and consideration?
- Associative awards – do they feel accepted and a part of the institution?
The day-to-day interactions that your people have with students, whatever their role, will determine first how accepted students feel, and second how respectful the overall campus experience is for each student.
Laurie Brown, a communication and customer service consultant, encourages leaders to focus on the following seven attributes of customer service when coaching and developing people to meet emotional and associative expectations:
- Accessibility – is it easy for students to navigate the institution and processes?
- Availability – are people and services available when needed?
- Affability – are students greeted warmly and with genuine concern?
- Agreeability – do your people have the skills and support to find creative solutions and not say “NO?”
- Accountability – are your people empowered to take action and coached to be responsible for solutions?
- Adaptability – is your institution staying current and responding to the issues that are relevant today and tomorrow?
- Ability – have you continued to develop your people so they can serve students?
No one is ever always right, but we can always help our students feel accepted and supported!