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Geri Anderson
Geri Anderson
February 03, 2019

Sweat The Small Stuff: Customer Service Matters

 

 

Here's what we think.....After 45 years of championing student service, I made the decision to retire last summer.  On my final day, I was running into the building when I encountered a young woman holding a baby in one arm and a handful of informational materials in the other.  She was struggling to open the door. As I approached and said, “Let me get that for you”, I noticed the anxiety in her eyes. “What brings you to campus today?” I asked.  As tears rolled down her face, she was able to tell me she was there to register for the fall semester. Her husband had left, she had a 6-month-old daughter and hated her high school years.  Oh my gosh, I thought, you are the bravest woman I know. We walked together to the student center, I quickly grabbed the financial aid director extraordinaire and we began the funding, admissions, advising and ultimately the registration process.  I left her in the able hands of caring student services professionals and headed back to pack my office.

Later in the day as I took boxes to my car, I saw her coming across the parking lot.  “Are you all set?” I asked. A smile crossed her face, her eyes shined as she told me about her plans for the fall.  And, she finished by saying, “thank you, if you hadn’t opened the door for me, I don’t think I would have been able to do this.  You are my hero!”

And, there it was…. 45 years of championing quality service, attending the Disney Institute and McDonald’s University, interviewing Nordstrom executives, researching FedEx and visiting Pike’s Fish Market in Seattle dissolved in a millisecond.  I had a wonderful professional epiphany that last day of my career. It isn’t the major flash-in-the-pan initiatives, it isn’t imitating corporate America…. providing quality student service is all about sweating the small stuff. It is all about paying attention to the little things that will separate your institution from the competition.

It struck me that when you hold doors open for people, you do it so others may enter. Great customer service means that we never need to remind anyone how great we are at our jobs, how many hours, or how hard we work.  Simply care and value students enough to hold the door open so they may enter easily to achieve their academic goals.  Holding the door open is a metaphor for creating opportunities for every student regardless of their situation.  When we do that, we become a cadre of superheroes not only for individual students but for the communities we serve. 

Sweating the small stuff:

  • Respond to every social media post
  • End every transaction - in person, on the phone and online – by thanking the person by name
  • Set a standard to respond to messages within two hours
  • Knee-jerk to “how can we make that work?” rather than “That’s against policy” or “I am not authorized”
  • Don’t assume you know the student’s issue. Provide professional development on questioning and listening skills so all college employees are able to identify the real needs and service expectations
  • Design a set of service standards with your staff and publish them
  • Design and implement a student services one-stop to support students effectively.  To learn more about establishing a one-stop, attend the January Innovative Educators Webinar.

This edition of EduShare is designed to provide thought-provoking ideas and low-cost strategies to get you started on your institution’s customer service development journey.   

What "small stuff" are you doing that is making a big impact?

Do you have a set of service standards that are published and visible to your customers?

So, what do you think?  Share your thoughts. Share this blog to keep the conversation going!

Comments 5
  • Aaron W. Hughey
    Aaron W. Hughey

    I love the bullet points listed above. I try to emphasize all of these recommended practices with my students; small things can indeed make a big difference in establishing the right kind of relationships. We are so efficiency-oriented these days that we sometimes overlook the signals we are sending when we don’t do things like look for creative solutions to challenges. By-the-way, I still have a few colleagues who do not like the term “customer service” because they don’t want to see students as “customers.” I have had many long discussions with them about this. Any advice on how to make a stronger case that regardless of what we call it, students still expect to be treated with respect?

  • Aaron W. Hughey
    Aaron W. Hughey

    I love the bullet points listed above. I try to emphasize all of these recommended practices with my students; small things can indeed make a big difference in establishing the right kind of relationships. We are so efficiency-oriented these days that we sometimes overlook the signals we are sending when we don’t do things like look for creative solutions to challenges. By-the-way, I still have a few colleagues who do not like the term “customer service” because they don’t want to see students as “customers.” I have had many long discussions with them about this. Any advice on how to make a stronger case that regardless of what we call it, students still expect to be treated with respect?

  • Georgia Mathews
    Georgia Mathews

    I am grateful for working professionals who are in place to really assist students and be empathetic instead of only viewing them as a number. I enjoyed the video and what you shared in your post. I inspire others because I each time they succeed, I succeed.

  • valerie kisiel
    valerie kisiel

    Yes, thank you for letting us know. That was an oversight on our part. Captions have been ordered and should be up shortly. Again, thanks for letting us know.

  • Carole Piver
    Carole Piver

    I would like to recommend that your videos have closed captioning to allow full access to staff and faculty who have hearing loss or are completely deaf. Thank you!

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