Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Customer Service

New President Interview -- Part 11 Customer Service*

Q> I read an article by Norm Brodsky, “The Inspector” concerning how a hotel
should treat their guests. When the hotel owners wanted to join a trade association they needed to have a superior level of service. Since they never knew when the inspector would visit they started treating every guess like the secret inspector. In many colleges, students, staff, and faculty grumble that they are not treated properly. They complain about people who don’t treat them nicely. How are you working to change the culture of the College?

A> Changing a culture of mistrust takes a lot of work. A well run organization depends of trusting everyone to do their job with excellence. Even when they believe they are doing a good job, there is room for improvement. It would be great if we could learn some ideas from entrepreneurs. We need to let people take risks without fear of reprisals. We have to let people fight for what is right without fear for their jobs.

In the College community taking chances has not been rewarded. For example if the staff in one department is not doing their jobs of helping students, the students may grumble to a sympathetic faculty or staff member. However, that person may have no power to make a change. If the person listening to the complaint takes initiative to solve the student’s problem, the person should be thanked and praised.

Even when you think you are doing the best you can, there is room for improvement. We never should lose sight of the goal of education is to prepare students for the next step. Education really never ends. Once a goal is achieved a new one appears.

Q> Pretend the College was being inspected for membership in a prestigious organization what areas would you work on? Consider that failure could be based on ignoring a small detail.

A> A hotel has to be meticulous in appearance. While the College does not have the same standard, our appearance is the face we present to everyone walking in the door. We need attractive buildings and grounds to attract new students and faculty. A campus in disarray will give a signal that our academic level is not very high.

The whole staff and faculty must be involved in the process of making the campus a pleasant place. The library staff sometimes need to remind library users not to eat meals in the library public areas. Staff should not be eating their meals in public areas such as computer labs, open offices, and science labs.

Pride of accomplishment should be instilled on everyone. Pride is contagious and can help everyone feel better about themselves and the institution. Students will notice a difference when people are able to help them.

Since everything can change over time, improvement needs to be done every day. “Reinvention” is a buzz word in some institutions. We don’t have to reinvent pride of accomplishment and empowerment to accomplish the best. People who aren’t doing their jobs will get annoyed. They will even complain that I am “not nice” enough to them. Pointing people in the right direction is sometimes difficult.

Q> What concrete steps would you encourage to improve customer service with every contact outside of the classroom or teacher-student interaction?
A> In the business offices, departmental offices, administrative offices and the library we must greet everyone when they come in. Just as retail stores greet customers, we must say hello or offer assistance. If a person looks lost or like they are searching for something, offer help. That also means we have to give people the institutional knowledge to be able to help them. If the person seeks directions to a room or event, we must be able to know or find the answer.

Every manager, supervisor, and department head should be responsible for teaching, monitoring and mentoring great customer service. They should be figuring out how to get to “yes.”

Q> A friend who teaches students to be librarians said that are trained in public service and to be advocates for readers. Have you done anything to help the librarians spread this knowledge?
A> Librarians are really the most versatile faculty members. At any given moment they can be teaching the newest freshman or the most senior campus scholar. The have to be able to give help for any subject taught at the College. I hear complaints that faculty don’t consult with the librarians enough. When professors prepare for class they should make sure the Library has the resources for the assignments. I’ve heard many comments from librarians concerning syllabi with incorrect citations for the class required readings. I am going to do my best to help the librarians get the word out that they are ready to help. When we work together as a team the students and faculty feel like winners.

In future professional development sessions we plan to learn more from the librarians.

Q> Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

*Part eleven of an imaginary interview with the recently appointed president of the College. Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.

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