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.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finding My Father

For the past couple of weeks I have been editing letters that my father wrote from June – August, 1945 while stationed in Italy. As a good historian I have been trying to put these letters into some kind of context. He mentioned movies, operas, and USO shows that he attended along with some of his friends. I was able to put some context to the entertainment activities. I was amazed that while a soldier stationed near Naples he bought a season ticket to the San Carlos Opera House. He mentioned that he saw the opera, Faust. He compared the actor in the role of Méphistophélès to when he saw the opera in St. Louis with Enzio Pinza. The only time he could have seen Enzio Pinza was on April 24, 1939. He thought Pinza did a better job.

This led me to investigate some of the names of people whom he mentioned to his sisters. Some of them were only mentioned by first names as if his sisters knew. One person, Naomi, my cousin Chaim was able to tell me her lat name and the city where she lives. I called her and made contact today. Her grandmother and my grandfather were sibling, making us 2nd cousins. She said she has a grandson who lives in Chicago. I called him. Her brother, Arthur also talked with me today.

I still need to put some context to the story of soldiers after the war ended in Germany. Some soldiers were needed to occupy and de-Nazify Germany. The US Army took control of Rome on 4 June 1944. The war with Italy was over. For the soldiers in Italy the war was over almost a year when my father wrote these letters. He was anxious to get home as he had been away almost 5 years.

I still have unanswered questions that would help put the letters in context. In my research I have not found any books that talk about the logistical challenge of returning all the soldiers to their homes. I do not want to spend the time digging through newspapers and original documents to tell that story. I just want to read someone else’s research. The story of the soldier’s relationship with his home and family has not been well told, but I am not the person to tell that story. I only want to understand a little about my father in the years before I was born.

Picture was taken in May 1945.