Public higher education is at a crossroads. The fact that barely over 50 % of the students enrolled at a four year university today will cross the graduation stage with a diploma in six years is astounding. Student loans are soaring with students taking out astronomical loans to pursue that diploma, but find they are in classes that don’t lead them to graduation or compel them to finish. Something must change and will change over the next 10 years as some colleges are having to close their doors due to financial viability.

How can customer service provide assistance in this matter? Customer Service in higher education has been seen as an anomaly up until the past few years. To call a student “a customer” was unheard of and still being fought by many today. Yet, the student does pay for the education and learning received, so they are a customer. The misinterpretation comes in the belief that the “customer is always right”. That is invalid thinking even in retail situations. The customer is not always right, but they are paying for the service and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Colleges and universities have got to start looking through the lens of their customers: the students and the businesses that will be hiring these students. Identifying with their needs vs. the needs of the administration or faculty in how do we make it easiest and best for them. Analyzing current processes to see what can be streamlined and made easier to accomplish the output.

Customer service is looking for opportunities to make the student feel like they are important and the institution cares about them as an individual to make them successful. By making them feel “valued” vs. “processed”. Customers stay with those businesses that build a relationship with them. 90% of today’s products and services are commodity products and services. The only way to differentiate is through the customer experience and the same goes within public higher education. Today’s student has more choices of where to obtain that diploma, and the institutions that show support, guide, and engage the student will be the winners of the path students choose to follow in the future.

Let the crossroads lead to your college.