If you truly want to create a culture of Service Excellence in your institution, customer service training should have a three-pronged approach. The first prong should be focused on management training and shaping the environment. The second prong should be focused on customer service skills and technique training to give all staff a set of tools to use and follow. The third prong should be designed for faculty to know how to deliver excellent service. All together, the three levels of training provide the education needed to make changes in the culture that will be sustainable over time.
Managers and supervisors of departments lead the culture within their area of influence. Think about it yourself: when you have worked for different managers, you learned very quickly what behaviors and attitudes were acceptable and not acceptable. The manager sets the tone. Same thing for a culture of Service Excellence, if customer service is important to the manager, it will be known through her actions as well as her words. Management training includes training on customer service skills to use with employees (because employees are their customers) and it includes training on how to coach and counsel staff. The quicker the manager praises an employee when he performs excellent service, the more apt the performance will be repeated; not only by the employee, but by other staff who observe the praise and want it for themselves. On the flip side, the faster the counseling by the manager when observing a poor customer service interaction by an employee, the more relevance as a teachable moment it will be as the moment is fresh in the employee’s mind and the emotions associated with the interaction.
Staff will follow their managers and supervisors, but they need a set of guidelines and expectations to follow when the “boss” isn’t around. Customer service skills training for staff should include basic customer service skills of active listening, how to handle difficult situations, telephone etiquette, and interpersonal communication tips. But, most of all, it should focus on how to build a relationship with a student. A good relationship can go a long way in establishing a culture that gives students what they are looking for in a college: responsiveness, help in navigating the college systems and processes, departments communicating with each other so they don’t have to re-explain their situations, feeling welcomed across the campus, and no unnecessary hassles.
Faculty can receive the same training as the managers and staff; in fact, by doing so, it allows them to hear what service obstacles students encounter outside the classroom experience that may be affecting their learning in the classroom. But, it also can be helpful to provide sessions that are particularly targeted to faculty with specific examples of delivering excellent service. These training sessions give faculty the opportunity to discuss the best ways they can help students succeed and get around the myth that customer service means giving a student an “A” grade. That, actually, would be a disservice to the student.
Giving excellent service to students, parents, co-workers and anyone else that is served by the educational institution helps the organization grow. Today’s colleges and universities are struggling to keep enrollments up and to retain the students they already have. The reason students have come to your institution is to get a set of knowledge that will help them get a job and become a productive citizen or leader in their community. Our job is to help them attain that goal, not be a hindrance.
When managers, staff, faculty, and administration all understand the same set of expectations in regards to giving excellent service; a culture of service excellence is created as everyone performs as defined by their roles.