Temple Times Online Edition
    OCTOBER 27, 2005
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Customer service critical to TU’s future

Is customer service in higher education an oxymoron?

At the fourth Leadership Forum, held at the Liacouras Center on Oct. 6, the answers were revealed to this and other questions related to Temple’s focus on customer service.

Offered by the Human Resources Department several times a year, the Leadership Forum Series is designed to bring the University’s senior leadership group together for professional development. Joining forces this fall with the Division of Student Affairs, President David Adamany and Neal Raisman, chancellor at Briarcliffe College in New York and the author of Embrace the Oxymoron — Customer Service in Higher Education, were invited to present on the topic of customer service in higher education.

In Adamany’s presentation, “Customer Service: Critical to the Future of Temple,” he reported to more than 130 forum participants that Temple is more “popular” than at any time in its recent history. Applications are up by 40 percent over five years ago; the average SAT score is 1098, up 62 points over five years ago; and the number of incoming freshmen is up 25 percent since fall of 2000.

However, because the population of high school graduates in Pennsylvania is expected to peak in 2008, we cannot expect this level of growth in enrollment to continue. To remain competitive in an increasingly challenging higher education marketplace, the University must enhance the quality and rigor of its academic programs and continue to improve the satisfaction levels of students and their families. Temple’s academic program initiatives include:

• New general education requirements for undergraduates.
• Heightened selectivity in graduate and professional programs.
• Unprecedented faculty recruitment.

Adamany then focused on actions that are being taken to improve customer service at the University. Student Affairs, in particular, has made a concerted effort to document student satisfaction with surveys, intercept studies and focus groups. Other operating units, such as Recreation Services, also have surveyed students.

The Measurement and Research Center conducts student surveys including the National Survey of Student Engagement so Temple can benchmark our students’ levels of satisfaction with comparable institutions. Although nearly 80 percent of Temple students report that they would enroll at Temple if they “had it to do over again,” the most recent NSSE survey also indicated that improvements were needed in the service provided by administrative personnel and offices and in academic advising.

The President provided the following specific examples of what every University employee can do to improve service and student satisfaction. Suggestions included:

• Providing students and their family members with our first and last names when we speak to them.
• Returning all phone calls and e-mails within one business day, even if just to say that a question is being researched and that an answer will be provided at some later point.
• Ending the “Temple shuffle” by never blindly sending a student or family member to another office or department. We should personally transfer phone calls or assist in the scheduling of meetings with our colleagues in other areas.
• Documenting our interactions with students.
• Taking ownership of problems and taking pride in solving them.

Adamany concluded his remarks by emphasizing how much excellent service matters in successfully recruiting and retaining students, especially nontraditional adult and returning students. He also remarked that the quality of service delivery also has a direct impact on alumni giving and will likely influence the success of the upcoming capital campaign.

Neal Raisman was scheduled to address the group after Adamany’s remarks, but a death in his family required him to postpone his visit to the University. In his place, Marie Amey-Taylor, director of organizational development and training in the Human Resources Department, moderated a panel of Temple leaders who are taking an active role in improving customer service.

Theresa Powell, vice president for Student Affairs, reviewed the comprehensive efforts that the Division of Student Affairs has taken in the last few years to improve customer service. Peter Jones, vice provost for undergraduate studies, discussed improvements being made in academic advising. Michael Duncan, vice dean for clinical operations and chief executive officer of Temple University Physicians, detailed the challenges Temple University Medical Practices face in the competitive Philadelphia healthcare market and the efforts they have implemented to boost patient service. Jim Degnan, director of the Measurement and Research Center, reviewed the results of student surveys they conduct, stressed the importance of using these data to improve our operations and highlighted data directly related to customer satisfaction.

This is the third year that customer service is the Universitywide competency for performance development. The Human Resources Department continues to offer training programs to build the service delivery and measurement skills of staff and managers. Visit the Human Resources Web site, https://atlas.ocis.temple.edu/hr, to register. Departmental customer service programs tailored to unique departmental needs and scheduling constraints can also be arranged by contacting Eric Brunner at 215-204-3318.

To view Adamany’s and Powell’s PowerPoint presentations, visit the HR Web site at www.temple.edu/personnel and scroll down to “Customer Service Resource Material.”

‘Client/Customer Service Orientation’ workshops
These upcoming sessions, offered by Human Resources’ organizational development and training division, focus efforts on exceeding customers’ needs and taking personal responsibility for dealing with and/or correcting customer service issues and concerns.

For course descriptions and to register, visit https://atlas.ocis.temple.edu/hr.
“Providing A+ Service to Students and Their Baby Boomer Parents”
Nov. 9, 10 a.m.–noon. Main Campus.
“Still Talking Diversity”
Nov. 30, 2–4 p.m. Main Campus.
“Directing, Monitoring and Measuring Customer Service for Supervisors”
Dec. 1, 9 a.m.–noon. Health Sciences Center.
Dec. 2, 9 a.m.–noon. Main Campus.
“Providing A+ Service to Students & Co-Workers with Disabilities”
Dec. 6, 2–4 p.m. Main Campus.
“Xers, Nexters, and Boomers, Oh My!: Generations at Work”
Dec. 7, 2–4 p.m. Main Campus.