Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 3, 2005
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Inclusive customer service: A matter of training

Imagine that you have to provide service to someone who is deaf, and that person’s back is turned. Is it OK to pat this person on the back to get his attention?

Have you ever had an international student or co-worker who speaks with an accent or articulation pattern different from your own, where you became increasingly reluctant to ask the person to repeat what she said?

Or, have you ever determined with certainty that the person you were serving was a student, parent or grandparent simply based on your perceptions of age — and later realized that you were quite wrong?

Questions like these are the subject matter for three new customer service training programs, part of the Organization Development & Training division’s competency-based training offerings for fiscal year 2004–05.

Client/customer service has been the Universitywide chosen competency for the past 18 months. The challenge facing the OD&T division of the Human Resources Department coming into 2004–05 was how to keep the subject of customer service fresh for the large number of Temple employees who had already taken one of its customer service training sessions.

To address this issue, two partnerships were formed with University departments to provide customer service training for specific populations. Disability Resources and Services director Dorothy Cebula offered her department’s expertise for trainings on students and co-workers with disabilities, and Martyn Miller, senior director of Student Services, agreed to help prepare a program on international students and co-workers. The OD&T division then identified a third important population to cover: students of all ages and their parents.

Students and co-workers with disabilities

The first of these programs, “Providing A+ Service to Students and Co-Workers with Disabilities,” took place on Jan. 25 in Tuttleman Learning Center. Dorothy Cebula, with the help of DRS assistant director Renee Kirby and DRS service coordinator Brian Seidel, facilitated two informative hours on how to provide service to people with disabilities. Some of the concepts participants found most useful include:

• Vocally identify yourself when you come into the presence of someone who is blind.
• Look at a deaf person when speaking instead of at the sign language interpreter.
• Offer handshakes the same as you would to any other person you meet.
• Remember that a person’s wheelchair is an extension of their body.

Many of the participants remarked on the value of seeing the video “The Ten Commandments of Working with People with Disabilities.” Based on the participant responses to this training, it will certainly be offered again in the fall 2005 OD&T schedule of classes.

Our international population

The session “Providing A+ Service to International Students and Co-Workers,” scheduled for late March, is full — a good indication of how important this customer service issue is to Temple employees.

The Temple community has students, faculty and staff from more than 125 different countries around the world, and providing service to such a diverse group can be challenging.

Topics that will be covered in the training session include cross-cultural communication strategies for people who do not speak English as a first language, what to do when you commit a cross-cultural communication gaffe and a discussion of different cultural customs from around the globe.

Students and parents of all ages

“Providing A+ Service to Students and Parents” was designed for departments, schools and colleges whose staff members have regular contact with students. The program looks at the growing role parents are playing in their children’s college educations and addresses how providing service to parents can be just as important as providing service to students.

In addition, more adult learners are returning to school, and the average age of college students is rising. This program looks at customer service through the lens of generational differences. Our students and their parents span several generations, and providing good service to them requires knowledge of what significant events and core values influence their perceptions.

Providing exemplary service to students, parents and co-workers is critical to how Temple is perceived in the city, the region and nation. Client/customer service is a Universitywide value that will continue well beyond fiscal year 2004–05 and its core competency trainings.

Temple’s new mission statement states its desire to provide access to and attract qualified motivated students, to provide a vibrant on-campus life for students to live and learn in, to attract and retain researchers and research opportunities, and to create a bridge between the local community and Temple’s different campuses. Providing quality service to each of these constituencies and their specific needs is an important step in fulfilling the mission we all share.

By Eric Brunner