Why You Should Care About Academic Customer Service

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why should you care about academic customer service and hospitality? Two simple reasons. First, students care about academic customer service and they act on it. Second, your school's revenue and ability to succeed depend on it. So, if you are in admissions, population management or have any budgetary concerns, or reading the question and nodding as if to say “Yuh why should I care? That’s touchy feely foolishness that businesses talk about. This is not some retail store after all. This is a college, an academic environment, not a business.”

You may want to brush off your resume. If service and hospitality are not top priorities throughout the school, it may have a tough time making enrollment and retention goals. And if population goals are not met, fiscal objectives cannot be met. And, everyone has to be concerned about the school’s fiscal condition. Lost revenue can mean frozen or lost positions, budget cuts, postponed equipment, defrayed maintenance, decreased levels of maintenance… Bottom line, more work and less money.

Quick momentary reality check. Right now, many of you are looking at the population projections for the Fall. Some of you are happy. You'll hit your goals. But from the phone calls I have been receiving, many colleges are concerned that their numbers may not hold or even if they do… They aren’t quite good enough.

For them and even for the successful schools, would an additional 12% increase in potential enrollment have helped? That is the percentage of enrollment lost in the enrollment process due to perceived weaknesses in your customer service. Research shows that 12% of potential enrollment is lost as soon as a potential student who had indicated an inclination to attend makes direct contact with the college. They are not treated well so they do not choose to come to the school. These are enrollments the school had – but lost. All the hard work was done and the money spent to attract the students. Then they came into contact with the campus and... It could been an additional 12% initial enrollment with just a bit additional attention to customer service for students and staff.

Would an additional 12% make for easier meetings with your staff, colleagues, supervisors, Board members…. Twelve percent more?

Take your projected enrollment, multiple it by 12%. Than multiply that number by tuition cost. That number, those revenues are not touchy feely. That is a clear statement about the value of customer service at the college now.

And not to scare anyone, but customer service will have a 76% affect on your ability to retain the students the school just worked so hard to bring in. Seventy-six percent! You do the math.

Here is the formula: Multiply your total population x your annual attrition percentage which by the way is all students that leave independent of what year they are in. (Too many schools calculate attrition rate on freshman year losses which does not account for the fact that schools lose students from all classes all the time.) . That will tell you the number of students you lose each year. Multiply that times your tuition (or if you want to be a bit conservative times a semester's tuition) That'll tell you how much money you are losing from students dropping out of school. Now multiply that large number by 76% which will tell you how much money you lose from poor or weak customer service to students.

So if a school had 1000 students at the national average of 48% it loses 480 students annually. Multiplied by a tuition of $10,000, the school is losing $4,800,000 a year. (Even assuming that the losses take place after they pay for the first semester that is at least a loss of $2,400,000.) Multiply that by the 76% lost due to poor customer service and we can see that weak academic customer service accounts for $3,648,9000 a year.

—Neal Raisman is president of N.Raisman & Associates. He can be reached at nealr@GreatServiceMatters.com.

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