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The Power of Retention

Why do students transfer from your institution, and what can you do to make them stay?
University Business, Jan 2008

There was a time during orientation at college when an administrator, often the president, would tell the new beanie-wearing freshman to "look to the right of you. Then look to the left of you. One of you will not be here by the end of the year." That statement was intended to frighten students into being serious in their studies and re-assert the toughness of the academic program at the school. Higher education was still considered a privilege, not a right even though the GI Bill, then Korea, and community colleges were radically changing that situation. The belief was not everyone was "college material" and it was the school's job to sort of those with the "right stuff" from those who were made of lesser substance. That was the self-perceived role of higher education. Wheat from the chaff, if you will. Retention was not an issue to be concerned with at all.

But the world has certainly changed. There are many more schools now. The proprietary sector has gone from cosmetology and truck driving to Ph.D.s. Correspondence schools on match books have become omnipresent, study anywhere, anytime on-line, enrolling machines. Competition for students is intense and admission departments are feeling the stress. As are the budgets of colleges, universities and career schools that have had to make difficult decisions to try and balance the budget when they do not "make their numbers."

And yet, not enough of higher education has really adapted to the changes. It is still "admissions, admissions and again admissions." Bring them in. More new bodies. Or as one overly pragmatic administrator is alleged to have said at University of Phoenix "Get asses in the classes. That's the goal." And it is certain that though this person may have been caught saying that hundreds of others simply were not reported when they also made that or a similar statement. Recruitment and admissions is still seen as the key to the major aspect of operating revenue. I recall quite well the proclamation of the CEO of one of the large career college groups. "There isn't a problem that exists that can't be fixed by enrolling more students." He was speaking not just for his proprietary group but for most every not-for-profit, for-profits, public and private college and university in the country.

The ongoing and most frequent discussions in campus business meetings and with trustees still focus on "What's our budget target? How many did we admit? How many have committed to the next freshman class? How many have put down their deposits? How many do we figure will actually show?" Strategic enrollment and revenue planning tend to be summed up with "we may have a budget problem for next year? Increase tuition and enroll more students!" has become the annual approach at most colleges and universities.

And when schools lose students during the school year the question starts with, "what did we budget for attrition?" That is followed by the response is "It's okay. We planned for 34 percent drops in the budget. As long as we don't lose more than we budgeted for we'll be okay."

That is a dumb business model. Of course any business, including higher education, has to figure in customer/client defection and loss of market share. But planning to lose upwards of a third of all their customers and all the costs associated with acquiring them each and every year is a confident way of making sure the institution is always running a tight budget. A self-fulfilling profligacy if you will.

A key factor to retaining and growing revenue and operating success is not in admitting students, but in keeping them? It can be understood that in the days of "look left and right" retaining too many students might be considered a sign of a weak academic program. It was also a time of much smaller operating costs and budgets. Presidential salaries were not in the up-to a million dollars level. Faculty lived on the love of learning and free summers. Health costs were affordable and so on. Who talked about retention as an important aspect of a college? But today, in the world of ever-increasing salaries, health costs, debt service, fixed costs, technology and equipment acquisition alongside decreasing public support, and an extremely competitive enrollment market, how can people not think of retention? Yet, they manage not to.

Retention is where the real revenue is created. Admissions costs money - significant amounts of money. Retaining students/clients costs from nothing to very little. Retaining students through graduation is also how colleges, universities and career schools meet their higher calling, their missions, their purpose and reason to exist and be supported. Students and learning are still the key publicly conceived rationale for higher education. Granted the old saying "this would be a great place to work if it weren't for the students" is still out there. But without the students, undergraduates primarily, there would be no place to work. Society supports higher education because it believes college prepares students for the economy, for society and for life.

It is important for schools to make the shift now from an admissions-concentration to an admissions AND retention focus; from churn and burn to learn and earn. From keep them coming in and if they leave replace them to admit and work with students so they succeed in their endeavors. A more balanced learn and earn approach will also allow the college to retain the revenues it needs to succeed, meet the mission and grow.

AcademicMAPS surveyed and interviewed 640 students a year after they had dropped out of a school to find out what they left.

The passage of a year as well as our non-affiliation with any particular college or university provided the students the distance and anonymity for more open discussion on actual attrition causes. The students were randomly selected. They were often at their new college, one that we had been hired to audit or present training or a presentation. The above chart is a compilation of that research on why students really leave a school.

What we discovered is not what ex-students might tell a school official since they will generally "play to the interviewer" during their meetings with your exit counselor. (If the school has one.) Students will most often intone "personal reasons" as their reason/excuse for leaving the school. They assume the interviewer will either not dig into their personal lives or will buy the vague soap opera they spin because they know we are basically voyeurs rather than intervention people. We do love a good story, even if it may not be true or the real reason the student is leaving. But then again, if it is "personal reasons" most officials are happy to accept that for two main reasons. First, most colleges accept that "personal reasons" is a valid basis to leave school. Second, if students leave for personal reason, neither the college nor the individual are not really accountable for some failure in the department, school or our so-called systems. Can't be held responsible for their personal problems, can we?

But when AcademicMAPS personnel dug a bit, it was discovered that the personal problems fall into a few major categories which indicate that leaving students do have a sort of personal issue - a customer service issue - with the school. Most often, they said didn't like the way they were treated and that they took personally. They tell us that they felt the school was indifferent toward them as a person, as a learner, or as anything but tuition revenue. A very common statement was "all they seemed to care about was me paying on time." This feeling of apathy from the school is the major reason 30 percent of the students said they were motivated to leave. This feeling violates our Good Academic Customer Service Principle 1 "Everyone wants to attend Cheers University where everyone knows your name and they're awfully glad you came." Once they feel you do not care, they are on the way out the door over to Gary's Old Towne Tavern.

The second major reason students quit a school is dissatisfaction with how the staff treats them. Staff here means anyone who works at the college from maintenance people on down. Administrators are staff. Faculty are staff. Everyone is in a staff relationship to the clients, the students. Everyone is there, or should be there, to serve and meet the needs of the students, the school's primary customer.

Generally students will point out some clerical, management or administrative staff as the primary poor customer service villain. This is because students are more lenient with faculty in general until one of them blows it big time. Sort of like the belief voters have that their local representative is honest and sincere until caught in an airport men's room. Then all hell breaks loose. The college's landing strip becomes filled with helicopter parents and it's "threaten to call the lawyer's time." Students want to believe their teachers care about them even if they don't seem to really show it much. They will remember the slights from the clerical staff and try to overlook indifferent even cruel Paper Chase Charles W. Kingsfield type faculty member until they realize that those faculty are hurtful and not just demanding. But that can and will change if the professor shows his or her cruelty in the grade a student gets after putting in what he or she felt was hard work and effort. Grades have become the coin of the realm for students and they believe they are paying for them in one or another way - study and tuition. How many times have you heard students refer to how much they are paying and how much they deserve since they pay so much to go there? Moreover since a major motivator for staying in a school is getting a job, lower than expected grades are a disincentive to many students. Students who do not receive what they believe was their effort in their grades they often feel they have been or are being maltreated and they will not stay and pay for that. So they leave.

A quick note here. The belief that customer service is equated to giving easy grades is not true. Customer service is not in the grade itself but in a combination of the effort for the grade and the assistance provided to be able to achieve a higher grade. The situation is anometic. Students who do not put in the effort or seek help accept what grades they get. Students who make a sincere effort expect that the college will provide the services to help them succeed with an acceptable grade. The services such as tutoring by qualified tutors who can actually help students learn the material, review assistance, additional study material and supplementary opportunities to understand the information or achieve the skill needed to obtain an acceptable grade are customer service.

When students leave a college for what he or she categorizes as personal or financial reasons does not mean they don't go to another school although they may tell you they problem that calls for taking time off. They don't want to insult the interviewer with negative reports about his or her colleagues or the school. The students avoid this not because they are afraid of hurting someone's feelings but because they don't want to hear a defense or excuses. They want to get in and out of what they feel to be an unsettling experience as quickly and painlessly as is possible. They also will claim "personal reasons" since they do not wish to explain their real reasons for leaving if they can avoid it. Confrontation is not a sought after event.

The 2006 NSSE study indicated that over 60 percent of students attend more than one college prior to graduation. No indication of how many try more than one school and quit higher education completely. That should not comfort people if their school is one that loses more than receives students. Misery likes company but there are no revenue dollars in the misery of losing a large portion of enrollment, especially to those who get laid off to meet budget as a result of too many drops.

The third major reason students attrit is they are just plain unhappy with the school. The institution has spent so much time and money to get them to come that the school forgets it is much easier and much less costly to keep a student than to recruit and enroll them to begin with. Before classes, there are numerous communications, well planned activities at orientations, events, even celebrations to make sure the students will show up. Once classes start, most schools seem to forget to keep up the effort that says we are glad you came.

Even if a school tries to maintain a focus on making students feel welcome during freshman year, it almost always ends at most every school as soon as sophomore year rolls around. Now, it is assumed, the students are mature, focused and will remain satisfied with the college. That false assumption leads to more dropouts. Just look at the chart and it will be seen that the third primary reason for dropping out is the students were just plain unhappy. Taking away the focus after freshman year is a sure way to add to potential dissatisfaction. Once any institution provides good customer service, it cannot, it should not be taken away. And it is so simple to maintain actually. In fact, all the reasons for leaving a school can be alleviated rather easily.

In summary, when one thinks about the chart above, it indicates that 72 percent of students leave a college--your college--for customer service reasons. Thirty percent due to indifference. Twenty-nine percent from staff problems and 13 percent for just plain unhappy. These are essentially customer dissatisfaction issues. If your institution could increase satisfaction, i.e. customer service, it would reduce attrition. That would correspondingly become a significantly positive factor for the revenue and bottom line. "How much?" would be the next question, followed by "How does one figure the financial effects of attrition and retention?"

There are three primary CSFactors (Customer Service Factors) AcademicMAPS has formulated to help universities, colleges and career school figure out the loss or gain from retention and attrition. The CSFactors are provided as formulas schools can use to figure out how much revenue they are losing, or could and would gain if they focused on improving service to students. The formulas are quick methods to understand the financial power of retention coming out of customer service to students. Placing your college or university's actual numbers into the formulas will quickly bring forward the real power of retention to positively affect the revenue and future or the institution.

They could also be applied to employee retention, another significant revenue and service issue but here we focus on students. The formulas were developed and tested from the research AcademicMAPS conducted during college service audits, workshops, presentations, retreats and other services provide to higher education as well as just pure research.

CSF1 helps a college figure out how much revenue/money it is losing from its actual attrition. Factor 1 is stated as: CSF1 = [(P X A= SL) X T]

In the formula, P represents the total school population; not just the starting fall freshman number. Most schools use the fall incoming freshmen number and that is an error. The assumption is that attrition occurs most in the first six weeks of the freshman year. That may be have some validity for the freshman year but the reality is that students are leaving colleges and universities in any one of the average six-plus years of a four-year degree and in the four-plus average years of a two-year degree. Students leave a school throughout their experience at the college. In fact, some schools are beginning to realize this and worry about the sophomore bubble. But they really need to worry about the super soph sluff, the rising junior jilt, the junior jump, super junior split, the fourth year flee and so on. Every year, every semester, in fact every day is a chance for a student to dropout. Colleges need to be concerned with every student every day of their attendance for it could be his or her last. So we look at the total population.

Annualized tuition is the number a school should use to figure its real attrition. Not the retention between the first and second semester or the freshman and sophomore years which are very popular ones. That leaves out all the students who already dropped out before the end of the second term or semester. That number fudges failure. For instance, if a college began a year with 100 new freshman and 99 left in week one but the remaining student stayed the whole year and returned for a sophomore year, the freshman to sophomore percentage would be 100 percent.

In CSF1, A equals attrition. Again not just from freshman but an annualized attrition rate. And this rate is to include ALL students who leave for any reason. It does not matter if the student says he or she will be back. They are not in the population and bringing in revenue until they actually do return. If they pay a "place holding fee," that does not count them as a student until they are actually back in classes.

Fudge with the numbers if you have a need for delusion, or are insecure, unethical, or want to keep the Board feeling better but when you use the formulas, be fully honest. It will help you understand why the budget is not working or may suddenly implode. No one likes surprises, especially ones that have parentheses around them in the budget and lead to freezes, cuts and the like. Using the formulas honestly can help forecast a reality to avoid surprises and initiate work on retaining students to maintain fiscal and operating health.

SL stands for students lost annually from total population and revenue production. And T equals annual tuition at the school.

So here is what showed up when we analyzed CSF1 for Mammon University. You may know it. Its motto is Omnes Por Pecunia. Anything for a Buck.

Its total population was 500 students.

Annualized attrition was at 39.6 percent

The SL (students lost annually) was 198.

Times an annual tuition of $13,000.

So, the formula becomes:

To carry this forward a bit, we can plug in other numbers and see how an increase in retention could add to the bottom line and thus the ability to pay for full time faculty, staff, their benefits, increases for adjuncts, instructional equipment, tutors, research release, new curricula and programs, maintenance, .... All those pesky costs that make a college or university better.

If attrition dropped by 5 percent for this school and we substitute 5 percent increased retention for attrition percentage in the formula.

Plug your school's numbers in and see how increasing retention affects your budget and instructional strength while attrition will sap the ability to meet budget and mission.

There is a universal law that it should take less energy to sit on a flagpole than to climb it. Seems logical. Climbing it numerous times to gain different views would require burning more calories than shinnying up once and sitting there to look around for the views. Yet there are certainly those who seem to have not learned that lesson. Colleges that have not yet focused on the value of retention which can be increased through some simple customer service training too often rely on the ill-conceived churn and burn approach.

( Keep bringing in ever increasing numbers of new students and don't worry if they just drop out never to return. Just get some more.

These schools make admission folks in particular climb the pole over and over, burn calories, the late night compact fluorescents, and just plain burn out trying to meet ever-increasing admission goals. You'd think some universities had never heard of flag pole sitting on a pillow called retention. Or the stabilizing element of customer service that creates the cushioning in the pillow. Or ever concerned themselves with little issues like revenue, budgets and paying for things. Or the energy-saving and budget building value and cost-savings of retention. Because flagpole climbing not only burns off calories and people, but piles of revenue through admission and student acquisition costs.

Another simple reality here. Every student a college enrolls costs it money to do so. And it can be a significant amount of money too! Every student retained costs from nothing to quite little. At the 2007 Snowmass Institute, a participant stated that her university had calculated the cost of retaining a student at $35 each. That is an extremely minor cost especially when placed alongside of the revenue lost from just one student leaving.

A study we complete two years ago found that the average cost of enrolling a student is $5,460. This study of 40 randomly chosen colleges, universities and career schools included ALL cost of enrolling a student. Most colleges just look at direct marketing costs per student and forget about all the associated costs. They divide marketing and advertising, maybe lead costs too, by the number of students and voila - a miscalculation.

The real costs of enrolling a student include the direct marketing expenditures like brochures, ads, printing, but also the marketing staff, advertising, publications, admission staff, clerical people, travel, orientation, printing, allocated time and effort from bursar, registrar, academics, counseling, advising, student services, financial aid, orientation, registration, admission committee time and costs, and so on. And we cannot forget to include mailings, postage, emails, phone calls, website and so on and on and on. Fixed capital costs associated with most all of this add another 7-9 percent on the average. The AcademicMAPS study did not figure in average scholarship granted which is also a cost factor. There are in fact very few parts of a college that are not involved at some point and time in admitting, enrolling and starting.

AcademicMAPS also found that 39 of the 40 schools were not including all students who had made inquiries to the college in calculating their acquisition costs. Every time a student is responded to, there are costs. These all add to the time and considerable expenditures.

For some schools, the cost of recruiting a student actually outweighs the tuition received from them in the first semester and for some even into the first semester of the second year. Those in the publicly assisted category offset some and three publicly assisted schools offset all the loss from some public financial assistance based on an unduplicated headcount formula. But even with public assistance all schools still lose money on student acquisition when the student drops out. This is especially so if the student leaves in the first semester or term before providing tuition and fees at least equal to the acquisition costs. And every student who leaves must be replaced with at least another at another additional expenditure of $5,460. But it usually requires more than one replacement student and associated acquisition costs.

Schools normally look at their enrollment and population in terms of FTE, full-time equivalent students. For attrition and retention purposes it is necessary to consider the FGE (full-time graduate equivalent). An FGE is equal to how many students it takes for the school to get one student through the entire degree program and graduate. In fact, to obtain one FGE at an average annualized attrition of 32 percent will take at least 3-4 students acquired to get one FGE at a two-year school. Six to eight will be needed at a four-year school, with an average graduation period of four to five years. If average graduation is more than five years, it may be required to add another admission needed to get the four year FGE.

The FGE is actually a more important number than the FTE in a number of growing ways. More and more, politics and society are calling on colleges and universities to prove they are effective. And the growing "success" determinant is graduation numbers, not starts or current population. This is because society sees college as a place in which the leaders and workers for tomorrow are prepared. The number of people who graduate and then can enter the workforce or become service providers of one or another type is also the surest indicator, statistic of how well as school is meeting its own mission. Just look at your own mission and note how you too focus in one or another way on graduation and success.

Population may be what we set out budgets on but success is what we are judged upon. It is sort of like if the college or university has a football or basketball team. Being able to gather enough players together can get you into the game but the college and alumni judge the team and the school's investment on the success of the team. Not how many games they play but how many they won. And that is becoming the analogy for population and support as well. Not just how many a school brings in but how many it graduates. And for figuring ROI this is a significant concept as well.

CSF2 = [SL x CA = -E) + CSL1]

SL - # of students lost

CA - Cost of acquisition

-E - Enrollment $ lost

CSF2 - Total revenue lost

So using the numbers from the prior Mammon University CSF1 example:[198 x $5,460 = $1,081,080 + $2,574,000) = -$3,655,080.

This school has lost almost 200 students along with $3,655,080. If it had retained the 198 students, it would have saved the $3.6 million. Even if it did spend $35 a student to retain the dropouts, that would have cost them $6,930. If we extend that cost out of four years, it is found that $27,720 is still just a bit less than $3.6 million.

Seems again that retention saves while attrition costs. And one hell of a lot of money.

But let's not ignore the human costs of people working very hard to bring students into the school just to see them leave. We have not even worked in the costs of replacing admissions and enrollment people who simply burn out from the ever-increasing new student recruitment goals. The loss of trained and successful people should not be discounted at all.

Every time an employee leaves there are not just dollars consumed in replacing that person but days and weeks of not having the productivity from the individual. The time it takes a college or university to advertise, recruit, select, train the new employee as well as the ramping out period before he or she can be successful in the position is considerable. Weeks and months can go by with productivity loss taking away from the school's ability to meet its goals. Even if the remaining people step up their efforts and hours, there are deficits generated as well as increasing the remaining employee's burnout potential. And since most managers in higher education really are quite weak or worse when it comes to recognizing and rewarding employees, those who have to make up the lost productivity become the next to consider finding another job. We never should ignore the psychological pain of climbing the ever-growing flagpole every start when they should be able to just sit there every so often and enjoy the retention view.

CSFactor 3: A Cost or A Bonus They may have tried to navigate a web site created not for the user but the college community. They could not find basic information efficiently. The information they finally located did not address their needs or questions. They tried to email for information but the directory listed the last seven campus telephone numbers, not email addresses or direct active links. When they arrived on a page, the link was broken so they were stranded. The language was some sort of secret code known primarily to those immersed in academic-ese. The college catalog was there but since it did not have a user friendly program like Leadwise, it could not be searched or supply them what information they wanted.

They may have phoned the school and were greeted by a phone tree that told them the options had changed so listen closely as if this would be an admission's quiz. Then the annoying electronic voice made sure the prospective student could neither find the office she needed or had so many numbers to remember that he failed the memory test. Or an indifferent receptionist began the greeting by asking them to wait and listen to either music elevators rejected or a canned advertisement for the school. Then the receptionist connected the caller to an office in which people let the calls go to voice mail and erased the calls at the end of the day.

The potential students came to the campus and drove around trying to figure out where the office they wanted to get to was located. The signs, if there were any, only listed places by the building names which is no help to a prospective student. Then if the prospect finds the building with the office she is seeking, it took a long frustrating time to find a parking space because the signs all let her know "This lot reserved for....." When she did find a spot in Lot C, there were no maps to direct her back to the building she had so much trouble finding.

If he made it to the building, there was a lack of internal signage so he then wandered the halls hoping someone would be willing to help him. But the college employees are too busy or distracted to stop and try to help a clearly confused student who should know his way around anyhow. After going into a couple of offices where the secretary tried to be helpful but was not sure where the person or office he was seeking is, he was sent to yet another wrong location. By the time he did find the correct office after the traditional campus shuffle, he missed his appointment and had to make a new one for another time. And, well, there are other colleges after all.

In these ways and other, actual contact convinces 12 percent of probable students that they would no longer be interested. That leads to CS Factor 3

CSF3 = [(AE x12 percent=EL) x tuition] IE - Initial actual Enrollment 12 percent is what is lost on initial contact EL - is the Enrollment Lost and T once again is the tuition So, continuing with Mammon U. (which has just written a formal complaint to US News and World Report for not including it in the top tier of colleges and universities which everyone at Mammon knows is an error and just makes education a commodity in the minds of the public which should care about purer motives while Mammon knows that a top ranking will improve its application flow and lead to meeting enrollment objectives while reducing advertising expenditures and so it can consider raising tuition for more revenue because it can still attract a class at the higher cost from the increased ranking.....)

Mammon's original enrollment is budgeted at 200 in the Fall. They aren't there just yet so the admission's folks are beating the bushes and going through every potential applicant they have. They are at 180 enrollments at this point so the CFO is concerned that the budget they created back in June and assured the Board they would meet will not be met for the third year in a row. And the president is now reading the Chronicle of Higher Education starting with the career section. If Mammon does not find the last 20 enrollments, CSF3 will be calculated like this.

The point that may make immediate impact if you are not an admissions or enrollment management person is the revenue loss of $312,000. That is a solid amount of lost revenue which may lead to starting the year with some budget, employee, equipment, maintenance or other cuts. That will usually catch most everyone's attention. Everyone hates cuts.

But a person in admission would be thinking is "Merde, if we didn't lose some of the potential applicants, we would not have just hit the 200 goal, we would have exceeded it by 4! We would be celebrating instead of commiserating and getting the job network invigorated again." The formula could have shown [(200 +12 percent percent = +224) x $13,000] = + $312,000.

Consider again that the 12 percent loss of students is from potential enrollments that contacted the school to take the next step to apply and enroll. These are students the school had already attracted sufficiently that they were ready to make a commitment. But they were finally lost due to poor customer service. They should never have been dissuaded. Customer service would have saved them.

The CSFactors can be used to determine how much attrition is costing a school. Conversely, they can also show how much revenue could be realized if a college focuses on keeping students enrolled. The negative numbers yielded by the formulas could all be indicators of how much money would be gained by focusing on one consistent area - customer service.

Not the surface issues that one might read about in any of the commercial books that discuss one or another "way" or method that will help a store sell more widgets or market more business services. A customer service that is appropriate to the unique enclaves we know as colleges, universities and career colleges. A customer service that recognizes that our clients/customers are not at the school for a unitary single purchase event such as buying a pair of shoes, but to learn and grow so they can obtain the career and future they see for themselves. It is a customer service that is not expressed in a set phrase such as "Hi, I'm Dr. Brown. I will be your professor today. Can I start you off with an intellectual appetizer?"

It is a customer service more akin to the relationship of a doctor and patient. The patient realizes that he or she needs assistance to get healthier and stronger. The patient thus recognizes weaknesses that will need attention and even correction. He must also be willing to follow the directions and course of action the doctor prescribes. The patient is also to take the prescribed actions at the time the doctor says to and complete any and all additional therapy conscientiously. The patient is also expected to make all appointments and be prepared to review the time between meetings when requested so the doctor can understand progress or lack of it. This is so the patient can pass all the medical tests and receive a good report.

On the other hand, the patient places very important items in the keeping of the doctor - body, soul and a healthy future. The doctor is required to let the patient know what is needed even if the remedy calls for discipline, hard effort and following instructions until the full course of treatment is completed. The doctor must be honest and conscientious in all she does but that does not exclude the patient's demand that she do so using and personal, polite and respectful approach (no matter how popular House, MD is on TV). The doctor is also called upon to provide the most up-to-date remedies available; old, yellowed, out-dated prescriptions and approaches won't do. And the doctor is expected to be available for extra care, consultation and appointments if the patient has questions, is having trouble or simply needs assurance or additional discussion of the remedy.

And the patient does expect that his or her needs will be met and that includes a friendly acknowledgment from the receptionist, nurses and the doctor herself. Patients all want to believe they are important enough for the doctor to smile at and remember their name and medical chart without having to read through the chart each time. And he does not want to have to wait to long to be able to see the doctor. He believes his time is as important as the doctor's and just because insurance is covering some of the cost does not mean he is any less important. After all, the doctor is making what appears to be a good living from the money received from the patient.

Finally, the patient really believes he is coming to the doctor to get better and stronger so he can achieve his goals in life. If at any time the patient believes that the doctor is not focused enough on his goals, does not really care about him or does not see that he is getting better, he will look for a second opinion and a new doctor.

A doctor builds a solid practice with a long list of loyal patients that provides her a very good income if she fulfills all the customer service expectations above. And most importantly if she makes patients better so they live the healthy productive lives they seek.

A college, university or career college will retain students providing it receives the revenue and loyalty it needs to be able to perform and meet its mission through a similar customer service focus. And the most important customer service is meeting student expectations that they will be prepared to graduate, get a good job and meet the goals they have set. If a school does that, the CSFactors will all become positive numbers.

AcademicMAPS President Dr. Neal Raisman has been credited with the formation of customer service in higher education as a research field and area in need of consultation. His book, Embrace the Oxymoron: Customer Service in Higher Education, (LRP Publishers:2002, remains the best selling book on the topic. His other books, over 100 articles and blog,, are widely read and quoted.

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