The experience students have on campus is what will keep them coming back, both while enrolled and after. But even if they love their classes, that joy can be overshadowed by frustration dealing with student services offices. The new report “Making the Grade: Optimizing the Higher Education Student Experience” from Oracle checks in on how administrators and students think higher education institutions are doing. The good news: 60 percent of students surveyed say their school meets their customer service expectations. The bad news: 30 percent don’t.
While it’s understandable that scarce resources will be focused on teaching, learning, and research, it’s important not to underestimate the impact of these administrative functions on student satisfaction, says Cole Clark, global vice president for education and the research industry at Oracle. Students satisfied with their school’s student services are significantly more likely than those who aren’t to continue at their school through graduation (84 percent compared to 64 percent) and recommend their school to potential students (86 percent compared to 51 percent).
Administrators might think they know what students want, but the survey showed some interesting disconnects. “I would have predicted more of a demand in mobile apps from students than admins, and it was upside down,” says Clark. When asked where schools should focus on improving, 34 percent of administrators compared to 23 percent of students said to focus on mobile apps.
Students were more concerned with improving response time than administrators.
Both groups agreed that making it easier to find answers should be a high priority. More than three-quarters of students prefer to connect with student services in person.
Some of these challenges can be addressed by streamlining the disparate systems students need to access, Clark says. “Most students have to log into separate systems, sometimes through different portals and with different credentials. That makes it hard to keep track of things.”
“There are some schools doing amazing work,” he says, adding that effectiveness and efficiency come into play. “There is a tremendous amount of headroom to improve effectiveness without spending truckloads of cash to get it done.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
On which areas should your school focus to improve student service?*
|Make it easier to determine where to go for an answer||54%||61%|
|Provide consistent information||34%||49%|
|Improve response times||37%||27%|
|Add more self-service options||30%||30%|
|Provide mobile apps||23%||34%|
|Improve administrators’ listening skills||27%||24%|
|Improve online services’ uptime||24%||13%|
|Connect with students through social media||14%||21%|
|*Respondents asked to select their top three responses|
|Source: “Making the Grade: Optimizing the Higher Education Student Experience,” Oracle, 2012|
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