Universities should approach student needs from a customer service perspective

3 ways universities can work with the student in mind


Universities should approach student needs from a customer service perspective

In higher education, we often hear about the need to put the students first. However, we rarely look at student needs from a customer service orientation.

An Academic Impressions survey from about decade ago identified that less than 7 percent of colleges rated their customer service as deserving of an A rating. Only about one-third rated their schools as earning a B rating. Some actually said their customer service practices were embarrassing. They identified “cranky clerical folks,” haughty professors, and “clueless student workers.”

It is as if the old trope that colleges would be great places if it wasn’t for the students was actually being embraced by faculty and staff. However, there is a change coming to higher education in that the students many universities have taken for granted are no longer enrolling. Public 4-year institutional enrollments dropped on average about 3.8 percent in 2021. Fewer students are graduating from high schools, so the applicant pool is shrinking.

Universities need to do a better job at both recruiting and retaining students. One important way to do that is to make students, and faculty for that matter, feel valued. Good customer service can go a long way towards that end.

Most are aware that the rules, regulations, policies, and deadlines in higher education can be Byzantine at times. It is common for students, and sometimes faculty and staff, to not entirely understand them. This occasionally evidences itself as the “I’ve got a secret” game. This occurs when a functionary at the institution responds to a student request by telling them they have either done something wrong or have not completed the right process. However, they don’t go the extra step and guide the student to the next step.

Steven M. Baule, Ed.D., Ph.D.