Can you handle the TRUTH?

Posted by | Higher Education, Our work, Retention | 0 |

Can you handle the TRUTH?

Written By: Chris Burton


In today’s higher education landscape where administators often find themselves in the crossfire of increased scrutiny and accountability, the executive conference room can feel much like a courtroom. Perspectives are challenged, data is scrutinized and truths revealed. One such truth is the reality of how student retention impacts our nations institutions.

I read an article not long ago about consumer choice in education and it reminded me of the movie A Few Good Men, and the famous scene when Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) interrogates Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) on the ordering of a “code red” resulting in the death of a soldier.

Col Jessep: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?

LT Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.

Col Jessep: You want answers?!

LT Kaffee: I want the truth!

Col Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “Is there a truth I’m not willing to address because I’m not sure I want to know the answer?” That truth is this: Students are frustrated by long lines and hold times, difficulty getting questions answered, and downright upset with their schools’ inability to provide basic customer service.

We all want answers, but sometimes we’re not willing to face hard truths. Perhaps it’s fear. Perhaps lack of awareness. Either way, the outcome is the same…more and more students continue stepping out of their education because of substandard service levels. Here are some difficult truths many are reluctant to address:

Many Student Service departments are under-resourced, understaffed, and as a result, under performing 

During peak call seasons, some departments turn off voicemail systems because they’re overrun with walk up traffic

In 2013, the cost of student attrition topped $16.4B, with the average school losing just under $10M in tuition revenue 

Only 60% of first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2008 completed the degree at that institution by 2014 

Now we find ourselves in the courtroom staring down the prosecutor from the witness stand. Our palms are sweaty, but we know the truth must come out. Is this not the dilemma you face in the executive conference room when you look among your colleagues and everyone has their fingers pointing out instead of at themselves.

It’s time to tell the truth about what you can do to take ownership of the facts and begin making improvements. Here are some suggestions on where to start…

1 All incoming phone calls answered by a live person (track call data for performance improvement) 

2 Resolve student questions in a single call or chat session (aim for 90% first call resolution)

3 Analyze data and make improvements (if you know why people are calling in, you can make adjustments to self help tools to reduce call volume) 

4 Train student facing personnel to be quick, calm and friendly (soft skills development) 

It is time all of my higher education colleagues come together to challenge each other to tell the truth at the table. It is time to work toward improving service in higher education, ultimately bringing to bear what we all desire – a sustainable future for our schools and the next generation of graduates and leaders. It is time to start handling…THE TRUTH.

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