Wittenberg takes pride in its reputation of being a friendly campus. As a smaller campus, we have the opportunity to get to know each other in ways that would be nearly impossible on a large college campus. Despite these advantages we still must intentionally work to maintain -and improve - the personal friendly service that makes Wittenberg such a special place. These efforts become even more important as technology continues to redefine how we communicate, economic pressures expect us to do more with less and an increasingly mobile society coupled with an upward trend in faculty retirements, further impact the campus community.
Institutionally, we are providing customer service workshops and regularly sending related messages. Based on participant and supervisor feedback, these efforts are making a difference. Yet, it will take an ongoing customer service focus by university supervisors to maintain our much-valued reputation and keep customer service alive. Listed below are action steps for some of the primary customer service principles.
Teamwork and Cross-Departmental Communication
Team effort produces results that are strong multiples of individual effort. In fact, individuals alone cannot do most things.
What Supervisors Can Do: Most of us think of our co-workers as members of our team. But how about those across campus who are closely linked through the work they do? One way to promote teamwork and cross-departmental communication is to identify a process that has been troublesome to your group and others on campus, and then, arrange a meeting with all those involved to discuss and resolve the problem.
Systems and Processes
Chronic mistakes and poor customer service are often the result of people being confused about what to do. Clearly defined systems and processes can eliminate this problem.
What Supervisors Can Do: Written standard operating procedures ("SOP's") for key processes is the place to start. Do you have them? If so, are they up-to-date? One way to develop SOP's is to assign a work team to each key process. Flowchart the process by walking through the system, and then, write down each action step and who is responsible for it. When a process involves other departments, this method provides another good opportunity to bring people from different work areas together. SOP's, and the process of developing them, help to eliminate confusion, increase understanding and consequently improve customer service.
People who have a passion for the work they do will achieve amazing things compared with those who don't.
What Supervisors Can Do: Show - by your actions and words - that you have passion for the work you do. Have discussions with your staff about the value of passion, how it is developed, and how it can be nurtured. Challenge your staff to look for ways to become excited about the services they provide.
Measurable Indicators of Quality
We'd probably all agree that measurable indicators are necessary to evaluate the quality of performance objectively and accurately.
What Supervisors Can Do: Think about the key processes in your own work area. What differentiates high-quality performances from problem ones? Chances are there are some measurable indicators. In business these are called "numerics." Some examples of numerics are cycle time, cost per full-time-equivalent student, number of errors in data entry, speed of answering telephone calls, speed of returning phone calls, number of students enrolled per class, etc. As a supervisor, you can lead the department in figuring out what the numerics are for your processes and establish your benchmarks. To maintain this focus, it is important to review the numerics regularly with your staff. (For those who have already participated in one of the customer service training sessions, you can refer to the chapter on Action Planning in Advanced ConnectionsT for easy-to-use forms.)
Talk with Your Customers
The best way to know what customers think of your performance is to ask.
What Supervisors Can Do: In one way or another, all departments and university positions exist to provide services to customers. Customers can be internal or external to the university. Do you keep tabs on what your customers think of the services you provide? If not, try brainstorming within your work area on how it could be done.
People who feel appreciated will try harder to do good work.
What Supervisors Can Do: Reflect on the ways you recognize extraordinary effort. Do you express appreciation frequently and let your team members bask in the spotlight? Or do you relegate discussion of performance to the oft-dreaded annual performance review? Make sure you have standards against which performance is measured (see number 5 above), and then make the standards a regular part of discussion. Celebrate the successes of your people. Make them feel special when they have done exceptional work.