The Good Service Conundrum

Last week I was trolling around looking for something related to the City Colleges and I came across the Yelp ratings for the colleges (Kennedy King, Malcolm XWright, and Harold Washington are the only ones I could find with ratings).

Just in case you’re thinking something like, “I don’t know why we’re doing a new routine for registration; the old way worked great for me!” you might want to take a few minutes and read through the reviews posted about HW on Yelp. Not surprising (to me), they are uniformly complimentary of teachers (the same was true for the reviews of the other colleges for the most part), with a few snipes at the (fellow) students, particularly those who are unprepared and/or disruptive. By far, though, the harshest and most vitriolic reviews were directed at the college staff, which is an absolute puzzle to me.

For anyone who was around in 2005, this is not exactly news. One of the most definitive and actionable findings of the Assessment Committee came from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) in that year, which showed that students were pretty highly engaged with their classes and instructors and strongly dissatisfied with the school’s services, leading to an overall dissatisfaction with the school despite the appearance of valuable and satisfying academic experiences. Those findings, corroborated by a later “Customer Service” survey and surveys done during registration led to all kinds of changes including a year or two’s worth of meetings about how to change registration (which led to clear, even if incremental, improvements), a reorganization of Student Services, and a big “customer service” initiative (all documented in the NCA Self Study).

What you might not know is that in 2009, HW students retook the CCSSE. HW scores were even better than in 2005 with respect to the Academic Student Engagement (HW was ranked significantly better than our peers in Illinois and even nationally in multiple categories that correlate to student success), and, though students were still less satisfied overall than average, they were less dissatisfied than they’d been in 2005. Still, they were a long way from singing the praises of the institution.

That might not seem like a puzzle to you, but in all honesty, it has been YEARS since I’ve seen a staff member be openly rude or even unhelpful to a student. Now, I’ve seen faculty be both of those things, and I’ve probably been guilty of each myself on more than one occasion, but time and again–during registration, waiting to turn in paperwork to the registrar, walking through offices, etc., etc., I’ve only seen our staff be patient, friendly, accommodating, and  helpful to students, almost without exception. Yet the bad reviews pour in.

I just don’t see it, though. Am I missing it? It’s possible, I suppose, but I know people who work in nearly every single office in the college, and I like ’em. I find it hard to believe that all these nice, dedicated, funny people turn into monsters when I’m not looking.

But then over the weekend, I started thinking, again, about Don’s presentation on Friday, and his conclusion from the One-on-Ones that “we need to fix our core processes,” and wondered if the student dissatisfaction isn’t with the process more than the persons but vented on the persons because they are more easily identifiable. I wonder whether, if our process is better, students will have the impression that they were better served, and conclude that the people were nicer and more helpful?

Anyway, I’ll be curious to see if the new version of registration makes some more headway than the other new versions could. If you get the chance, tell the rest of us how the new version is working…

One thought on “The Good Service Conundrum

  1. One thing I’d like to see in future versions is to have one person in every room who has the knowledge and capability to fix any of the problems or errors that may have arisen at earlier steps who is that room/step’s dedicated trouble shooter. It kills me to say, “You have to go back to room 102 (or whatever), so, often, I end up doing it with the student and the walk back and forth only lengthens what has always been a long day already. The person would be sort of like a concierge with a big sign that says,TroubleShooter, a computer, and a pad of neon paper. That way, in most cases, we wouldn’t have to send a student with a problem back to the room they just came from (to wait some more and then return). If the problem was one the troubleshooter couldn’t fix, they’d use the neon pad to write a note and send the student to where they need to go. The neon note would be the pass to get immediate access to that room’s trouble shooter and/or immediate assistance.

    Oh, and a person with a podium and a computer and, maybe a cape, standing in the lobby under a big sign that says, “INFORMATION AND HELP” who could do things like look up a student’s ID number or diagnose a hold or error message.

    I’d also like to see time stamps of some sort. Maybe give three students a green card or something at 10 am and then three more a yellow card at 11 am and so on and monitor their progress to see what the time estimates for the different stages are. I bet if students had more information they’d be a little less aggravated by the waits (and we’d know where the bottlenecks are). If they can figure out how long it’s going to take me to drive from the Circle to 95th Street, we should be able to estimate how long it’s going to be until students can have their residency verified, right?

    Still, I like the new system better already. Room 101 is a little tight (and slow) for new students, though. I think it would be better to have space in 102 (maybe along the back wall?).

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