How to Avoid 12 Common Mistakes Serving Student ‘Customers’ - Higher Education
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How to Avoid 12 Common Mistakes Serving Student ‘Customers’

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by Jeffrey Pierce II


Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes are inevitable and as long as we humans exist, the opportunity for them to occur will be present.

What makes us better and allows us to minimize our mistakes is the opportunity to learn from them.

In the business industry, some employees are classified as customer-service employees. They are the brand representatives, the human face, and voice of the company. Their competence, soft skills and communication habits count tremendously toward the quality of the service they provide to their customers and impact overall customer satisfaction. In the higher education industry, these customer-service employees are faculty and staff members.

So, what are a few mistakes that can have adverse consequences for student gratification and allegiance? Below are 12 common mistakes to avoid when interacting with students. Are the faculty and staff at your institution guilty of any of them?

  1. Lack of knowledge – Students become frustrated when those providing them service do not have the information needed or do not know where to find the information.
  2. Not being honest – When speaking with students about what your institution has to offer, always be honest. If your institution does not offer what they are looking for, admit it without giving misleading information or making false promises.
  3. Absence of ownership – When mistakes happen, even if it wasn’t your fault, acknowledge that something went wrong. When students become upset, a sincere apology is often enough to calm their anger.
  4. Not being friendly – Smiling even when on the telephone, showing a helpful attitude, and making a student feel comfortable are must-haves. A friendly attitude will guarantee a positive experience.
  5. Not listening – Active listening is the key to understanding a student’s problem and resolving it quickly and successfully.
  6. Talking too much – Too much talking means not enough listening.
  7. Not asking questions – Put an end to making assumptions and start asking more questions that navigate toward the core of the student’s issue or find out the real need.
  8. Arguing with students – You will not win an argument with a student. When students are wrong, there is always a way to help them understand without shoving it in their face.
  9. Showing no empathy – Providing exceptional service inevitably comes down to one simple thing: how you make the students you assist feel. Always treat them with patience and empathy.
  10. Using jargon – Always use simple and understandable language while avoiding slang. Do not assume the student is familiar with institutional buzz words.
  11. Not delivering on promises – Never make a promise to a student you are unable to deliver. If you do make a promise, deliver no matter what!
  12. Taking students for granted – Never stop showing your students how much you appreciate them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with making mistakes? The good news is that all of the listed mistakes are easily avoidable.

Be sure your faculty and staff members are aware of what they are doing wrong when interacting with students and provide them with regular training and mentoring to help expand their professionalism and improve their skills.

The ultimate goal is to minimize negative experiences and create more positive ones for our students

Jeffrey Pierce, II, is the Director of Recruitment & Admission at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX. He is the author of, Be My GUEST: A guide for creating an ultimate service experience.

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