The Role of Customer Service in Higher Education

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With arguably one of the most connected, growing and frequently-changing audiences, higher ed is making use of some of the private sector’s most successful multi-channel service strategies to better serve thousands to hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, staff, parents, prospective students and alumni, whether they’re on campus or around the globe. Higher ed innovators don’t just get the concept of students as customers; they’re mastering it in key ways:

1. Better and Faster Access to Information
Just like their business counterparts providing product and policy information online, higher education institutions are using self-service knowledgebases to give students 24/7 answers to questions ranging from “how do I change my login password” to “when does fall semester registration begin” to “where can I find the financial aid form I need.”

“Instead of getting three calls asking the same question, we now only get one,” said Maureen O’Mara Carver, Executive Director of Student Records and Financial Services in the Office of Enrollment at Saint Joseph’s University. Students can get the answers they need at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. by going to the school’s support portal and downloading whatever they need at their convenience.

2. Streamlined Support
Colleges and universities are incorporating online support portals with advanced workflow systems on the back end to make sure every question or issue is answered in a timely fashion. Whether the questions come from email, an online form, help desk ticket, social media or another channel, students, prospective students, alumni and others are each treated like valued customers as their questions are quickly routed to the best person or department that can answer and timed and tracked for response.

3. Social Media Responsiveness
Higher ed is actually leading most Fortune 500 companies when it comes to this category, and for good reason. Millennials are the most active users of social media for communication, questions and support, so higher education has had to tackle this new channel much sooner and with much greater responsibility for social media influencers outside of its control than almost any other industry (think popular student athletes, former students, students from rival schools, the media, etc.).

Social media monitoring and response software is a growing need, not only for promoting each institution’s messaging, updates, news and information, but for reputation management, crisis management and coordinated and consistent communication across official and unofficial social media properties including alumni relations, student organizations, athletics, individual academic departments, foundations and more.

Social media use for new student recruitment and communication has also soared in the past few years. According to a Zinch and Inigral 2012 Social Admissions Report, approximately two-thirds of high school students now use social media to research colleges and enrollment, looking for responses to their questions ranging from academics and financial aid, to admissions processes and visits to the campus. Response times must be quick and collaboration between multiple departments in providing a correct response must be coordinated, which is why customer service software solutions work surprisingly well for higher education institutions.

Some higher ed institutions such as Thomas Edison State College have even incorporated their online knowledgebase on their social media properties to better serve current and prospective students who are always on, or just a click away from social media. Mobile-friendly knowledgebases and help desks are another common focus.

As BYOD policies and online offerings continue to evolve in both traditional and non-traditional learning environments, the role of customer service in higher education will continue to grow and evolve, as well. Customer service for serving students? It makes perfect sense.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.

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