The IF

I am super excited to announce The Innovation Forum For Career Services, an event I’m co-coordinating with my friend and colleague Ray Angle.  The event takes place on August 1 and 2, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It features keynotes, plenary sessions, a panel, plenty of discussion time and the Career Services Innovation Idea Challenge.   You can read more at our site:

If you’re a career services pro interested in innovation, this is the event for you!


Is “customer” still a bad word in higher education?

In a meeting earlier this week someone referred to our students as “customers,” but then, realizing what had been done, quickly walked the statement back by saying something like, “not that we think of our students as customers.”  That’s been a long-held student/academic affairs mentality — students are not customers.

There are certainly parts of this sentiment that I understand.  The implication is that a student has different responsibilities in the educational experience than a customer would in a commercial experience.  And I believe that to be true.  But, I also believe that too often we lean on the idea that students aren’t customers as a way to comfort ourselves for providing less-than-stellar service.

Sometimes this less-than-stellar service is beyond our control.  We don’t make all the policies, and we don’t control the bureaucracy.  But, dang it, we say we’re here for the students.  So, when it makes sense to pick up a phone and make a call rather than send a student traipsing across campus, we should do that (as one of my colleagues did this afternoon, I’m happy to say).  That’s not hand-holding or coddling, that’s just good service, and our students deserve it.

Recently a person that I respect posted, jokingly, on Facebook the old adage “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”  We know students put things off, and we know they don’t always take action when they should.  But, the very tone of that statement belies our often-stated mantra that we’re here to help students.  Does that mean we shouldn’t discuss consequences and better planning and better decision making?  Of course not.  But, we shouldn’t be afraid of “service” just because we think it is for customers and not for students.

We should be focusing on how to give the best service we can, and we should be learning from those commercial sectors to which we don’t like to be compared.  Whether you like it or not, those are the standards to which we are being held.  The experiences students have with us are contextualized not against other university offices or offices similar to ours on other campuses (which is why benchmarking is such a flawed concept sometimes), but rather against service in all settings.

What are you doing to provide absolutely top-notch service to your students?  I’d love to hear about it.  I’m sure it’s happening!




What are your underserved touchpoints?

As you think about the service(s) that your office delivers, have you stopped to consider all the possible touchpoints that exist before and after the actual service delivery?   I recently ordered some touchpoint cards with excitement from Simon Clatworthy at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design as part of the AT-ONE project, and although they have not yet arrived, I’m excited to use them in action to think through our services more fully.

What are some touchpoints that we might underserve?   What is the student experience along the entire service chain?   Website, telephone, waiting room, greeting, service delivery, follow up, or anywhere else in the chain?

In my office, we tend to think a lot about our website, our front desk service, and our actual service delivery.  But, I think we are rather weak on the follow up.  Students receive a post-service survey by email.  But, we could certainly do more to follow up on the actual service — checking in with them about their progress, offering additional guidance, and so forth.

I look forward to doing more work on the touchpoints approach to student affairs, using Simon’s cards as a jumping off point.  I’ll post more after they arrive.

Service lessons from Duke Hospital

As a UNC basketball fan, it always pains me a bit to talk positively about Duke.  But, in the realm of service design, Duke Hospital is doing some nice things.   Between my son’s asthma and my sleep apnea, I’ve found myself visiting one particular facility a half dozen times in the past year.   Prior to these experiences and my son’s birth a few years back, I simply hadn’t spent much time in hospitals.  So, I may be giving them credit for things that are quite standard in hospital settings. But, that said, they have some nice service design features. And I’ve often felt student affairs professionals can mimic some of the better practices of health care, since we share some similarities in the way we provide services.

For example:

  • At Duke you can check-in online prior to your arrival then use a kiosk at your clinic to notify the staff of your arrival.
  • The various elevators are color coded, making the  maze-like halls easier to navigate.
  • Nearly each time I’ve found myself in a line, a worker comes from behind the desk area to begin checking in with me before I get to the front of the line.

Each of the above experiences has been positive and impressive.

That’s not to say things are perfect.  I do find that often our medical records, which one would think would be easily retrieved, don’t seem to follow us from meeting to meeting easily.  We in student affairs share this problem — how much of our work would be improved by knowing more about our students past experiences across our various divisions and units prior to our engagement with them?   Some schools have pursued a co-currcular transcript model.  But is anyone doing anything to make sure that we on the student affairs staff are better informed about our engagements across offices?

This is a fairly unfocused post.  But, I’m wondering if anyone else has considered parallels between health care service and student affair service.  Have you noticed anything interesting we should steal, or problems that might parallel potential improvements we’ve not even considered?

Delighting our students

What are you doing to delight your students?  Sometimes I think we’re so focused on the nitty gritty and just “doing the work” that we fail to excite and delight.  Tom Krieglstein posted a piece over on the Student Affairs Collaborative Blog that fits perfectly with what I’m trying to do here on this blog. In his post he linked a few videos, and I wanted to share one here, as well.  I’d love to see examples from student affairs pros, but I fear not many exist!


What is Service Design?

Since I’ve refocused my blogging efforts on service design and innovation for student affairs, I thought I should lay out some general thoughts about service design in case some folks aren’t familiar with the terminology.

There isn’t a single, agreed-upon definition of service design.  But, there is consensus that it is a multi-disciplinary approach to thinking about services, how they are structured, how we create them and what makes them most successful.   The Service Jam London site has a good “hitchhikers guide” to service design that touches on a lot of angles and perspectives.  So, it’s worth checking out.  You might also want to check into the book This Is Service Design Thinking.

The most excellent Service Design in emergency waiting room is a video that is worth watching that shows the concepts in action with a cute animation, then follows it with some insight into core concepts and approaches.

My goal with this blog is to start looking for examples and opportunities to apply this approach, along with other innovative and creative thinking approaches, to the field of Student Affairs in higher education.  I hope you’ll come along with me and share your own thoughts and examples!

  • My tweets

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Advertisements