As I write this, I must admit I’m still coming down from my NASFAA 2018 National Conference high! It is so energizing to be around a bunch of people who are passionate about the same things as you. The conversations, the progress, the new outlook on how to engage with students; it’s all so truly exciting.
I hope some of you were able to attend the NASFAA session I was a panelist on, “Breaking Customer Service Rules to Provide ‘Uncommon Service’ to Your Students.” Along with Mike Johnson, Director of Financial Aid at Portland State University, and Kristen Duncan, Director of Financial Aid at Southern Oregon University, we dug into the idea of how underperforming (yes, underperforming) in the FA Office can create better service experiences.
If you were there, thank you for coming! If you couldn’t join us, read on for a recap of some of my favorite topics from the session/discussion. But before I get into my favorite takeaways, I want to ask you the same question we started our session with: If you were a student at your school, what grade would you give your Financial Aid office for customer service? Now, let’s jump in to how some simple ideas can help you elevate your grade.
Underperforming Drives Uncommon Service
Creating a Culture of Customer Success
To be honest with you, when I hear someone use the word ‘culture’ it kind of makes me cringe. Because it’s a word that’s now very over-used. Here’s what culture means to me: culture is a group of people who come together with shared values and are driving toward a defined purpose. At CampusLogic, we have defined our core values and our purpose—and did so as a company, together. And every employee lives those values and believes in our purpose. Taking the time to define both values and purpose are important to creating a culture of customer success.
I loved hearing about how Kristen created values with her FinAid Office team—it is something very similar to what CampusLogic did. Kristen had her team members write words that reflected what was most important to them on a whiteboard. They then narrowed the list of words down to the values her offices believe are most important for today. These values are great to reflect on when you are problem solving, defining strategy, or just in the day-to-day chaos. Values remind you why you do what you do, every day. Whatever you do to create the culture in your office, you must take the time to define it. The best way to get your team to buy-in, is to include them in the process.
The 80/20 Rule
During the NASFAA session, I shared with the crowd that I don’t problem solve for one-off scenarios. It is really easy to get caught up in one issue. Especially when that one issue is consuming your life and all the random things that “never happened” have happened to one person (sounds fun, right?). Can anyone out there relate? Those random, never-happen type of issues are always going to make their way into your office. The trick is to recognize that these instances are rare—and to convince everyone to spend time solving the issue, but not to overanalyze and ‘over solve’ it. The biggest impact you can make in improving your customer experience is to focus on problem solving for issues that impact the majority of your audience. When you make process improvements to what impacts the 80 percent, instead of the 20 percent, you will feel a much bigger shift to improving your customer experience.
Metrics aren’t as scary as they sound—I promise! If you aren’t setting some type of goals/metrics in your office to measure customer success, you should start there. In fact, simply setting goals and determining what you can and should measure is probably one of the most important things you can do to improve the experience for your students. Measurement and focus create improved outcomes.
At CampusLogic we use the OKR Methodology—Objectives and Key Results. Each quarter we define our objectives, and the key results that will help us accomplish them. Staying focused can be hard; there will always be something to distract you and your team. Distractions can stall progress. Having defined goals, and a cadence of tracking and reporting, will help you make traction as opposed to treading water (or sinking). Creating focus doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with the distractions—like we said, they’ll always be there—but with defined objectives you should be able to get back to what’s most important really quickly.
Customer Success Equals Student Success
At NASFAA 2018 during our session, I loved the conversation around treating students as customers and working to provide them the best-possible customer service experience. I hope you’ll reflect on the grade you gave your office and consider one thingyou can change this month to make a small improvement to that grade. It’s the small things we do every day that have monumental impact in the long-run.
Download Chrisy’s NASFAA 2018 Session >
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