Does Your College Culture Focus on Customer Service?

by Michele Kersten-Hart
Oakland Community College
Bloomfield Hills, MI

I have always been goal-oriented, a self-starter, and as a previous employer once said, “extremely persistent.” This year, my goals have been focused around happiness and my professional development. I subscribed to Live Happy magazine, a bi-monthly happiness shot-in-the-arm. In addition, as a method of self-improvement, I have adopted the habit of reading or watching a professional development article or video every day.

Recently, I watched a Tony Hsieh, (CEO of Zappos) presentation.  The presentation left me feeling inspired and excited. It also got me to reflect more deeply about the culture at Oakland Community College. Have you asked yourself that question – What is the culture at your college?

Hsieh asks the question, “Is customer service an expense or an investment?” At Zappos, it’s considered an investment. Apparently, Zappos invests most of its marketing budget in the “customer experience and lets the customer do the marketing for us through word of mouth.” In fact, 75 percent of their business is from repeat customers.

When you think about it, this doesn’t differ much from the community college business world, where repeat customers are students who enroll semester after semester until they graduate. Ideally, if community colleges are providing great customer service, graduates will recommend the college to family and friends. How much of a role does your marketing department play in ensuring that students receive high-quality customer service? After all, isn’t the customer experience the brand?

Zappos culture is based on 10 committable core values:

1. Deliver WOW through service.
2. Embrace and drive change.
3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.
5. Pursue growth and learning.
6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
8. Do more with less.
9. Be passionate and determined.
10. Be humble.

Zappos is committed to these core values so much so that they hire and fire based on whether employees live by these values. Does your college have committable core values? How much do you think a student’s college experience could be different if your college’s core values included delivering WOW through service? If nothing else, it gives us something to think about.

Michele Kersten-Hart is the vice president/president-elect for NCMPR. She also is the manager of multimedia and web services at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

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