Program Puts Customers First
Date: May 18, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Campus News
A couple standing in the middle of campus have lost their way and look over a map in confusion. Nearby, a university employee cutting grass stops what he's doing and approaches the couple, asking if they need some directions.
That's the kind of customer service UC needs to offer all the time if it intends to attract and retain students, President Joseph A. Steger told an audience of UC managers May 15 at the Management Advancement Program (MAP) at the Alumni Center. President Steger knows excellent service like this does happen at UC, because he saw the lawn-mower scenario on campus himself. But to make sure this high level of service becomes a united effort across all UC campuses, President Steger is launching a University-wide Customer Service Program.
The customer service initiative, to be announced in a letter to the President's Cabinet May 18, follows a comprehensive student satisfaction survey conducted through the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost for Baccaulaurate and Graduation Education. The new customer service initiative will be guided by an Advisory Committee, co-chaired by James Tucker, associate vice president for Administrative Services, and John Bryan, dean of University College. One of the committee's first tasks will be to review the results of the satisfaction survey, conduct benchmarking efforts and develop standards and programs for improving customer service.
"Service, as you probably know, in most other businesses has become key...We're missing that part," Steger told the MAP attendees. "If you get a phone call to the wrong office, you probably give them the right number, but you don't connect them to it." UC staff members need to start doing that, he continued.
"We need to think about it as how you would like to be treated....Think of it in terms of that lawn-cutter. That person is committed to the whole university...We must drive the quality up in terms of the interactions on this campus."
Steger said that for the last five years UC student enrollment has dropped steadily from 35,000 to 31,000. One of the reasons, he believes, is that students are treated better at other universities. With declining financial support from the state of Ohio, a shrinking pool of prospective students and increasing levels of service at other institutions, it has become even more crucial for service to improve here, he said.
"You may not know this, but my office is also a complaint department," Steger told the audience. "Eventually all complaints make it to my office, even about the hospital, which we don't even own anymore." What the complaints usually boil down to is service, he said, "about an individual, not the system."
Working closely with the Advisory Committee will be two operational committees, one focusing on people and the other on systems. Tucker and Paul Michaud, associate vice president for Human Resources, are slated to head the "people" committee, while Tucker and Sandra Simpson, controller, will head the "systems" group. The approach is represented graphically by three interlocking circles representing each component: people, strategies and systems.
Tucker will also work closely on the Advisory Committee level with Michaud to insure an integrated approach to the issue and "long-term positioning of this culture at the University of Cincinnati." Implementation discussions will begin during the next two weeks with cabinet members.
"What we're really talking about is courtesy," summed up President Steger.