Why Customer Service Plays an Increasingly Important Role in Higher Education
Photos by Mikki J. Shenkenberg www.worldartfoundation.org/mikki_shenkenberg.html
r. Keith Levick of Customer Care News recently sat down with Dr. Lewis N. Walker, president of Lawrence
Technological University, to discuss how customer service relates to the field of education.
Customer Care News
CCN: Has the issue of customer service affected education and, if so, how — in what ways?
LW: Well, I think it is a very big issue in education and something
that higher education needs to deal with a little bit better. It is very important to us as a private university.
Right next door to this building, connected to this building,
Photo by Mikki J. Shenkenberg www.worldartfoundation.org/mikki_shenkenberg.html
is the Alfred Taubman Student Service Center. And I don’t know
we do this as a team with the parent to try to make sure they get
we built that building to bring all the services that students need
time. That’s when the bulk of people that drop out of school
whether you looked at the function of that building or not, but here at Lawrence Tech together in one place, to serve them in
innovative ways — and I say all the services except the academic advising — but what you’d call tutoring and what we call our
academic achievement center is located there. We are distribut-
established here in that first year. That transition time is a tough run into troubles and don’t adjust to college, so we have a very
aggressive first-year program that then interacts with the parents very well.
Industry and the community are our customers as well
ing laptops right now to our incoming students, and the help
because they take our product, and we have to serve them well.
financial aid, the admissions, the registrar, the housing; the dean
for industry. Government, local government, various aspects of
desk and all the support for the students is there. So…are the of students is centered there; the actual athletic service activities are in the field house, but it emanates there and they can sign up
to do things there; all of the placement for finding a job is there.
And our philosophy is that we want to provide excellent service to our students.
We at Lawrence Tech have a very high expectation of what
They take our product — our graduates — and we do projects government [are] also a constituency we serve. We are a private
university, but we view ourselves as a community-serving republic. The governor will come here Friday evening for a program she wants to put on in an auditorium here at Lawrence Tech, so we serve people in that way.
Everybody has customers. Every faculty member has custom-
we want our students to accomplish. They must accomplish that,
ers — the students. The staff members have customers, if you
standard in every way we can. And in those service activities we
but we are here to help them accomplish that and to meet that
want to serve them very well. Again, we don’t do these things for
them — they have to take responsibility and do them. That’s part of their learning and development. But we are here to serve them well and inspire them to stay the course and meet our standard
think of it that way, [which] they serve. We try to create that
CCN: How is Lawrence Tech preparing students to address customer-care issues in the future?
to be successful.
LW: One of the reasons we want to do this is to set a standard
CCN: Who is the customer? Is it the student or is it also mom
how they do things. They observe in ways that may not be spo-
and dad — the parents?
LW: Absolutely. We have many different customers we work with, and we do view our students as a customer. It’s a little different relationship because we get to specify what the academic
curriculum is and the program they have to achieve based upon professional standards, our knowledge of the profession, our
assessment of where it’s going in the future and how best to pre-
for students because they learn from us. Kids learn from parents
ken — how you act. If you have that customer service from your heart, you have an expectation. Parents, in my view, can’t be their
child’s friend. They have to love them, but you set a standard, an
expectation. You set a behavior and then you work with them in every way you can to develop them and nurture them and mentor them and make that happen — to prepare them. And then they learn how to behave from how you behave.
And our students are sponges [who] take from us not only
pare. Then we view them as a customer that we want to serve…
the technical facts or whatever we want to write on the
The parents are definitely customers who we work with
we act with integrity, with discipline, with caring and with cus-
and develop…in every way we can.
builds strong linkage with the parents. We put together a parent notebook…of various programs, contacts, how they interact; and
tomer service, but yet having an expectation, they will learn that,
and build a close relationship with. So, our first-year program
blackboard — they see how we act and they mirror that. And if
and I think the best way to prepare them to have that approach is that. CCN