Common frustrations in Student Services and how to overcome them

Posted: 28/06/2018

Student Service Centres are designed to be places that enhance student interactions to improve the overall student experience at their university. They are a valuable resource for students and integral in a supported student experience.

However, there are challenges – often due to inefficient processes, ineffective technology and insufficient knowledge transfer and staff training. This leads to a sense of frustration for Student Service Centre staff as they aim to provide a high-quality service to students, but are hampered by factors they cannot control.

To help you improve the quality of services to your students, as well as improve the efficiency of your work, we are going to explore the common Student Service Centre issues for staff and students – and how to overcome them.

Inefficient enquiry management process

Student Service Centres receive a large volume (thousands) of enquiries annually by phone, email, online or in-person from students regarding everything from enrolment, class scheduling, Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) and eligibility criteria, to course and subject details, fees and more. With so many questions flooding in from so many mediums, responding efficiently and accurately can be both stressful and overwhelming.

Many enquiries from students, at particular times of the calendar year, are very similar like “How do I enrol in classes?” “How can I change my studies?” “How can I withdraw from this subject?” Despite Student Services Centre staff receiving these similar enquiries, there is a great deal of double handling, frustration and confusion if there is no process to log and track the responses to improve the efficient management of enquiries.

Students may be given the runaround, time is wasted in searching and producing the same responses, and there is a higher risk of inaccurate or irrelevant information being provided to students. This can be problematic for the student and could impact on the reputation of your institution.

The solution:

  • Implement an Enquiry Management System – An Enquiry Management System can help you effectively manage the increasing volume of student enquiries and provide significantly better service to students.
  • Track and log enquiries and template documents and emails – If your university doesn’t have an Enquiry Management System or CRM, tracking and logging enquiries in a simple database will provide significant time savings. All documents and emails regularly repeated through the enquiry process should also be templated to ensure students are provided with accurate and consistent information.
  • Develop clear roles and responsibilities – Clear roles and responsibilities, when known at both the central and faculty level, will provide a communication framework to support the efficient flow of information between the centre and faculties. Having an understanding of who is responsible for specific levels of enquiries will also ensure students are directed to the right person or faculty the first time to prevent unnecessary runarounds and handoffs.

Mismatched student expectations

The way students are approaching their education is changing. They see themselves more as a consumer, with choices and they are evaluating their choice of institution more thoroughly than ever before.

As a result, their expectations have shifted, and they anticipate high levels of service across a range of activities. They want fast responses to all enquiries. The challenge for Student Service Centres is to provide this service without creating the need for additional resources.  Workarounds, duplication and quick fixes are often the results of staff who are trying to get around the limitation of the current processes or system.

Despite improvement and developments in technology, queues at Student Service Centres can still be long – very long – particularly around the start of the semester and exam time. The longer the wait, the higher the level of frustration and dissatisfaction by the time the student reaches the desk.

The solution:

  • Triage enquiries – Student Service expectations need to be managed more sensitively now, particularly given that TEQSA is monitoring this area of sector activity in greater detail. Having a staff member walk the queue with an tablet to provide quick answers and direct students to the appropriate service point, person or faculty, can be one way to minimise wait times and meet service expectations.
  • Map and streamline the enquiry process – Mapping the enquiry process from end-to-end will provide greater clarity and opportunities for efficiency through the enquiry process. This will help to relieve the frustration experienced by students and the stress experienced by staff. In our experience, it is often processes and technology (or lack thereof) that is the cause of inefficiencies.
  • Increase online enquiries – To minimise student wait time the real solution is to minimise the need for students to come into Student Service Centre. By increasing online enquiries and having an effective and clear Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section on the Student Service Centre website can minimise the need for students to come in-person.

Too much paperwork

While there has been a significant effort made across many institutions to reduce the number of forms and minimise the amount of paperwork, there has been limited success. This is mainly due to inefficient enterprise systems that are unable to accept the new online processes, which electronic forms and documentation create.

It is not uncommon for students to access and fill in forms online only to have a staff member have to manually enter the information into the system due to a lack of integration with an enterprise system.

The solution:

  • More effective technology – To improve efficiency, more effective technology needs to be utilised. The University system needs to support efficient processes not hinder them. It needs to provide the integrations you need to allow you to work more effectively. Implementing a new system can be a costly exercise. Documenting inefficiencies and the associated time and financial costs can provide useful information to determine the urgency and need for a new system.
  • Streamline online form process – Even if you can’t implement more effective technology at this stage, there are still a lot of opportunities to streamline how information is collected, and the process forms and documentation go through to gain ‘quick wins’ in the meantime. Mapping out the current ‘as is’ process for data collection will help to identify wastes and inefficiencies that could be improved in new ‘to be’ processes.

With growing competition, a higher call for efficiency and rising student expectations, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ you need to review your Student Service Centre processes, but it is a matter of ‘when’ you need to. Process improvement can provide ‘quick wins’, and together with a review of roles and responsibilities, you will improve your service to students.

Looking for more ways to minimise frustrations in your Student Service Centre? Chat to us about our 8 Wastes in Higher Education in-house workshop that can help you and your team identify and address wastes that are sabotaging your improvement efforts. Need to improve your student enquiry processes and determine the risks, gaps and inefficiencies in your institution? Call DVE Solutions today on 1800 870 677.