Avoiding the campus service run-around: How staff service training impacts student satisfaction

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

April 29, 2011

Analysis of satisfaction data across multiple campuses shows that quality service training programs are like to spur significant increases in student satisfaction levels.
Analysis of satisfaction data across multiple campuses shows that quality service training programs are likely to spur significant increases in student satisfaction levels.

In working with campuses to assess student satisfaction and priorities, campus service often appears as an area of challenge. Simply put, subpar campus service has a direct, negative impact on student satisfaction.

So what happens if a campus conducts quality service training? Does making a commitment to training campus staff in service make a positive impact on student satisfaction?

I and my colleagues at Noel-Levitz were curious about this, and we had the means to conduct a quick investigation. We reviewed the results from campuses that administered the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory™ (SSI), and then followed up by implementing the Noel-Levitz Connections NOW™ quality service training program. The data sets were compared in our standard year-to-year reports which reflect the statistical significance of the comparisons (with confidence levels of 0.05, 0.01 or 0.001).

This is by no means a full study. We had nine institutions that met our specific criteria—three four-year privates, three four-year publics, and three community colleges. But we found some interesting and significant results.

The SSI has a scale, Campus Climate, which covers items related to campus service and student satisfaction. When we examined this scale as a whole for these nine campuses, six had significant improvements in the overall Campus Climate scale. The average increase in satisfaction was 0.44 at these six campuses, while the remaining three had no significant increase or decrease in satisfaction. While any positive movement at a significant level is a plus, we see typical increases at the scale level closer to 0.25, so this is an even stronger indicator of improved satisfaction in this category.

We also took a look at several of the items that contribute to the Campus Climate scale. Here are three survey items that tend to be big sore spots for campuses when it comes to student service:

  • Students seldom get the run-around on this campus—Seven of the nine campuses had significant improvement, with an average increase in satisfaction of 0.49.
  • Students are made to feel welcome on this campus— Six of the nine campuses showed significant satisfaction shifts, with an average of 0.43 in improvement.
  • Campus staff are caring and helpful— Five of the nine institutions saw satisfaction increases, with an average increase of 0.38.
  • None of the nine campuses showed any significant decreases in student satisfaction in service-related areas.

For comparison, Noel-Levitz reviewed nine randomly selected institutions which had not implemented the Connections NOW course. These institutions are similar in type and general location and had comparable data on file. Six of these nine had no significant improvement in the area of Campus Climate; two had significant increases; and one had a significant decrease in satisfaction. There were similar observations for the three individual items of focus noted above.

What does this all mean? Again, this is not a scientific or comprehensive study, but we certainly saw significant satisfaction improvements when campuses initiated quality service training for their personnel. This should not be that surprising when examining the context of the student experience. Student /staff interactions are a significant part of that experience, and the more staff are prepared to interact with students, the more likely those interactions will be positive. Service training also has campus teamwork benefits, too, helping different departments work more seamlessly and therefore address the dreaded “campus run-around” complaint that is all too common at colleges and universities.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, as campus service directly impacts student satisfaction, student satisfaction directly impacts student retention. Dr. Laurie Schreiner of Azusa Pacific University documented this correlation in a Noel-Levitz research study, Linking Student Satisfaction and Retention. Good service not only helps keeps students satisfied, it helps keep them enrolled.

If you are considering implementing quality service training at your institution, you may want to establish benchmarks for student satisfaction by surveying prior to initiating the training, and then plan for a re-assessment the following year. If you have already assessed student satisfaction with the SSI on your campus and your scores show Campus Climate as a priority area, you may want to consider offering staff quality service professional development opportunities.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you. Feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Julie Bryant of RNL

Julie L. Bryant, associate vice president of retention solutions at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, works directly with colleges and universities throughout North America in the area of satisfaction assessment. Ms Bryant is responsible for client service...

Read more about Julie's experience and expertise

Reach Julie by e-mail at Julie.Bryant@RuffaloNL.com.

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Enrollment, Student Success