Creating loyal college students (i.e., “customers”)

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

August 22, 2013

What can customer loyalty teach us about keeping students satisfied and on track to college completion?
What can customer loyalty teach us about keeping students satisfied and on track to college completion?

I was thinking this summer about the terms retention and satisfaction. Isn’t retention just coming back for more of a specific service or offering? Isn’t satisfaction just another way of saying that a service met or exceeded your expectations?

Think about your daily choices. What contributes to your satisfaction or retention with things like where you bank, where you shop, or which hotels you choose? Do you consider the overall quality of your experience? The value you are getting for what you are paying? If the experience is meeting your expectations? What about customer service—doesn’t the way you are treated by the people delivering the service matter? I think it may matter a lot, at least in my own experience. And if you do have a problem, doesn’t the way the problem is resolved play into whether you would return? Don’t all of these factors contribute to whether you are a loyal customer?

Another contributing factor to loyalty is whether businesses solicit feedback and respond to feedback from their customers. I have also noticed that when I am a member of a customer loyalty program, I am more likely to receive e-mail surveys after I shop at a particular store or stay in a hotel, asking for my feedback on my experience. Since I am a professional advocate for satisfaction surveying with nearly 20 years working with the Noel-Levitz Satisfaction-Priorities Surveys, I usually feel obligated to complete these surveys. I can tell you that when I have had an issue with my experience (such as a noisy hotel room) and the organization followed up appropriately (as happened when the hotel manager refunded my room fee in that situation), I know that the surveys are read and can lead to action. That response makes me more willing to take the time in the future to complete a survey and further enhances my customer loyalty even after a negative experience.

I know that higher education is not fond of referring to students as “customers,” but think about how customer service factors may play into the decisions your students are making to return or even to initially enroll in your institution this fall. Think about the lessons we have learned in our own experiences with quality service and satisfaction and how we provide feedback. How can you apply these concepts as you serve your students, keep them satisfied, and see them return to successfully graduate?

Regular assessments of student satisfaction can help you as part of this process. Student satisfaction assessment gives your students an opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences while providing you with data to make appropriate decisions on your campus. By assessing and acting on that feedback, you can respond to critical issues and also demonstrate to students that you take their feedback seriously. (For examples of the kind of data you can uncover from satisfaction assessment, see our 2013 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report and accompanying appendices.)

In my next blog, I will address the six critical steps you need to consider in conducting regular assessments of student satisfaction.  If you have thoughts on this subject, please leave a comment or e-mail me.

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