Responding to My Own Double-Dog Dare

Just the other day I dared you to get feedback about how your registrar’s office is doing at service. I believe in taking my own medicine, so after collecting and reviewing feedback from students about our services I discovered that there were about 15% of survey responders who seemed to be avoiding the Registrar’s Office. These people didn’t want to have to come in to make a tuition payment or deal with some other issue because they didn’t feel welcome or at least they felt uncomfortable.

I met with our team to review the results of the survey and we did our best to put ourselves in the shoes of these students. We walked around the office as though we were a student. We reconsidered our communication strategies from the point of view of a new student hearing from us for the first or second time. We reviewed quite a few of our services for how they might be received by others. Based on this review, we made a few key discoveries and important decisions.

  1. We brought in a customer service expert who is also an accomplished actor/producer to consult with us about how to understand our clients. He taught us that an actor has to be exceptional at being empathetic. Actors must have excellent emotional intelligence to understand and act as a character. But actors must also understand the desires and needs of the audience. There is some risk in this which we acknowledged: we are not the client and we cannot think that we know what’s going on in the client’s mind. If we do we can miss the real issue and further alienate the client. But the point is that we need to be sensitive, aware and be open to hearing, listening, and learning from the client about their needs.
  2. We decided that a good way to better understand and serve our students would be to hire a couple of students to work on the front desk. These students are responsible for welcoming other students to the office, helping to manage line-ups and the atmosphere surrounding the initial impression of students who enter the office. Our goal is that these students will be a familiar face, an understanding person who can be a bridge to the administrative needs of students. Of course our hope is that this bridge would have two-way traffic and that these student employees will also carry the mission of our office to the student body. When they hear students complain about us, we hope they say things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Have you talked to them about your situation? They’re not as evil as you make them out to be.” In a way, they will become ambassadors for the office in ways we could never be.
  3. We reorganized our office space a little, to warm it up and have more space to greet and serve students. This increased space will allow the new student employees to “work the room” more. We understand that being cramped is uncomfortable, and when dealing with sensitive matters such as tuition payments or student loans it is nice to have a little distance between people so that confidentiality is increased.
  4. We are reviewing every piece of communication that we send out to students to ensure that it is obvious that we care about them and we are there to serve them and help them solve problems. We want them to understand that sometimes we are the messenger of difficult information, but we also are the people to help them navigate through the problem. For example, on one message we send about how much money is owed we added in bold font the following phrase, “If this is a surprise to you or you think there is an error, please contact us as soon as possible. We are here to help.”

We have kept the survey open and we encourage students to complete it after every interaction with us, so I am certain we will continue to learn. As we do, we will review how we serve and what services we offer. The most exciting thing in my mind is the two students who start next week in this capacity. I can hardly wait!

So there you have it. I’ve stepped up and responded to my own double-dog dare.

What about you? Don’t make me triple-dog dare you!

Grant McMillan


2 thoughts on “Responding to My Own Double-Dog Dare

  1. –is your questionnaire regarding office service generic enough that some of the rest of us could “borrow” and adapt it for our own offices? Maybe you would prefer that not happen, or perhaps you have already made it available and I just haven’t looked the right place…


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