Monday, December 26, 2011

HBCU Customer Service: Still a valid concern?

Is this still a valid concern for students attending any HBCU within the U.S.    As a parent of a student attending an HBCU in 2011 I'm beginning to think this is still an issue that has never been addressed.

For the upcoming Spring 2012 semester my daughter has asked me to be actively involved in experiencing her plight in obtaining counseling for her course selection at a major HBCU outside of the Washington, D.C. area in Maryland.  Interesting that my daughter has the same frustrations and a similar experience at an entirely different HBCU.

Look for an upcoming posting, submission of this experience as an article in other publications, and future presentations for students and HBCU advocates.

HBCU customer service, or lack of

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 8:00 am | Updated: 11:37 am, Wed Sep 14, 2011.

The customer service on historically black campuses is so terrible. I hate to start with such a negative statement but my disgust has grown so much that there is no other way to describe my frustration with these institutions.

Everywhere from the library to the financial aid office, it is nearly impossible to find a department that is full of individuals that are going to be friendly and helpful to the student body. And quite frankly, I feel like enough is enough.
For years, historically black colleges and universities have been stuck with the stereotype of having terrible customer service. And instead of fighting the stereotype, we have basically embraced it. This year has been no exception.

Recently, yours truly took a journey to Brown Hall in an attempt to purchase a book for my class.
Long story short, I think it is amazing that if the bookstore makes a mistake and does not order the amount of books appropriate for the class, then why can’t students receive a discount on the book?
First of all, the prices are ridiculous to say the least. In addition to these crazy prices, SOME of the workers in the bookstore consistently lie and tell a student they already ordered the book (and in reality didn’t) and the book should be in by the end of the week. Such nonsense forces a student to wait three weeks to get the book for a class (putting an entire class behind).

Yet when the mistake falls back on the bookstore, why must the response to that student be “we don’t discount for text books.” And that was a direct quote from the manager of the bookstore.

If I go to any company in America, chances are my customer service complaint will be fixed and the company would just bite the bullet in most cases. However if you bring it to a department on this campus, you’re basically out of luck. And this is not a shot just at the bookstore, because we all know the most notorious gangster on this campus is of course the people in good ol’ Dowdy.

I think I could end that last statement exactly the way it is. The problems people face with financial aid, bookkeeping, administration, etc. can go on for days. And although some of the blame falls back on the students at times, the problems continue to grow year after year because the people in many of the departments give you poor customer service and place the blame solely on the customer, which in this case is the students.

Many students all over America, not just myself, can say they dread dealing with financial aid. And in a department that deals with student’s money and finances you would think that customer service would be a top priority. Well think again.

In a survey done last week, I found that after asking 50 random students who walked past me on campus, a whopping 88 percent felt that the two places they dread going to is Dowdy and Brown Hall. Ironically, these are the two places that no student can go four years without visiting.

I cannot emphasize enough that this is not just an A&T problem. This is a HBCU problem. Many of my friends and close associates feel that the problems we face at our HBCUs come from a lack of proper leadership and customer service. Many students feel that the response they receive from most departments on campus is “how dare you question the system we already have in place?”

A feeling of dissatisfaction and disgust seems to overwhelm many students when dealing with many departments on campus.

Now on the flip side, campuses such as High Point University have embrace the idea that they are in the customer service industry because they are providing a service to students who are paying thousands of dollars to the university that employs them.

While I often wonder if any of our major departments on campus have customer service training at all, many other universities are making it their main goal to accommodate their way of life to what best fits the students, not the staff.

When you have security guards at the door in the library that accuses every student of being a thief every time the metal detector goes off, there’s a problem.

When you have an institution where you can walk up to a person’s desk, receive no eye contact and their first words are “put in your banner ID” oppose to “Good morning how may I help you today?” clearly there is a problem with your employees customer service.

Any time a student feels they have been talked down to just because they are 18 or 19 years old, there’s a problem. Any time an institution that receives thousands of dollars from students has a bookstore with no policy on being able to purchase books due to a lack of quality customer service, there’s a problem.

Any time you walk out of the financial aid office more upset than you were when you first walked in, then clearly something needs to be done.

This article is in no way attempting to get anyone fired or thrown out of his or her departments. However, I do believe the customer service at this institution is slack, to say the least.

We as the student body are fed up with paying top dollar, for subpar service. I love my institution with all my heart and soul, however if this institution does not improve its customer service, then we will not see alumni willing to give back thousands of dollars to an institution that failed to show them the respect they deserved when they were students here. and follow him on Twitter: @TrumaineWasHere

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