Continuous Improvement and Planning Team
Relationship Experience Management
How should our institution create its relationship and experiences -- ones that successfully increase enrollment, minimize transfers, attract desired faculty and students, increasing giving, and positions our institution to complete? Creating and managing relational experiences can impact each of these areas as well as support the achievement of our unique vision and goals. Several actions can support an institution’s desire to initiate Relational Experience Management.
Determine the touchpoints that affect our relational experience.
Every touchpoint is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Anyone who comes in contact with our university creates an experience, either positive or negative. Understanding all the touchpoints is the first step to managing the relational experience. For prospective students, this may include a web site, inquiries, tours, wayfinding, access to faculty and the application process; for current students, interaction with service staff, such as bookstore, custodial, and food service. Included also are obtaining lodging, registering for classes, purchasing books, paying bills, and academic and career guidance. Collectively, these touchpoints, and how they occur, constitute the relational experience. Once the touchpoints for each individual are understood, improving the experience can begin.
Access your current relational effectiveness.
Quite simply, this means seeking user input. Survey all constituents of your campus about their satisfaction with campus services. Students, faculty and staff all have a perception of campus operation. Map the touchpoints of a prospective student during a campus visit; of freshmen during orientation; of returning students during registration; of new and tenured faculty; of alumni at reunion. Solicit feedback from each of these groups. They will tell you what works well and what causes frustration. Determining areas of success and improvement will help in focusing on efforts to improve relational experience.
Enrich the experience.
Evaluate the feedback and address areas of complaint. Eliminating the points of frustration will go a long way toward improving the overall relational experience. Examples of opportunity can be found in various areas. Create a service center for the receipt and communication of service requests. Ensure that feedback mechanisms exist for user comment. During registration, expand the hours of the registrar or promote web registration. Establish standards for tour guide behavior. Invest in the appearance of your grounds and facilities. Cater to choice and convenience in dining practices. Recognize the retail mindset of campus users. Promote faculty accessibility and career guidance. Sponsor Student Appreciation Days. These are just a few examples of what can be done. Yet, all are critical for changing an institution’s culture and instilling relational experience management ethic. The result is that an institution can dramatically change the way its students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even the community-at-large perceive its operation. Promote “Five Minute Relationships” and witness the impact on how others think of us and how we think of ourselves.
Integrate academic and nonacademic functions for a unified operation.
Five Minute Relationships are everyone’s job! Both academic and nonacademic functions represent relational “touchpoints”. Unifying campus operation for a common cause is an essential component of the relational management experience. Every campus function involves personal interaction and an opportunity to create a relationship. Make no distinction between “core” and “non-core” services. Once these touchpoints are identified and integrated, their management can be greatly simplified. Managing the individual’s experience can occur in a holistic fashion, one that is consistent with the institution’s overall desires and vision.
Implement a relational experience management ethic and leadership training.
Cultural alignment is perhaps the greatest challenge for an institution in implementing REM. All members of the institution must understand that they manage relationships with everyone they interact on a daily basis. Adopting a relational experience management ethic and associated training is essential. The relationship experience may be something as simple as establishing phone etiquette in the admissions office or ensuring that faculty maintain convenient and regular office hours for students with questions. Provide service staff with training in desired customer service, interpersonal behavior, and commitment to excellence. Establish recognition programs for outstanding customer service. Sponsor an Employee Appreciation Day. These are simple ways to reward and encourage positive behavior.
* Adapted from: Customer Experience Management: Competing Successfully in Higher Education, prepared by ARAMARK Education November 2005
Key Aspects to Developing a Sense of Community in Relational Experience Management
Consider these questions:
Tools for Continuous Improvement: Deming Cycle**
Each department and unit will develop a strategic plan aligned with the institutional themes and goals, complete with assessment and accountability measures, and annually report on its progress.
University of Wisconsin-Superior is committed to continual improvement. Continual improvement is an ongoing effort to improve our programs, services, and processes. These efforts can seek "incremental" improvement over time or "breakthrough" improvement all at once.
The Deming Cycle explicitly recognizes the cyclical nature of planning , implementation, performance assessment, review, revision and updating.
Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.
Plan: denotes formal planning at all levels including university level planning, faculty and divisional planning, school, departmental or unit planning, course of work team planning. At the individual level it reflects the planning that people do either by project, or over time, including yearly or daily planning.
Do: Implement the change.
Do: Includes all the intentional activities that are undertaken to meet objectives, implement plans and produce outcomes.
Check: Use data to analyze the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.
Checking includes two major aspects-monitoring and review. Monitoring is a short and medium term activity mainly for developmental or formative purposes. It may use formal or informal methods and make use of existing data, or generate new data. Action and monitoring usually develop together, informing each other, hand-in-hand. Review is a longer term and more formal process that has both formative and summative purposes.
Act: If the change was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results. If the change did not work, begin the cycle again.
Taking action identifies the process by which the results of evaluation-both monitoring and review-are fed back in order to generate improvement. Often this cause modification to an existing plan or development or a new plan, and thus the cycle commences once more.
** Deming, W (1986) Out of Crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
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