Revolutionizing the Student Experience with Service Management

EasyVista recently asked me to write about the evolution of service management in higher education. 

This is the second of four blogs on the topic of Transforming the University with IT Service Management. 

One of the keys to transforming the university is the move from multiple silos delivering services to finding ways to pull together single service areas. One of the most obvious of these is the call center. There is no reason for a student to have to call several different offices to solve an issue if the service management system is able to empower agents to handle any customer need.

The Modern, Tech Adept Student

Students have become more mobile and are completely comfortable with self-service tools. Users today have radically different needs from university IT than in the past and technology is partly to blame. They have grown up in a connected world with ubiquitous use of mobile phones and access to Wi-Fi. They are surprised, and even annoyed, when “technology” doesn’t work properly, or more correctly, or when what they need right now is not available at that moment (regardless of what device they are using). Being tech savvy consumers doesn’t mean those same students know what they “need” once they step foot onto the Campus. The challenge for IT is that unlike a traditional consumer, a student may not be fully aware of their needs or how to navigate the higher education experience. For example, a recent student survey at a large university indicated the number one concern students have is being able to access uninterrupted Wi-Fi from the parking lot to the classroom. From the university (and IT) perspective, uninterrupted Wi-Fi represents a very expensive proposition and is a much lower priority or concern.

Completely comfortable with mobile applications and technology, students are perfectly happy to use self-service tools like those provided by EasyVista. In fact, many prefer to use technology to mediate or replace human contact, making mobile apps ideal. Although students run the gamut from novice to bleeding edge, they all come with “consumerized” expectations. Students have an expectation of “here and now” based upon their experiences in their daily life. When they order something online, they want immediate delivery options whether picking it up in the store or receiving a delivery by the next day; they want to play a new game, it’s downloaded immediately; they want access to a new service, they can immediately signup and start using that service. On the other hand, if they need to get something done in their life “as a student” using the University system and it takes days for paperwork (physical or virtual) to flow through the system – it creates a disconnect between real life and student life. IT is closing the experience gap based upon the need for instantaneous access to the services students need at any time.

Grading Colleges on Success

University leadership is heavily focused on accountability for the success of the student both during their time in school and in their careers. This means that transforming the student experience—particularly those aspects that affect recruiting, retention and success—have very high priority. Delivering integrated, mobile-enabled, service management tools both improves the student experience and provides useful data for IT to ensure accountability (i.e. progress towards goals) is being well measured. With the federal government planning to rate colleges, and with legislators and parents worrying about cost, the pressure is on to create and provide metrics demonstrating “why Suzy just graduated with a mortgage-sized student loan and how that translates into the dollars she will need to pay back.” A final reason is more selfish. Universities coined the phrase “cradle to endowment” for a reason; It is important to cultivate both the donor and the life-long learner mentality. Once graduated, these same students become “prospects” for advanced degrees and season tickets.

Transforming Service Delivery in the University

So now the big question: How do we improve service management for students?

1. Mobile apps are a requirement for integrated IT services. IT departments need help deploying mobile apps and making information and data mobile aware. With resources in short supply, they are turning to service providers to help develop, manage and deploy these mobile applications, leveraging their economies of scale and commonalities in mobile app development.

2. Most service activities in higher education must be managed in common ways. This provides simplicity to the customer and reduces complexity for the service provider.

3. Apps must be intuitive and meet expectations on the first try. Student bodies are more diverse, more international, and more complex than ever before and being able to keep it simple while presenting the same service for different languages, cultures, and abilities is vital for success.

4. Universities cannot afford to have specialized help desks as they streamline and try to be more efficient. The same human or digital agent that solves the printer problem could be able to ensure a student’s parking issue is addressed, help them reserve a washing machine in the student laundry, or alert them to a financial aid issue. This requires not just great apps and strong CRM tools, but also great training and certification systems, while leveraging new social and crowdsourcing trends.