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Treating Students Like Customers

Treating Students Like CustomersAt the front of a national trend, Tufts has transformed its approach to student services by creating a cutting-edge "one-stop-shop."

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.19.02] While the interior and exterior of Tufts' high-tech Dowling Hall are impressive, what makes the award-winning Student Services Center so unique is the new way of thinking it represents. Designed to simplify students' lives, while increasing the University's ability to respond to their varied needs, Tufts' new facility combines nine departments and hundreds of administrative functions and personnel into a single, highly-focused center.

"In just my four years at Tufts, I've seen a tremendous change," Tufts student Jonathan Dworkin - a member of the newly graduated Class of 2002 - told University Business Magazine. "But it's not just the opening of a new Student Services building, or putting services online. It's a change in attitude. Employees now have a really positive focus. They truly do have a view of the student as a customer."

That change in philosophy - which represents a growing trend at colleges and universities nationwide - played a major role in shaping Tufts' brand-new 30,000 square foot Student Services Center.

"Improving customer service was our number one priority," Tufts' Executive Administrative Dean Wayne Bouchard told University Business. "But a close second was achieving increased efficiency."

So the University assembled a team - led by executive director and dean Kristine Dillon - to design the new facility from the ground up.

"[Dillon] was charged with figuring out how to consolidate nine established departments that had reported to three deans and one vice president, into a single, customer [read: student-] focused Student Services Center," reported University Business. "That meant bringing together all of the customer 'touchpoints' and information about each student, in order to better and more efficiently service the students."

It was a massive undertaking - one that some experts thought could take over five years to complete.

"So here I was with 30,000 square feet, and I was supposed to tell the architects how to lay out the space," Dillon told the magazine. "But how could I tell them how it was supposed to look, when we didn't even know how the unified processes would work?"

Just two years later, Dillon and her team had their solution - creating a brand new approach to helping students manage their varied needs.

"Today, all of the services are accessed through a single, main service desk, staffed by front-line generalists who have access to all of the student's information via an electronic "portfolio," reported the magazine. "A student concierge is also located at the center's entry, 24 hours a day, to assist students and visitors."

Everything - from the building's lobby to the layout of the office space - was carefully designed to make it as efficient and flexible as possible.

"The key to the whole operation is the integration - both physical and electronic - of all the previously separate departments into an organic whole, loosely grouped into the three main areas, but remaining flexible, based on the needs of students, not on the structure of departments," reported University Business. "Any staffer in the center dealing with a student has access to all of the information that might have an effect on an activity or transaction, plus a history of whatever actions have already been taken, and any other relevant notes."

Student response has been overwhelmingly positive.

According to University Business, survey results from undergraduates and parents who used the new center show just how far the University progressed since undertaking the project.

"Customer satisfaction is at an all time high," Bouchard told the magazine.


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