One of the things that many students don’t realize is that we are essentially customers. We give the university money (tuition) in exchange for knowledge and a degree. We are often forced to put up with a terrible customer experience we would not accept anywhere else; yet, we do.
How do organizations get away with providing awful support for their products?
Well, put simply, support is not a criteria we often use to select a company we wish to deal with. We look at cost effectiveness, we look at the short-term gains we expect to achieve, we look at whether there are other solutions available, we look at whether we need the solution in the first place. But as everyday consumers, we don’t often require that an appropriate level of support is in place.
Why? Because we don’t think about the inevitable; we always like to pretend that we will never need our car insurance, that we will never need to use the limited manufacturer warranties that come with our products. We often don’t even bother to stop and read the fine print, instead preferring to believe whatever promises salespeople leave us with.
As a student of both Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, I am actually part of two faculties – a full time student in the Faculty of Engineering, while a part time student in the Faculty of Science. This arrangement means I can enroll in courses from both faculties, but it also means that in order to do so, I must deal with the faculty that has control over the particular course.
So when I needed to have something done with regard to a Computer Science course, I had to go to the Faculty of Science Dean’s Office. Upon arrival at about 08:30, I received a ticket and waited in the reception area. When my number was called, I was sent to a triage-type area, where the counselling assistant determined whether or not we needed to make an appointment to see the Academic Counsellor.
When I finally got to the Academic Counsellor who could actually do what I needed, it was 10:30 – two hours later and shortly before my next class. The transaction itself took a few minutes, which left me wondering why my situation wasn’t dealt with in a more timely fashion.
I understand that it’s not always the fault of the staff. After all, there are lots of students in the Faculty of Science, and only four counsellors, only one of which was accepting drop-in appointments that day. So perhaps this is an intrinsic problem with the way we allocate people.
This data was compiled from data published by the University of Western Ontario as part of the CUDO – Common University Data Ontario – initiative. The data from 2008 was used to compile this graph, with counsellor counts coming from the respective faculty web sites.
As we can see, the number of students each counsellor must handle is large, and has little to do with the total number of students in each faculty. So while there are 11091 students in the Faculty of Science, there remain only 4 academic counsellors capable of special review tasks. In the Faculty of Engineering, there are 1788 students and 3 counsellors. Does this make sense? I think not.
So, support should always be part of the equation. In business, support is a important metric for making the next buying decision. As a result, the Business Division of Dell Computer provides excellent and prompt response with minimal waiting — offering services like quick advice from highly trained personnel backed up by Next Business Day service.
This is important in industry. Why shouldn’t it be important to us consumers? Why shouldn’t we demand more support personnel, or different ways to quickly apply for these types of special considerations? Perhaps some sort of online queuing system could be a solution to this; and definitely we need some review here.