Articles

Focusing on Service in the Registrar's Office - Part 1: The User Experience

J. James Wager, Consultant & Education Strategist

January 23, 2017

The transformation of the Registrar’s Office from good to great begins with a hard-working professional team demonstrating a genuine interest in serving students, faculty, staff and parents through outstanding customer service using the best technology available. Welcome to the User Experience perspective. 

At its core, the User Experience perspective drives organizational decisions, values and actions towards those individuals served by the Registrar’s Office. It is represented by the confluence of three organizational priorities:

 

          
           1) Customer Service

           2) Operations

           3) Technology 
 
 
 
 
 

Focusing on only one or two of these priorities becomes a problem; like a broken three-legged stool, the organization fails. A continual focus on all three of these priorities results in a convergence. The size of this “sweet spot” correlates to the qualitative success of the Registrar’s Office.

Much has been written about the User Experience model and its approach to providing outstanding customer service. Since the Registrar’s Office represents a service organization, it is a perfect fit to the User Experience when focusing on the following themes:

1.  Usefulness.  Let’s be honest, those served by the Registrar’s Office have no choice of their “service provider”; they are working within a complete monopoly. Traditionally, students and even staff members within the Registrar’s Office had little opportunity to influence decisions related to service and systems. The User Experience perspective changes this approach by requiring all services to be useful, effective, efficient and relevant in fulfilling the needs of those being served.  

2.  Usability.  With technology in today’s world, there is a plethora of hardware and software combinations. Not all web browsers render the same page in the same way.  Smart devices optimize differently than laptops. Users with disabilities require alternative interfaces. In the minds of many, email is old technology. The usability focus is to provide for ease of use, navigation and clarity for each user through well-designed applications.

3.  User-Driven.  This may be the most challenging aspect of adopting the User Experience philosophy. Simply said, it is continually placing the user’s needs ahead of organizational structure, policy and practice. The user is not concerned about how we operate or our administrative structure. They are interested in obtaining clear information, completing their request (to register for courses, to obtain a transcript, to obtain a duplicate diploma, etc.), or to simply receive a clear answer to their question.  They do not want to visit multiple offices, talk to a host of school officials or be directed to an array of confusing web pages. Becoming a user-driven organization requires examining the delivery of service and programs through the lens of those being served.

4.  Quality.  One of the most vexing aspects of designing and delivering system services is consistent and comprehensive quality control. Simply said, does the system do what it is designed to do? Can the system recover from internal failures or operator mistakes? These may be little things such as a webpage with no broken links, or larger issues such as data integrity and security. The User Experience focus builds in quality performance measures from the start and provides the ongoing means to measure quality performance. Before releasing new products or welcoming new customers into the production environment, focus on issues of readiness, accuracy and completeness.

5. Analytics.  Students have the expectation of being informed about their transcript, registration and graduation status, and so on. School staff need to know about service queues, failed transactions, financial reconciliation, patterns impacting student retention, etc. The User Experience approach provides proper reporting and communication that supports both Registrar and the student expectations.

6. Security.  The internet can be a scary place and student privacy is a non-negotiable requirement. From fully audited PCI compliance standards to the secure lockdown of data facilities, it is imperative that technology control and protection is baked-in to the delivered services. Security is not an add-on feature; like quality, security is built in from the start.

7.  Reliability.  We live in a 24/7 world. The User Experience perspective demands system services to be available as promised and reliable when on-line. When failures occur, and they will, the user should be provided assurance that the failure is recognized and provided with an applicable fail-over response.  

Customer service, operations, and technology are the key ingredients of all good Registrar offices. Maximizing the convergence of these three transforms a good office to a great office. 

Achieving the goal of delivering a high-quality user experience requires intentionality and dedication, but it does not need to be a re-invention. Credentials Solutions maximizes the “sweet spot” of the User Experience model through its adoption of strong technology, delivered through a transparent operational environment and supported by outstanding customer service. Leverage Credentials Solutions services and products to jump start your schools’ user experience transformation.

In the next article, I’ll discuss increasing operational efficiency.

Part 1: The User Experience
Part 2: Continuous Quality Improvement
Part 3: One-Stop Student Service
Part 4: The Sphere of Influence
Part 5: Constituent Relationship Management
Part 6: Staffing and Organizational Structure

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