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Focusing on Service in the Registrar’s Office - Part 3: One-Stop Student Service

J. James Wager, Consultant & Education Strategist

March 28, 2017

A One-Stop Student Service Center provides a student-centered approach to delivering services by combining traditional services under one roof or by utilizing highly developed online student portals. The approach replaces traditional service silos with an effective cross-functional service organization.

Service Centered
Colleges and Universities have traditionally structured themselves as service centered organizations.  This may be a result of tradition, campus politics, or protecting administrative turf.  The outgrowth of this traditional organizational design has resulted in commonly named offices including Registrar, Bursar, Admissions, Financial Aid, Housing, and Student Affairs.  This organizational approach enables each office to maximize their approach to internal structure, the efficient delivery of their service responsibilities, and to earnestly focus on their core processes.  This traditional approach also provides opportunity to engage, compare, and contrast their functional office with other similar offices at other schools.

The unintended outcome is the establishment of “organization silos”; the array of independent internal organizations that each maximize adherence to policies, rules, and procedures and compromise cross-functional student service.  A somewhat comical question I was often asked was, “What is a Registrar”.  To be followed by “I have never head of a Bursar”.  Beyond the obvious confusion over titles, the deeper question was always, “How can these (or other) offices resolve my problem?”  It is never the case where a service centered organization does not want to help a student, but rather there is an inherent barrier to help because of organizational boundaries. 

Student issues always transcend organizational boundaries.  A student cannot complete the admission decision process until a financial aid package is presented.  Registration is delayed until the student pays tuition, but out-of-pocket charges are awaiting the award of a scholarship.  Release of a transcript is blocked because of a financial hold due to unpaid parking fines.  And the list goes on.  In so many cases, the resolution of a problem requires the student to understand the school’s organization and to then work with multiple offices to achieve problem resolution.  Not a good approach.

Student Centered
The one-stop student service approach takes a very different look at organizing, staffing, and the delivery of service.   Traditional organizational boundaries and the untended organizational silos are eliminated; the one-stop organization takes on a horizontal dimension and not a vertical dimension. The one-stop organization is equipped with cross-trained staff capable of engaging in a wide array of issues.  While policies, rules, and procedures may be unchanged, the one-stop staff have the authority to engage in “school level” decisions that provide maximum service to students.

The one-stop approach is deeper than just cross-training front-line staff. This organizational approach opens genuine possibilities to simplify work-flow issues, present unified Web pages, consistent communications, and improved feedback to campus administrators of critical student needs. 

Physical and Virtual
It is best to think of a one-stop design as having two delivery points:  a physical location where a student may visit and interact with staff, as well as a virtual portal where a student may engage to accomplish their goal.  While there are obvious differences between physical and virtual, the one-stop approach can effectively integrate both delivery components.

The physical component will be most attractive to the high-touch student.  Practical issues of staffing, cross-training, supervision, salary equity, office space, and location need to be addressed.  The location of the one-stop office needs to be convenient for students to visit – near the center of campus, on bus routes, with available parking, etc.  The hours of the physical office will be limited; staffing on a 24x7 basis is not practical.   A physical office should be supported by a call-center that is available during normal office hours, and ideally beyond normal office hours.  Consideration needs to be given to working students, off-campus students, military students, and other student groups to provide them access to the one-stop office.

The virtual component will be most attractive to the high-tech student.  The virtual component is delivered through a fully developed, interactive, and secure Web portal.  The primary advantage of the virtual component is anywhere/anytime accessibility.  Fully developed portals can be optimized for use by all devices, have the potential to be presented in multiple languages, and provide support through live-chat sessions

The one-stop approach is an obvious advantage for both the student and the school. Improved student satisfaction translates to improved retention rates.  Cost savings can be realized through the elimination of duplicated services and improved organizational efficiencies. 

In the next article, I will examine the Registrar’s role within the office, the campus, and the academy.

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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