Data led change

The new Student Service Centre at Exeter has had a CRM system for the last 18 months.

Many teams were amalgamated in the Forum, which has learning spaces, library, cafes, banks, shops, student services and information desk.  Plus facilities like laptop storage lockers.  The student services centre has a huge area where students can access the information desk, computers, consulting rooms, etc.  Students can also access advisers on line.  Lots of students work there.

The Student Info Desk team (STD) aim to answer 80% of enquiries first time (currently hitting 79%). Students Union put the service forward for an award last year. The SID is using Tribal software and can also book appointments with consultants.

When the SID first started collecting data, logged enquiries by term, for example 18,000 in terms 1 and 2, and showed how many closed on first response.  Then started to look at what might be more useful in terms of producing continuous improvement.

40% of enquiries in September were about fees, equated to 6,000 enquiries from 4,500 students – led to a lean review of this area to see whether this number could be reduced. Have also reviewed the teams to make sure that the people on the desk want to interact with students.

Now there is a monthly review of a range of data:

Feedback – Each month the specialist teams will review 10 enquiries in their area and review how the enquiry was dealt with and will give detailed feedback so that the desk managers can feedback to individual staff to help them develop.

  • Benchmarks – each month benchmarks reviewed and the team look at the reasons for any change and how the results can be improved.
  • Communications – initially specialist teams did not always tell the desk about communications they were sending out to students. Now, they are asked to give advance information and they give FAQs for the SID to help them answer any questions.  As an example 2 years ago the desk could only answer 60% of the enquiries – but by close liaison with the Accommodation that was upped to 80% the following year.
  •  Triangulation used to take forward service, eg letter requests, which shows on a triangle plot the % of letters dealt with, % closed at first response, and the average feedback.  The plot showed students not very satisfied, further enquiry showed that students were not happy that the letter was always sent to the home address.  Since students were asked where they want them sent, satisfaction has gone up.
Anna Russell and Lisa Sandercock

Anna Russell and Lisa Sandercock, University of Exeter

The service is also using infographics, in which the number of enquiries of each type are shown pictorially on a sheet. For example if there are a lot of enquiries about funding, the piggy bank picture is BIG! It was found that nearly 6% of enquiries were about getting directions, so that signage can be increased.  Its also possible to show difference between say male and female enquiries, for example piggy bank bigger if females ask more finance questions.

Other infograms show enquiries by area, for example finance and within that the types of enquiry, for example payments, loans, tuition fees.

David McCandless – Information is Beautiful – book invaluable.

Meetings are set up with reps from all the relevant teams come together to look at specific issues (Kaizen meetings).  After the Finance Kaizen, actions taken like removing credit card charges, more automation of bank transfers to speed confirmation of receipt, SID have access to HEI portal.

SID have 20 student staff and IT help desk also had student staff, located close by each other.  Now merged and staff savings made.  Takes time and training (plus biscuits and sweets!).

SU and Fees team link to provide a weekly drop in.

There is lots of flexible working – everyone’s role is to support students.

10,000 out of 18,000 currently registered students have used online system.  Average time for first response is 2 days, average closure is 5 days.

Service is now looking at peaks and troughs in enquiries to look at why and plan ahead.

Data is used day-to-day to:

  • Manage performance/CPD
  • Manage dual sites
  • Plan rotas (at certain peak times only one person can be off; rota also shows who will be on desk/phones/break, etc. Rota varies depending on how many callers and phone enquiries are expected, based on trend data)

Also for:

  • Recruitment
  • Expand roles (student staff work 5-15 hours a week.  All dedicated.  Often have requests for students to help specialist services for a period)
  • Wider involvement
  • Improve efficiencies

The work of individual members of staff is also benchmarked against that of other team members.  If there are areas that a particular person is struggling on, extra training/info is made available.  Quality reports go directly back to advisors.  All advisors have their own project work, matching their skills to the needs, for example planning student communications through the year, surveying specialist services such as laptop clinic.

Some of the student staff are taken on in internship roles after graduating.  Students originally did things like give directions but now also answer queries on Unicards, letter and reference requests (which are 20% of enquiries May to September).  An express desk set up for these type of enquiries and a recent ex-student helper is now managing them.

As a result of all the above the team are winning awards!

Blogged by Hilary Simmons, Head of Colleges and Student Life, Lancaster University

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