Rollins Embarks on Quest for Service Excellence

December 17, 2010

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In today’s competitive higher education marketplace, Rollins’ consistent top rankings by U.S. News & World Report and its academic reputation put the College at the head of the class for many prospective students. Rollins has also long been known for the beauty of its campus. In fact, chances are, if a prospective student makes a campus visit to Rollins, it clinches the decision to apply. But it is the quality of the overall experience after enrolling that determines whether the student will remain at Rollins. In higher education—just like any business in America—retaining “clients” is key to success.

“We have a student retention challenge,” Jeffrey Eisenbarth, Rollins vice president for business & finance and treasurer, told a room of the College’s managers. “If we retain fewer students than our projections, it creates a budget shortfall. Things aren’t necessarily broken, but we can certainly improve customer service. And I can give you at least a million reasons why retention and customer service is all of our jobs.”

Rollins’ newly-launched Service Excellence Initiative strives to improve how we treat our students, how we treat visitors to our campus and how we treat our colleagues. “We must be responsive, respectful, competent and collaborative,” said Eisenbarth.

Responsive, respectful, competent and collaborative were identified as the College’s four service standards by Rollins President Lewis Duncan and his extended leadership team. Each of the four service standards provide a list of examples so that employees clearly understand what is expected. The President’s leadership team also agreed upon Rollins’ new service philosophy: “Together, we inspire purposeful lives through distinctive, engaged learning and exceptional service.”

There are countless factors that affect student retention and graduation rates—from academic support services, residential life, student clubs and organizations, athletics, the type of service environment they experience, and more. “Most students leave a school because of a feeling of indifference,” said Teri Yanovitch, a leading speaker, trainer and consultant on creating a culture of customer service within an organization. “The key to success in any business is to have your customers keep coming back.”

For Yanovitch, a chance meeting with businessman Philip Crosby during a flight would change her life. Crosby believed that an organization that established a quality program would see savings returns that more than paid for the cost of the program. Crosby, who passed away in 2001, wrote more than a dozen books in his lifetime, but was perhaps best known for The Quality College he founded here in Winter Park and his book Quality is Free. Yanovitch went on to work as a Disney Institute trainer and seminar speaker and authored the book Unleashing Excellence – The Complete Guide to “Ultimate Customer Service. Today she works with organizations to ensure their leadership, employees and processes are all performing at the optimum levels.

Yanovitch has developed and customized workshops for Rollins and has trained 173 of the College’s managers and 192 members of the staff.  Additional Rollins staff will participate in training sessions in January 2011 and Rollins faculty department chairs were invited to participate in the manager training sessions.

“I thought the workshop was worthwhile,” said Interim Dean of the Faculty Debra Wellman, who attended a session in November. “Throughout the workshop I kept thinking how nice it would be if Rollins was as well known for excellence in service as Disney World.”

Another Central Florida organization recently embarked on a similar quest. When the Orlando Magic was planning the opening of its new Amway Center, Vice President of Season Ticket Services & Operations Scott Bowman put 1,700 people through the Disney Institute.

In addition to the Magic’s employees, employees from nine other companies work in various capacities at the Center—parking, housekeeping, security, food and beverage, ushers and ticket takers, and more—for what becomes the guest experience. To create a “legendary experience,” there are guidelines for guest service and a third party mystery shopping company was retained. So far, the Magic is getting high marks for its efforts.

 “It’s everyone’s responsibility to own the guest experience and to make sure that it’s consistent across the board,” said Bowman. “It has to be seamless—the same service inside or outside of the venue.”

Whether prospective students are visiting the Rollins campus, local residents are attending a sporting event, alumni are returning to campus for Reunion, or current students are registering for classes, exceptional service should define the Rollins experience. Rollins’ 14-member Service Excellence Team will work together over the next year to guide implementation of the first phase of Rollins Service Excellence Initiative. The team is developing the tools and plans which will help integrate the service philosophy and standards into the College’s internal processes in seven key areas:  Orientation & Training, Recognition, Measurement, Recruitment, Accountability, Communication, and Service Obstacle System.

“Creating a culture of service excellence is going to take time. It won’t happen overnight,” said Eisenbarth. “It may take three years to build awareness and put the necessary programs in place and up to five years before it becomes a part of the culture. But there is no better time than now to get started.”

Rollins is committed to building an enduring culture of exceptional service. “We need to build upon what we are already doing very well,” said President Duncan. “This initiative will contribute significantly to our efforts to help Rollins attract and retain students, faculty and staff of the highest quality.”

By Ann Marie Varga

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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