November 18, 2011

Building “Customer” Loyalty

This past Wednesday, MindPrime hosted a system wide event featuring award winning writer and speaker Bill Quiseng on the topic: “Creating the ‘World’s Best’ Student Experience.” Drawing on years of award winning leadership and experience in the hospitality industry, as well as established experts such as Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey, Quiseng outlined a vision and process for cultivating customer loyalty.

The “secret” of success according to Quiseng lies in our ability to see things from the standpoint of those we serve – most notably our students, but if we do not serve them directly then in our service to those who do. By “being our customers,” “creating their experience,” and “being the difference” we will create experiences that are truly transformative; and by serving the well-being of others we will in effect serve our own well-being.

Quiseng’s vision is reminiscent of what Jewish philosopher Martin Buber described as the “I and thou” relationship and what American Enterprise Institute political philosopher and theologian Michael Novak describes as the “other” directedness of the free-market. Translated into terms closer to home, Quiseng reminds us that The Northwood Idea is not simply something we should strive to teach, write about, or market but something that we should strive to be – with and to everyone we encounter. 

The timing of this program dovetails with the customer service recommendations that came out across multiple units during our Disciplined Dreaming exercises. As we endeavor together to lead and grow Northwood into the future, it is imperative that each and every one us look deeply within to consider how it is that we are fulfilling this calling. And on the chance that we are not so happy or confident with the result to date, there is no time like the present to get started. As Quiseng himself noted, the power to ensure that the “common sense” nature of serving others is in fact not so “uncommon” lies within each of us.

In the event that you could not attend or view the live presentation (and even if you did it bears a second and third look), it can be seen here:

Disciplined Dreaming at Northwood 

One of the many innovations to come out of our Disciplined Dreaming exercises is an initiative aimed at increasing summer enrollment for both Northwood University and guest students. 

While this effort is just getting off the ground, Kayte Aspray, associate academic dean Michigan Campus, and her team, have identified three key market factors that we can leverage to increase summer enrollment: 

  • A competitive cost for summer semester courses, especially in comparison to our competition in and around our residential campuses as well as those colleges and universities where our residential students are likely to take summer classes.
  • Expansion of our online course offerings for the summer semester.
  • Segmented marketing of summer classes to fourth, fifth, sixth year students close to completing their degree. 

Northwood Alumni & Student Recruitment 

As part of our effort to expand student enrollment we piloted the “Alumni Admissions Ambassadors” program in 2011 and I am happy to report that it was a huge success. Over the course of the past year alumni ambassadors partnered with members of the alumni relations and admissions staff on variety of recruitment efforts, including:  

  • A student referral program.
  • Outreach efforts at their respective local high school.
  • Attendance at educational fairs with local admissions representatives.
  • Hosting joint alumni/admissions events where alumni ambassadors and admissions staff “mingle” with prospective students and their families.  

The center-piece of the program is an outbound phone call and email campaign aimed at students who have yet to make a final commitment to attending Northwood. This past year, twelve alumni ambassadors called and emailed a total of 214 undergraduate applicants and of the 54 with whom they communicated directly, 42 enrolled.

As we continue to assess the role the program played in helping us attain a conversion rate of just under 78%, one thing is clear: this level of personal regard and communication is a definite difference maker for those students and parents who choose Northwood. Further, the experience re-confirms that ours is a very tight-knit and supportive community with an alumni volunteer base that is willing to share their talent and time, along with their treasure, in giving back to their alma mater. 

Under the direction of Julie Felske, executive director of alumni relations, Susie Poli-Smith, assistant director of admissions, and their team we will more than double the size of the program this coming year by running two separate calling periods involving over 30 alumni ambassadors. Our 2012 ambassadors were nominated by Northwood faculty and staff and every single one of them accepted the invitation to volunteer their time and energy to this project. Each will be given the names of approximately 10 students who have been accepted at Northwood but have yet to commit. Alumni will call and email our student-candidates to engage them on everything from questions they may have to sharing highlights of their own Northwood experiences and career successes. Throughout the effort the alumni ambassadors will work closely with our admissions staff to provide feedback and insight that is evaluated and analyzed, alongside the measurable results we collect, in order to further enhance the program. 

Have a great weekend.

Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640
989.837.4203 (phone)
989.832.9590 (fax)