NSS success: It’s the little things?

I was asked to contribute this after the Business School scored highly in the NNS survey for Management & Business degrees, and was invited to focus on things the School has done that have contributed to the maintenance of and improvement in our NSS scores that might be shared.

The category includes our Accounting programmes, where staff have been awarded the RUSU Gold Star for the past three years and that must help.

Beyond that there are no “silver bullets”; actions that help achieve a high score. I think the main reason why student satisfaction is high is the school’s attention to detail and its avoidance of (or at least our skill in disguising) things that might cause the score to fall.

In my previous life in IT service management, a Midwestern US colleague used to proclaim “it takes ten attaboy’s to trump one oh s***”. Being more polite, to offset perception of a single failure requires ten events that exceed the customer’s expectation. This ratio also holds for surveys – to achieve 90% takes 10 participants awarding 100% to offset one who gives zero.

True success in any service organisation is getting it right the first time, every time. That requires a culture of attention to the details. In our case, this involves trying to make the student experience at all levels as positive, consistent, coherent and trouble free as possible.  Communication with students treats them as reasonable, rational and intelligent adults. Where things do go wrong they get resolved quickly and openly.

A lot of the burden of doing this falls on the administrative staff who, in many cases, act as the first point of contact for the students and do a brilliant job. It also requires involved academic staff who not only do their teaching jobs well but also respond appropriately to questions and issues that arise and operational processes that make the easiest way to do something the best way.

How well we can continue to do this under the pressures of rising student/staff ratios (both academic and administrative) and increasing cohort sizes remains to be seen.

Peter Cook, Lecturer, Henley Business School

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