“Everywhere we plant the Columbia College flag, it is our intent to be an excellent citizen of that community by providing good service,” said Dr. Eric Cunningham, associate dean for AHE. Cunningham has led the committee from the beginning in its effort to be a model institution in customer service for our students and internally, employee to employee.
Customer service is necessary for attracting and retaining students, but it also is important for college morale. “If there’s not good staff morale, and if you don’t have a culture of high morale, the odds you’re going to deliver exemplary customer service, employee to employee, day in and day out… it’s probably not going to happen,” Cunningham said.
Since its inception 10 years ago, the customer service committee has added new members to its roster and hosted more engaging events.
This year’s Customer Service Week included events every day, such as a session with “chief morale officer” Kirk Weisler, a breakfast of champions, customer service videos, an ice cream social and Cougar Pride Day.
But “we try very hard to be a year-round operation,” Cunningham said. The committee meets almost every month and hosts trainings and events throughout the year. It has brought external and internal speakers on a variety of topics, such as Teri Zeilenga, director of counseling and mental health services, to talk about stress management and active listening. At training sessions, staff members receive a ticket to a drawing. Near the end of the academic year, the committee randomly picks two tickets and those staff members get to attend a commencement at a Nationwide Campus — on the college.
“It’s just an opportunity for staff members here to just go out and see what it looks like from the other side of the college,” Cunningham said.
The committee also holds staff integration visits locally. Cunningham and main campus staff members take a bus to two campuses — usually Rolla, Jefferson City, Lake of the Ozarks or Fort Leonard Wood — to gain understanding about how other campuses operate. “The idea is the more you know about what each other does, the better we can deliver customer service,” Cunningham said.
On the bus ride during the visits, Cunningham always asks the staff members what they like best about Columbia College. He asks for one thoughtful answer written on paper — no stealing answers from your neighbors!
“Heartwarmingly, the most common answer is the family environment, hands down,” he said. “That’s great, and that’s encouraging because that’s part of our culture, and a high morale is what we’re trying to nurture in the customer service environment.”