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Social media customer service in higher education by Patrick Arsenault


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Patrick Arsenault presents key findings in the literature to help student affairs professionals come up with superior social media strategies that take into consideration the expectations online users have in terms of customer service and experience. A few real life examples of what leading colleges and universities are doing are also included.

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Social media customer service in higher education by Patrick Arsenault

  1. 1. 140 Characters to make a difference Using Social Media For Effective Customer Service in Higher Education By: Patrick Arsenault
  2. 2. With increasing costs of higher education, colleges and universities increasingly share challenges with traditional businesses. Colleges could no longer solely seen as education institutions; they are held to the same standards and expectations than other businesses by students (Anctil, 2008). Students want to be seen as customers and expect more value from their institution (Halbesleben, Becker & Buckley, 2003; Woddall, Hiller & Resnick, 2012). To remain attractive, institutions should engage with various stakeholders, especially prospective students, to foster meaningful experiences, which becomes part of the institution’s offer (Pine & Gilmore, 1998). For many institutions, social media has become a promising way to engage with stakeholders from around the world (Constantinides & Stagno, 2011). 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) It has become crucial for colleges and universities to engage on social media
  3. 3. 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) Student Satisfaction Increases Recruitment and Retention Customer satisfaction was proven to increase business (new and returning customers) in most industries (Lightner, 2004; Meuter, Ostrom, Roundtree, & Bitner, 2000). Higher education is no different, student satisfaction directly impacts how students and prospective students perceive their institution, which leads to increased recruitment and retention (Athiyaman, 1997)
  4. 4. 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) Adapted Social media Customer Service Strategies For over 30 years, organizations have been using the SERVQAL to develop their customer service standards and strategies. This instrument is really a roadmap to basic customers’ expectations, on which any customer service strategy should rely (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry, 1988). However, the SERVQAL was not designed with the world wide web and new technologies in mind and although it has been proven to be effective countless times in the brick-and-mortar domain, higher education institutions that was to use social media need to look at more adapted determinants of online customer satisfaction.
  5. 5. 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) Social Media and Higher Education Institutions Social media are now ubiquitous (nearly three quarters of the population uses them) (Pew Research Center, 2013), it is crucial for institutions to not only be active on social media but to also build distinct customer service strategies, carefully adapted for these new media. Several colleges already show increased interest in the potential of social media, especially to help prospective students make better-informed decisions (Constantinides & Stagno, 2011).
  6. 6. 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) The E-Service Determinants of Customer Satisfaction Customer Satisfaction Trust, reliability, security, or safety Customer support and empathy Responsiveness and usefulness Web design and content (information) Personalization Accessibility, delivery, and ease to use Self-service Communication and advertising or complementary relationship Entertainment
  7. 7. Theory-to-Practice: Examples of Easy Best Practices for International Higher Education 1. Customer Support or Customer Service Higher education institutions should consider having social media accounts solely for customer service. The University of Ottawa in Canada created a “uOttawa Direct” that specifically exists for customer support. This also allows to keep negative queries and personal questions out of the accounts for each individual schools or programs accounts, which would dilute de banding. It is important to make sure that employees monitoring these accounts know about international students’ experience. 2. Responsiveness and Usefulness Athabasca University in Canada has a section on its website that lists typical response times for all means of communication including phone, email, and social media. It also lets you know right away which services are online (available) in real time, which can be useful to international students that are used to different cultural norms and perhaps living in a different time zones. 3. Personalization The Telfer School of Management, in Canada, has two Twitter accounts: one in French and one in English. This way it can better tailor to its stakeholders as a bilingual institution. Universities should consider having accounts in an alternate language if it has a large proportion of its stakeholders speak a different language. Also, Harvard University’s Branch for Continuing Learning has separate social media accounts as executives and professionals that come on campus, from around the world, are not interested in the same topics as current full-time students, prospective students or alumni. The University of Vermont master’s in Higher education and Student Affairs also has its own Twitter account for prospective students. Institutions should create channels specifically for international students and adapt content accordingly. Higher education and student affairs professionals should build purpose into their social media interactions and come up with informed strategies built on the E-Service Determinants of Customer Satisfaction. Many institutions have already started to create ingenious strategies using these. 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT)
  8. 8. Conclusion 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) Higher education institutions should engage with stakeholders via social media, because this is where they are paying attention. In order to build adapted social media interaction strategies, institutions should consider the E-Determinants of Customer Satisfaction, like the examples presented.
  9. 9. References 140 CHARACTERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE (BY PATRICK ARSENAULT) The information presented is directly taken from: Using Social Media for Effective Customer Service By Patrick Arsenault The Vermont Connection: The Higher Education and Student Affairs Journal of the University of Vermont