After complaints, new direction for offices

The task force focused on customer service in six offices.

Students wait for their names to be called in the Student Financial Services office on Sept. 30. Aaron Windhorst | TTN
Students wait for their names to be called in the Student Financial Services office on Sept. 30. Aaron Windhorst | TTN

Temple announced last week the implementation of a plan for enhanced customer service in six university offices including the Bursar’s Office, Student Financial Services and Facilities Management.

Launching the plan includes more user-friendly websites, a set of customer service guidelines for Temple employees to follow and a call center for the Bursar’s Office, which will help field simpler questions.

President Theobald formed a task force of 20 faculty and staff members to change customer service after hearing complaints about it.

The task force hired a team of MBA students from the Fox School of Business’ Enterprise Management Consulting to assist in finding problem areas.

“The goal was really to identify systemic issues,” said Ken Kaiser, a co-chair of the task force and the university’s chief financial officer and treasurer.

Though the plan focuses mostly on issues not specific to any office or department, Kaiser said administrators were already seeking better customer service for SFS and the Bursar’s office before this plan was implemented.

“That was an area that we pretty much focused on the individual departments,” he said, adding that with the customer service initiative the two projects “just happened to dovetail nicely.”

The two departments received numerous complaints from parents about calling one of the offices and the phone not being answered.

Tammy Dinh, a sophomore kinesiology major, said when she had a question about her tuition balance, she tried reaching SFS by phone after leaving the line in the office. “I wasn’t going to waste my entire day in there,” she said.

Dinh said she called once and was placed on hold for 20 minutes before giving up, but dealt with the same problem the next day.

Bursar David Glezerman said many parents and students who don’t get an answer call again or send an email instead, putting more pressure on the employees. Many had simple questions, and those answers were already available online.

“Even if you have online access, you might still have questions,” Glezerman said.

Staff in the call center will field simple questions from students and parents and will free up the specialists working in the Bursar’s Office.

“During peak hours, I’d have to put two or three people on phones, but now they’re free,” Glezerman said.

Glezerman said only about 8 percent of the calls handled by the call center are complex enough that his staff need to take over, and most calls are between three and four minutes long. One of the most common questions, “How much is Temple tuition?” can now also be answered online with a tuition calculator that shows the variations between schools.

Craig Fennell, the director of SFS, said his office established a call center last year that is staffed by 25 students working part time. Fennell said the wait time in the SFS office lobby was as high as three hours two years ago, but wait times now average an hour. Last year, he said, documents submitted in August might not be looked over until November.

“This year we are nearly caught up and are addressing documents as they are submitted,” Fennell said.

Jonathan Reiter, a finance manager in the office of Construction, Facilities and Operations who served on the EMC team, said a systemic issue was the lack of confirming receipt of a request. In the past, faculty would submit maintenance requests and then submit additional requests because they were not sure if the original went through.

Reiter said there is now an automated email response that confirms receipt of each request.

“Something you work into a process, it does a lot for a customer,” he said.

Reiter, who is also an adjunct accounting professor, said he plans to discuss the policy with his students.

Joe Brandtcan be reached at and on twitter@JBrandt_TU

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