Everyone has had to deal with the Registrar’s Office at some point while at UMBC, whether they have a question about registration or need a copy of their official transcript. But how many people know what goes on behind the scenes? Hans Cooper, the Associate Registrar of Records and Registration, is just one of the individuals who keeps operations running smoothly at the Registrar’s Office. Cooper oversees many of the office’s day-to-day functions, including the maintenance of student records and delivery of customer service.
Because the Registrar’s Office manages all of the academic records for the university, they are constantly receiving questions from students, faculty, and staff. When Cooper first arrived at UMBC in September 2009, he was determined to improve the quality of customer service delivered at the office. At that time the current help system in place required that requests be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, which was a shared email account. There wasn’t just one staff member in charge of the account, which made it difficult to keep track of requests and identify which staff member was working with which issue. “It wasn’t beneficial for our purposes of customer service, especially because there were no email threads,” Cooper adds. If a customer replied to an email from a staff member or forgot to include something in his or her original request, a new email would be created and sent to the top of the inbox. By that time there might be 30 emails in front of the original request, and the staff would have no idea that those messages were related.
Because of this antiquated process, customer service suffered. There were long lines of agitated customers in the office, and if someone opted to send an email instead, he or she risked the possibility of a frustrating resolution process or the office not even receiving the email at all. Needless to say, when DoIT reached out to the Registrar’s Office shortly after Cooper arrived, he was more than eager to take advantage of their services.
After an extensive planning period, the RT system was fully launched in the Registrar’s Office in May 2010. “I thought it was amazing,” admits Cooper. “It was a win-win situation for our staff and our students—we were able to streamline the request process while finding a better way to communicate with customers.” Cooper’s main goal with RT was to improve the perception of customer service in his office while managing the expectations of his customer base. The Registrar’s Office was able to achieve these goals through establishing some simple guidelines: 1. All requests for action to someone’s records must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office via a help ticket and 2. A staff member will respond to your request within 24 to 48 hours. With these rules in place, staff members were able to reduce traffic in the office while customers could better understand the help process and manage their expectations of when their issue would be resolved.
These weren’t the only benefits of the new help system. Cooper also believes that RT has helped promote accountability within his office. Not only can he see who’s working on tickets and how many are being resolved each day, but he can also see which areas have an abundance of requests and subsequently provide more support to those areas. This means less work for his staff, and a faster turnaround time for students. The new system also makes it possible to highlight key successes that individual staff members have in their work performance, resulting in increased employee morale.
In the first five months of 2012, Enrollment Management received 40% of all help tickets at the university. Of that 40%, 70% were for the Registrar’s Office alone. One of the reasons that the RT system has worked so well for the Registrar’s Office is the opportunity for customization. “Usually when you take something out of the box, you have to use it as is,” explains Cooper. “Here, we were able to work with DoIT to configure RT and customize it to our needs.” For instance, tickets are automatically routed to an appropriate staff member with the office based upon the nature of the request. Help tickets can also be sent in at any time, which means that if students have a question after office hours or on the weekend, they don’t have to wait to ask. Incidentally, Cooper says that many tickets come in around one or two in the morning. This all-hours approach is helpful to the requester because his or her ticket is already there when the office opens, and it’s good for staff members because of the reduced calls and traffic inside the office.
However, as with any product or service, not everyone is always going to be completely satisfied. While most are amazed at the new, streamlined help process, there are some individuals who miss calling or going to the office and getting something fixed right then and there. This reaction doesn’t surprise Cooper: “I think that UMBC is known for face-to-face communication, so not being able to get an immediate answer is seen as bad customer service.” While the Registrar’s Office does still take phone calls and walk-ins, any request that requires action from the staff (such as sending a transcript) requires a ticket so that they can keep track of the issue. But by looking at the numbers, it is clear that despite the the wait time, the new RT system has positively transformed the type of service that the Registrar’s Office provides to UMBC.
In addition to handling requests more efficiently, Cooper has been able to use customizable reports provided by REX to predict request trends. By looking at data from previous tickets, Cooper can see patterns and fix problems before students even ask. Larger problems can also be identified immediately if an influx of similar tickets comes in at once. Furthermore, the reports can be shared with other members of the university to illustrate the accomplishments that RT has allowed the Registrar’s Office to make. President Hrabowski has often said that success is never final, and taking these words to heart, Cooper hopes to expand his use of RT even more. Looking towards the future, Cooper plans to work with DoIT to add other features to their system such as web forms that double as tickets and a possible mobile option that would further enhance customer satisfaction.
–Article and photo by Laura Lefavor ’13, Summer 2012