Published Aug. 2012
By Elena Olmstead, Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business
Columbia Basin College recently hired four people to fill positions that would more commonly be found in the corporate or retail sector than an educational atmosphere.
The customer service specialists were hired to anchor the school’s newest department, Hawk Central. Hawk Central, which is part of the CBC’s Student Services Department, will make students its focus.
“The concept is to provide excellent customer service on an individual basis to students who have questions, concerns or problems,” said Maddy Jeffs, vice president of student services at CBC. “This is tied into the college’s renewed focus on student success.”
Hawk Central will serve as a central point where students can get questions answered about everything from how to pay their tuition bill to getting help filling out financial aid forms, to what tutoring options are available. Jeffs said the idea is to help remove any barriers to students’ success.
The new program allows students to get all their questions answered in one place, saving them the time it would take running from department to department.
The customer service specialists at Hawk Central have been well trained in how everything on campus works and are ready to share that knowledge.
Hawk Central will make life easier for CBC students, Jeffs said, and allow other departments within the school to work more efficiently.
Instead of having staff members in each department dedicated to serving students as they walk through the doors with questions, those staff members can now work on whatever processing services that department needs. Now Hawk Central will take on those questions.
“These are the people who will be doing that face-to-face student work,” Jeffs said.
CBC hired the four customer service specialists in July and the new employees have been in training ever since, familiarizing themselves with the inner workings of CBC.
“We’ve been cross-training with other departments so we’ll be able to help the students resolve any issues they’re having,” said Trina Sasser, one of the customer service specialists.
Shelley Patterson, another new customer service specialist, said there are a lot of students on campus who have questions, but just don’t know where to start. For all of those students, Hawk Central will serve as that starting point.
“I see Hawk Central starting from admissions, to helping our students until they complete their program,” Patterson said. “We want to be the place students feel comfortable coming.”
The idea for a centralized location focused on helping students is something that seems to be catching on at community colleges throughout the area. Jeffs said CBC officials first saw the program in action at Rogue Community College in southern Oregon.
Jeffs said they liked the way Rogue Central brought student needs to the forefront. That campus visit spawned talk of creating a similar program at CBC. Jeffs said by late fall 2011, the Presidents Council started talking about restructuring the student services department in order to make way for Hawk Central.
And it seems to be a growing trend.
Jeffs said over the summer she has seen several other community colleges post customer service positions on job boards – a position that is not traditionally found on college campuses.
The Hawk Central type of department seems to be gaining in popularity because it makes things easier for students.
Jeffs said Hawk Central will make it possible for students to walk into the department, which will be located where the financial aide department used to be, talk to someone at the front desk and get started on solving their issue. The front desk person will either help point the student in the right direction or will schedule appointments for students to have one-on-one meetings with the one of the four customer service specialists. The meetings will be scheduled in short order, with students typically only having to wait a few minutes before being ushered back to talk to a customer service specialist.
Each specialist will have their own desk, where students can talk to them about questions or concerns they might have. The customer service specialists will then work with the student to resolve any issues, answer any questions and get them on their way.
“We can help make it more understandable and easier for the students,” Jeffs said.
And not only will Hawk Central be playing a key role in helping students with any issues they might have, it will also serve as a way for the college to discover areas where it could improve.
“These ladies will have their pulse on the students’ needs,” Jeffs said.
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