Blog – Xenegrade http://xenegrade.com Student Registration Systems Wed, 13 Sep 2017 18:04:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 “Boot Camp” Takes on New Meaning as More Schools Launch Programs http://xenegrade.com/boot-camp-takes-on-new-meaning-as-more-schools-launch-programs/ http://xenegrade.com/boot-camp-takes-on-new-meaning-as-more-schools-launch-programs/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 18:04:05 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2395 The term “boot camp” traditionally has referred to basic training for new military recruits. Today, however, the concept also applies to short but intensive course offerings in continuing education programs.

Boot camps first arose in the IT sector as a means of filling the void of software development talent in Silicon Valley. A number of companies developed nine- to 12-week courses to teach students how to write code, and the programs proved extremely popular. People of all ages and from all walks of life were eager to gain skills that might net them six-figure salaries, and the companies turned away more than 80 percent of potential enrollees as the class rapidly filled up.

Now many colleges and universities are hoping to tap into the success of boot camps. Schools ranging from the University of Texas at Austin to Baker University (a private Methodist school located in Baldwin City, Kan.) are offering boot camps for aspiring software engineers. And more programs are cropping up all the time. The University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education just announced that it would be launching 24-week Coding Boot Camp in November.

Some schools developing boot camps already have strong IT departments, while others must find instructors who are qualified to teach programming. Many boot camp programs are online only, while others incorporate a classroom component.

And the concept is extending beyond IT-related disciplines. Oregon State University offers a Grammar Boot Camp, and Arizona State has developed a program on strategic planning for nonprofit professionals and volunteers. Ramapo College even offers a Retirement Boot Camp for Boomers — a three-night course on financial management, estate planning and insurance.

Although businesses and professional associations started the boot camp trend, market analysts say colleges and universities are well-positioned to both capitalize on and advance the concept. Schools have well-developed processes for attracting students, as well as infrastructure investments in both online and classroom learning. In addition, continuing education programs in institutions of higher education are often more innovative than traditional degree programs, providing room to experiment with new models.

Boot camps are typically priced in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, and targeted at working professionals seeking to add to their skills or change careers. By building upon the boot camp concept, schools can gain a new revenue stream, provide learners with effective training and develop a skilled workforce to meet the needs of industry.

If you are experimenting with new models of continuing education delivery drop us a line or contact us. We enjoy sharing best practices and meeting industry innovators.

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Celebrating Administrative Professionals in Continuing Education http://xenegrade.com/celebrating-administrative-professionals-in-continuing-education/ http://xenegrade.com/celebrating-administrative-professionals-in-continuing-education/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 18:04:26 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2371 Administrative Professional Day

My Aunt served for over 50 years as an Administrative Professional. She was a secretary in a large law firm. They had a nice tradition of taking the staff out to a special restaurant on Administrative Professionals Day. The law firm hired limos and all the lawyers and secretaries would join for a special luncheon at the same place each year. I know my Aunt always looked forward to this day as did the other secretaries in the office.

This might not be the right kind of celebration for your office, so we compiled a list of great ways to say thank you to your staff members that can be used on any day of the year.

  1. Your website pages are a great place to share your appreciation for staff members. Dedicating a portion of the website to celebrate staff is a nice way to share recognition. This is also true for your social media sites. A shout out post recognizing accomplishments that happen in the moment allows the world to recognize your staff’s achievements.
  2. Create a “Gratitude Tree”. This is a tree or object that allows your employees to do peer to peer recognition. Small notes of gratitude for a job well done can be attached to the tree and enjoyed by all. Placement of your gratitude tree can be almost anywhere employees gather. For design ideas on how to make a gratitude tree search Pinterest.
  3. Call a “Thank You Meeting”. Invite an employee into your office just to say thank you! Don’t discuss other issues just focus on their accomplishment and how you feel it was important.
  4.  Standing Ovation. In a previous management role, this was one of my favorites ways to say thank you. I would craft a certificate of appreciation for the employee and gather team members to join me in presenting the certificate with a standing ovation and song at the employee workspace. We all left energized and inspired ready to conquer the next tasks of the day. Back then I had a boom-box that would play an appropriate victory song. Now you could use your cell phone connected to a portable speaker for the occasion.
  5. Projects they love. Taking time to learn about what your employee love best at work can have huge payoffs.  Thank your employee for their accomplishment and ask them to help with a special project. By recognizing their unique strengths, creativity and contributions to the work that they do you can provide a vehicle for enhanced engagement and even greater works for this employee.
  6. Make an Introduction. Introduce your employee to a VIP in your organization. In your introduction explain to the VIP the employee’s contributions and have a suggestion of how the employee can help the institution or VIP with some current issue.
  7. The Gift of Education. What could be better than rewarding the employee with the time and investment for an educational opportunity. You are sending the message that you care and want to invest in their professional development and that they are an asset to your organization.

However, you choose to say thank you do it often. It is always more appreciated then we realize.

“Good manners are cost effective. They not only increase the quality of life in the workplace, they contribute to employee morale, embellish the company image, and play a major role in generating profit.”  Letitia Baldrige

Letitia Baldrige was an American etiquette expert, public relations executive and author who was most famous for serving as Jacqueline Kennedy’s Social Secretary.

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10 Tips for Making the Most of Winter Break http://xenegrade.com/10-tips-for-making-the-most-of-winter-break/ http://xenegrade.com/10-tips-for-making-the-most-of-winter-break/#respond Thu, 22 Dec 2016 13:35:26 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2339 Many of our clients will start winter break on December 17th and will return to the Office January 3rd.  That is a nice block of time for life’s little marvels we often are too busy to tackle. Below you will find two lists for making the most of the winter break this year. One list for those with time off and one list for those who will stand their post back at the empty office.

Holidays list for those on break

  1. Read! So many good books so little time. Don’t forget about gifts for yourself. Make your first stop the bookstore or amazon.com
  2. Spend time with the people you love. Ok, this one should have been first. But you really can take your loved ones to the bookstore with you. They need something to read too!
  3. Plan a happy outing. Adults need time to play also. Concerts, Theater, Movies, Outdoor activities or best yet something you have never done before.
  4. Tackle a project that you have been putting off. What a relief it will be not to have that project on your 2017 to-do list.
  5. Travel, if you already have plans here are few things to remember to take with you:
  • Don’t forget the charger, plugs, and accessories for your devices. You probably will go online.
  • Bring clothes you can wear in layers. It might be warmer or colder than you think.
  • A sense of humor. Where ever you go this is always appreciated. Google a few holiday jokes.

Holiday list for those at the office

  1. Without the interruptions, it’s a great time to think. Make use of a whiteboard and brainstorm ideas. Once you filled the whiteboard notate your very best thoughts. Decide what is viable and create a plan of action for the ideas that have the most value.
  2. Read! Yes, I know this was on our first list, but it is so important. Since you are at work read items that will help you help your organization. Here are a few fast read books I recommend:
    • Draw to Win by Dan Roam. A crash course on how to lead, sell and innovate with your visual mind. Dan Roam shares best practices for communications with pictures. Whether you are communicating on a whiteboard, PowerPoint or back of a napkin he has some great strategies for winning communications.
    • Bull’s-Eye: The Power of Focus by Brian Tracy. This quick and powerful back to the basics book on clarity, focus, and concentration by Brian Tracy is perfect brain food for starting the New Year right.
    • Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan. Sometimes we need a good example of what can be done. It’s even better when told by a great storyteller. We come to work each day with hopes of making a difference in the lives of others, Richard Sheridan tells us how.
  3. Make a difference in a common space of your environment. Clean, organize or even decorate a break room or lobby. Your co-workers will be delighted when they return from break. Hard candy, mints or treats are a nice touch, inspiring messaging, hot chocolate or new beverages selections can be a nice surprise for guests and employees.
  4. Tackle the project you wish you had time for but never can seem to find a place to fit it in your schedule. Jump in with wild abandon, there is no one around to take you off task.
  5. Take an Online Course. Check out the offerings of our partner Ed4Online at https://ed4online.com/ If your organization is using XenDirect these courses can be a part of your catalog. Just inquire for details.

    Whatever you’re doing this holiday season.

We wish you the gifts of the season — Peace, Joy, Hope and a Successful New Year!

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Recruiting Adult Students for Continuing Education http://xenegrade.com/recruiting-adult-students-for-continuing-education/ http://xenegrade.com/recruiting-adult-students-for-continuing-education/#respond Mon, 21 Nov 2016 15:26:10 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2327 Top Funding SourcesAdult learners are sophisticated buyers. Typically, these students have many demands on their time and resources. Often the adult learner is younger than you might think and the investment they make in continuing education is linked directly to career advancement goals. With many alternative education programs now available to students, assisting the student with the right fit is critically important.

Looking thru the eyes of the prospective student’s journey think about the kinds of questions students ask themselves.

What institutions offer programs that will advance my career?

Is the program the right fit for me?

How much time will it take in the classroom and what is the workload outside of class?

How will the coursework commitment impact my current responsibilities at work and with family?

Will I reach my career goals if I take this program?

Why should I enroll?

Can I afford this program?

Your website is the most important investment you can make. Students will look here to find the answers to their questions before ever speaking with someone at your institution. Make sure your site clearly tells students what makes your institution unique. Your website should demonstrate the employability factor. Consider using student success stories of how their career has been enhanced by your programs. Content rich in video and photos help with distribution for email, social media, landing pages, print as well as your website program pages.

Once the student has confirmed the program is the right fit for them, it becomes about cost.

Understanding top funding sources for students becomes key to changing lives. Not only do we need to understand these programs but we also need to communicate how the student can learn what they might be able to leverage to fund their program. Offering information on your website about funding sources and providing orientation or information sessions for students that also speaks to funding sources can be an important key to success for your institution and your students.

For more information about funding sources for students download our E-book “The Top Funding Sources for Adult Continuing Education Students”.

Click Here to Download Top Funding Sources for Adult Continuing Education Students

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Free webinar! Powerful Techniques for Maximizing Social Media Engagement http://xenegrade.com/free-webinar-powerful-techniques-for-maximizing-social-media-engagement/ http://xenegrade.com/free-webinar-powerful-techniques-for-maximizing-social-media-engagement/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2016 11:51:15 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2299 We are  excited to sponsor this free upcoming webinar, Powerful Techniques for Maximizing Social Media Engagement.

Wednesday, August 24th
1 p.m. Eastern
Noon Central
11 a.m. Mountain
10 a.m. Pacific

  • Learn how to leverage your presence on various social media platforms through both organic and sponsored posting.
  • Discover the many ways you can automate your social media marketing to save time and post engagement.
  • Explore how social re-marketing (those ads that seem to follow you around the Internet after you view something but don’t make a purchase right away) can boost registrations as well as how social media advertising can maximize a small marketing budget.
  • Then take home our 10-point Tip Sheet – free and low-cost social media tools.We also cover how social media integrates with your overall marketing strategy and tools for creating new and interesting content.Our speaker is Suzanne Kart. Suzanne is a writer, speaker, consultant, and expert in 21st Century integrated marketing. She is one of the nation’s leading authorities on marketing for continuing education and lifelong learning programs. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the marketing and communications fields. She does workshops across the U.S. and Canada on all things marketing as well as generational communications. She also has taught online for the graduate school at the University of South Dakota master’s degree program in adult and higher education.Suzanne currently is the Director of Marketing at ProTrain, LLC. She joined ProTrain in 2016 after spending 10 years at LERN as the Associate Vice President of Marketing and 10 years at Delta College in Michigan as Marketing Manager. Suzanne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Saginaw Valley State University. She is also a Certified eMarketing Professional and a Certified Inbound Marketer.Even if you are a “Social Media Rock Star” you can learn new tips from Suzanne in this session. Register today at http://studentregistrationsystem.xenegrade.com/maximizing-social-media-engagement/
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Four Skills CE Staff Should Consider Cultivating http://xenegrade.com/four-skills-ce-staff-should-consider-cultivating/ http://xenegrade.com/four-skills-ce-staff-should-consider-cultivating/#respond Mon, 18 Jul 2016 05:00:49 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2277 Working with technology customers and continuing education organizations for over thirty-five years provides a great deal of insight into the skill level of continuing education staff.  After reading support requests, reviewing suggestions, and providing classroom training for many of those years, it is clear that a majority of continuing education software users are very skilled at their jobs. 

With the entrepreneurial nature of continuing education programs, becoming “street” smart is almost a requirement in order to get the job done.  However, a few areas of need seem to reappear often enough to warrant consideration.  If certain skills were refined, a very good employee can grow into a superb and highly valuable employee.

Written Communication

Probably more than anything else, reading support tickets, suggestion requests, and bid specifications on an almost daily basis provides ample evidence for some level of need in written communication.  Take a look at these two examples.

“I tried, but email is not working.”

Imagine for a moment that your car was experiencing some trouble and you decided to take it to the car dealership for repair. When you leave the car in the early bird service, you leave a note for the mechanic, “My car is not working correctly”.  However, when you return at the end of the day, your car is not repaired. The mechanic had no idea what to look for. The original statement was void of detail and left almost all the responsibility of understanding to the mechanic with little or nothing to help.

The duties of many continuing education staff include a great deal of communication with students, parents, and possibly companies.  Providing complete details when communicating with any of these customer types is crucial to building a successful working relationship and maintaining a satisfied customer.

“Can you make the one column on that report move over and put the email addresses over it along with the cell number and work number, but we don’t need the home number anyway because we only deal with them while at work which is very important to us and it would be more convenient.”

In this case, there appear to be plenty of details. However, which details are important and which confuse the reader? There are too many topics all placed together in a run-on sentence that in the end, leads to points unknown.  When taking a closer look, even the points crucial to understanding the request are missing clarity and specificity.  For example, we don’t know which column should be moved and in what direction. 

Continuing education staff should strive to be clear, concise, and complete on every step of communication with customers from email subject lines to course descriptions. 


“ If certain skills were refined, a very good employee can grow into a superb and highly valuable employee. ”


 

Basic Invoicing Processes

At times I am amazed at the accounting responsibilities placed on continuing education staff.  Over the years, I have seen accounting duties increase dramatically. Everything often seems fine until the dreaded audit arrives. It is then that it often becomes clear that many are not trained on basic principles of accounting and understanding of accounts receivable, or more specially, the process of invoicing and payments.

Continuing education offices deal with a diverse array of transaction types from cash, checks, credit cards, grants, corporate payments, public sector payments, and even in-house funding programs. Adding to the difficulty, refunds, non-sufficient funds checks, cancellations, and below minimum enrollments bring another level of complexity to the process. This appearance of complexity, however, can mask one basic goal of accounts receivable: how to determine what amount is due.

Many often confuse the basic two separate elements that help determine a balance due. The invoice itself and the payments against that invoice are often mentioned as if they are one thing.  An invoice determines how much is due, and transactions then determine how much of the amount has been paid. That seems like a simple enough process.  However, bring a refund into the mix for example and the process often breaks down.  The lack of understanding of basic invoicing prevents the staff member from either correctly recording the refund or accounting for the refund on the invoice. The result is often an incorrect balance due.

With some basic training on accounting, specifically invoicing, financial records will be more accurate, timely, and credible, often leading to better audits. At a minimum, staff members should have access to accounting staff within their respective organizations that can assist when financial exceptions occur.

Understanding Relational Databases

Student registration systems are an integral of continuing education programs. Regardless of enrollment levels, most staff are expected to be able to use a database for student registration and financial management. It is almost a requirement to maintain a cost effective program. For these systems to perform their best and provide the most relevant and accurate information, the manner in which data is recorded and reported is important.

Many users do not entirely understand that databases are not generally one big bucket of records all mixed together. Inquiries often support this lack of understanding with questions such as “Why can’t I delete this student” or “Why does this report show duplicate students”. Both questions are easily answered knowing how relational databases are built and operate.

When staff understand that databases are made up of many related tables and what those relationships are, their accuracy improves and the data management time is often more efficiently spent.

Basic HTML

Marketing duties have become an expectation of many continuing education positions. Many have not had formal training in marketing areas, but many resources are available to assist employees in this task.  Professional organizations often provide workshops and seminars focusing on this important topic. Many of the outcomes of these training efforts and marketing goals include social media and other online outcomes.

Setting design skills aside, one of the common elements of these marketing efforts includes the knowledge of basic HTML. Emails, online brochures, course descriptions, web advertising, and other such marketing efforts require basic HTML knowledge in order to bring the end product to life. When comparing a text email to an HTML email, most anyone will state the HTML email is more interesting, has better credibility, and brings increased excitement.

With the number of predesigned templates available on the market, employees don’t need to be graphic designers. But if they have basic HMTL skills, they can create competitive and effective marketing results that benefit their organization.

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2016 Trends in Corporate and Contract Training http://xenegrade.com/2016-trends-in-corporate-and-contract-training/ http://xenegrade.com/2016-trends-in-corporate-and-contract-training/#respond Wed, 13 Jul 2016 14:43:27 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/?p=2244 TrainingWith the economy doing reasonably well employers are more willing to invest in training for their workforce. Leadership and executive training has always been a resilient category for mid-size and large companies. Companies often prefer that continuing education for executives should be accomplished with higher education partners rather than an in-house training department.

In good economic times the outsourcing of training for the entire workforce is more promising for higher education partners. Skill based training with outcomes that can be measured are increasing in popularity. In-house corporate training programs are following higher education with training certification programs that lead to pathways for their employees.

As of 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is now tracking professional certifications and licenses and how they affect employment and earnings.

 

bureauStasticsFor the full report, http://www.bls.gov/cps/certifications-and-licenses.htm

Many companies are not facing a shortage of employees, but rather a shortage of skills. The technology industry has long used certifications to demonstrate skills. Tech firms tend to spend more per learner than other industry sectors. Dollars spend per learner also rises with more mature organizations. All sectors seem to be moving to learning measurements in order to improve effectiveness for employees.

If you are creative, organization training delivery opportunities look good. Employers will be looking to get more for their money and how they can measure effectiveness. Employers are looking for an organizational capability growth. For those that can sell programs that are tied to the corporate vision, process and capability growth, the future looks bright.

Many of universities and community colleges seek to also use a student registration system that can bring a major focus to corporate and contract training. The ability to track goals, credentials and outcomes with reporting can be shared with employers, students and stakeholders, helping demonstrate the ROI on training dollars spend.

Watch for additional articles in this series to be posted under tag Corporate and Contract Training.

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10 Signs Your Registration System Does Not Fit http://xenegrade.com/10-signs-your-registration-system-does-not-fit/ http://xenegrade.com/10-signs-your-registration-system-does-not-fit/#respond Thu, 07 Apr 2016 12:44:00 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/2016/04/07/10-signs-your-registration-system-does-not-fit/ Ever try to cut a ripe tomato with a dull knife?  The aftermath is typically not attractive, the results are less than useful, and the amount of effort needed can be more than the outcome is worth.  Using an outdated student registration system can be described in these same terms.

Knowing the signs of an outdated student registration system benefits a manager as they strive to build their program and increase enrollment.  Minimally, the information discovered from a system review assists a manager in designing in-house processes that start to overcome some of the shortfalls of an existing registration system.  However, the information is also very valuable when building the case to replace an outdated registration system.

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10 Signs Your Registration System Does Not FitrEver try to cut a ripe tomato with a dull knife?  The aftermath is typically not attractive, the results are less than useful, and the amount of effort needed can be more than the outcome is worth. Using an outdated student registration system can be described in these same terms.

Knowing the signs of an outdated student registration system benefits a manager as they strive to build their program and increase enrollment.  Minimally, the information discovered from a system review assists a manager in designing in-house processes that start to overcome some of the shortfalls of an existing registration system.  However, the information is also very valuable when building the case to replace an outdated registration system.

Critical Data Stored in a Variety of Locations

Data stored in multiple locations or in a variety of formats is difficult and time consuming to recover. This is especially true when some data is stored electronically and other data is only available in hard copy.  This scattered storage approach is often complicated further by the lack of backup systems, endangering the existence of the data altogether.

Inability to Collect, Compile, Share, Analyze or Report in a Timely Fashion

Successfully managing a program often requires access to needed data in a timely fashion.  Lack of easy access to data can delay a decision or prevent a proper decision, and both outcomes can be costly.  Program managers often receive requests for data with an immediacy that may not be able to be met, reflecting poorly on the manager.

Must Work Outside the System to Complete Many Tasks

If staff work outside the system to perform daily functions, excessive time is spent on tasks that could have been spent performing tasks that would promote or build the program.  This is especially true when dealing with decisions such as course maximums, waitlists and cancellations. The situation becomes even more frustrating when the data is available, but the access is slow or lacks relevancy to the need.


When resources are tight, the lack of viable data becomes even more crucial.”


System Lacks Flexibility and Ease of Use

Over time, almost any person who finds a task consistently difficult or inflexible will either find or create an alternative.  The outcome in this case could be detrimental to current and historical data.  Staff may elect to keep spreadsheets on their local computer or store files in their desk drawer.

Lack of Analytics Results in False Assumptions and Bad Decisions

Making decisions is a daily job for program managers, staff and faculty.  But making these decisions on faulty or incomplete data reduces the possibility of those decisions being successful and correct for the situation. Data needs to be available at both detail and aggregate levels in order to be effective and useful in the decision making process.

Impairs Ability to Make Strategic Decisions

Doing what you have always done usually means the outcome will probably what you always got before.  Without the ability to make strategic decisions based on data, program growth, increased enrollment, cost efficiencies, and even profitability are at stake.

Not Able to Identify Revenue Growth Opportunities

Looking forward based on anecdotal accounts rather than solid data reduces the ability to identify direction and opportunities.  Wrong choices may be made resulting in wasted time and resources.  When resources are tight, the lack of viable data becomes even more crucial.

Delivers Poor Visibility into Day-to-Day Operations

Not knowing is probably one of an employee’s most dreaded fears.  On a day to day basis, program managers and staff need a clear picture of their program in order to make appropriate and intelligent decisions such as Go-No Go, room changes, and even emergency weather related.  Without that clear picture, staff may stumble through the day to day operations.

System Requires Additional Expenses

A registration system that requires local hardware and local technical support requires additional expenses above the costs of the system itself.  For many organizations, local technical support can be difficult to access or is not available.  These additional administrative expenses can add a burden to already tight budgets and pulls funds away from program development.

Lacks Modern Tools for Both the Student Experience and Staff Productivity

Not having the correct tool for the job increases time required to complete a task and increases the possibility that the outcome will be less than favorable.  In today’s social media focused environment, some of these tools are now a requirement just to maintain the status quo, let alone delve into the future.

How does Your Registration System fare?

  • Is it cloud based (access anywhere)
  • Does it let customers register online
  • Does it let customers pay online
  • Is the master catalog derived from one database
  • Can get basic and strategic data out easy, fast and accurately
  • Are there marketing function (email, direct URLs, analysis)
  • Are enrollments and revenue are increasing
  • Does the system cost more to maintain than budget and/or time can support
  • Are there over enrollment and under enrollment issues
  • Is there still way too much paper being used to manage program
  • Are there hidden cost for purchasing, housing, and maintaining servers to run your registration system
Thank you to Sandra Krantz, Xenegrade Director of Sales, for her extensive input on this article.
Photo Copyright: ocusfocus / 123RF Stock Photo
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How to Get the Best Results from an Online Support Center http://xenegrade.com/how-to-get-the-best-results-from-an-online-support-center/ http://xenegrade.com/how-to-get-the-best-results-from-an-online-support-center/#respond Mon, 28 Mar 2016 15:23:00 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/2016/03/28/how-to-get-the-best-results-from-an-online-support-center/ The use of online, ticket based systems for software support has been growing consistently for years.  It is convenient, timely, cost efficient, and provides a first-come, first-served queue environment that is appropriate for properly managed support. 

To some customers, however, it seems tedious, unrewarding, and is not detailed enough for their objectives.  Using a different approach, customers can improve their capabilities using online ticket support systems and acquire much better results than they believe they experience now. 

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The use of online, ticket based systems for software support has been growing consistently for years.  It is convenient, timely, cost efficient, and provides a first-come, first-served queue environment that is appropriate for properly managed support.

To some customers, however, it seems tedious, unrewarding, and is not detailed enough for their objectives.  Using a different approach, customers can improve their capabilities using online ticket support systems and acquire much better results than they believe they experience now.

What is Software Support

Understanding software support may be step 1.  Software support is often defined as after sales service provided by a software company in solving software issues, end user problems, and supplying updates and patches. Support services typically include troubleshooting capabilities, installation assistance and basic usability assistance. Training is not typically a service of software support unless specifically contracted.

Be Specific

“My car has a problem”.  Ever heard that before? Do you think the mechanic knew what the issue was right away?  Most likely not.  Providing as much detail as possible on the initial ticket submission is by far the best approach.  Provide specific examples. If the issue relates to reports or searches, include the parameters being used.  The faster the support personnel can understand the issue, the faster and more accurate will be their reply.

Make the Subject Line Meaningful

When support personnel review tickets, the title is the first thing they see.  A subject line such as “Question” or “Why does it do this” do not provide any assistance in understanding the issue before the ticket is even opened.  Be concise, such as “Roster report displays fewer clients than enrolled”.

Use Common Language

Understand that support personnel probably do not know your uniqueness or language specific to your organization.  They may be replying to dozens of different organizations every day.  It is best to use language that is common to the software application rather than organization specific terminology.  Otherwise, they are trying to interpret what you mean.  If they are wrong, the reply is incorrect.  If they don’t know, the process slows down as they inquire about the meaning.


Providing basic usability assistance is typically the extent of the responsibility of support personnel.


Be Accurate

Seems obvious, but it is quite common that provided examples are incorrect.  For example, support personnel spend fifteen minutes searching for “Bill Smith id# 1250679” only to be unsuccessful because the client was really “William Smythe id# 1250670”.  Every inquiry support personnel send back trying to clarify the issue delays a proper reply and slows down the support process. Just as your time is valuable and limited, so is that of support personnel.

Prompts VS Errors

“We keep getting an error message.  Can you fix it?” In reality, the user received a message prompt informing them that they could not delete a record because there are related records in other tables.  This is not an error.  Prompts are valid messages informing the user why a process or function could not be completed.  There is little or no need to submit a ticket in these cases as the user already has the information needed to make the next decision.

Don’t Use for Suggestions

Support personnel are typically not the designers, developers, or programmers of the software system.  When a user requests a suggested change to the system, support personnel have little or no responsibility to approve or recommend system changes.  For that reason, suggestions are best handled outside the support ticket process.

Support Does Not Replace Training

Training is a separate process than support.  Providing basic usability assistance is typically the extent of the responsibility of support personnel.  Commonly, within online support systems, ticket replies may even include links to already developed knowledgebase articles answering the question posed in the ticket submission.  From their point of view, there is often little time nor need to repeat the same language that already exist in the support knowledgebase.

Who Are You

Sounds like an unusual question, doesn’t it?  It is more common than one would think that ticket submissions do not indicate the organization or the user making the inquiry.  Sometimes the only identification may be the email used.  But even then, if using a personal email versus a business email, there may be no way to identify the person and organization.

Don’t Cry Wolf

Emergency tickets are unique in that they are treated in a 911 manner, meaning something is wrong and it must be handled ahead of all other tickets.  However, use them sparingly so the intent of the emergency status is not diluted.  “I cannot get my deposit report to run” does not classify as an emergency compared to “Users cannot login into the system.”

Don’t CC Too Many People

With many ticket systems, email is an integral feature of the system.  Users do not have to log into the ticket system to see replies or to submit replies.  However, if more than one user is included in the ticket, every reply from every user will be submitted to the ticket system even when the email was meant to be from user to user rather than from user to support.  This can create a very confusing thread of ticket replies to the support personnel, not knowing who the intended target was.

Don’t Wait Until 4:45 PM on Friday

Just about everyone has had to deal with rush hour traffic at some time in their working career.  It can be frustrating.  Ticket systems seem to have their own mini rush hour on Friday afternoons just before the week is over.  Trying to resolve issues just before the end of a week may not be fully possible.  Even if the standard goal is to reply to tickets in fifteen minutes or less on average, late Friday tickets may not fare well with that goal and are often pushed to Monday mornings.

The Fix May Not Always Be Shared

In short, every “Why” may not get a “Because”.  Many times when a fix is made or an interpretation is provided, support personnel may not have the time nor the expertise to know what happened.  Usually they are not the ones making the fix.  They are the communicators.  They often assist in the research and then pass along the issue or inquiry to the programmers.  So when a fix is made, they may not even know why.  They know it was fixed and most likely tested it again to be sure before they reply to the ticket.

Photo Copyright: dogbone66 / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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Would You Advertise on Your Website? http://xenegrade.com/would-you-advertise-on-your-website/ http://xenegrade.com/would-you-advertise-on-your-website/#respond Thu, 24 Mar 2016 07:01:00 +0000 http://xenegrade.com/2016/03/24/would-you-advertise-on-your-website/ The internet has become one of the fastest growing methods of advertising, and businesses are always seeking effective ways to reach new customers.  Continuing education students are an excellent market as they can vary both demographically and geographically.

The link between continuing education programs and local businesses seems like a perfect match.  As with any media, however, there are both advantages and disadvantages to selling advertising on your website.

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The internet has become one of the Digital marketing conceptfastest growing methods of advertising, and businesses are always seeking effective ways to reach new customers.  Continuing education students are an excellent market as they can vary both demographically and geographically.

The link between continuing education programs and local businesses seems like a perfect match.  As with any media, however, there are both advantages and disadvantages to selling advertising on your website.

Advantages

It may be obvious that a benefit to advertising on your website is an increase in revenue.  Continuing education programs are usually cash strapped, work with a skeleton staff, and are very often self-sufficient.  Many programs would like to be a profit center, but often charged with at least covering their expenses so they do not become a cost center to their parent organization.  However, selling advertising on your website would generate additional revenue.

When a customer searches the internet for local businesses, the likelihood your program website may appear in the search results increases because some of those companies appear on your website.  Depending on how the advertising is integrated, search engines may include your website as a result.  This additional exposure could greatly increase the traffic to your program website.

As a part of the advertising agreement, the businesses advertising on your website may be open to placing a URL link to your program website.  This reciprocal URL arrangement increases the number of local customers who see your website and as a result could increase traffic as well.

Continuing education programs are very often considered as part of the community.  Many times they are even viewed as a community agency or government related entity.  This is probably most true when the program is based in a school or college that plays an integral part of the community.  Ad displays for local businesses on your website can reinforce an image of one that demonstrates support for the community.


“There are both advantages and disadvantages to selling advertising on your website.”


Disadvantages

Increased revenue may be an obvious goal with advertising, but the cost of generating the revenue must be taken into account.  If staff are required to perform the sales function or the process of integrating the ads into the website, that additional cost may surpass the additional revenue.  At the very least, it is possible that the cost of obtaining advertising does not warrant the effort.

Even though the advertising agreement may be strictly a financial arrangement, to the community the relationship between the two entities may appear as a sponsored role.  In other words, the community may view the continuing education program as recommending the product or service provided by the business.  In most cases this image may not cause concern.  However, a company that has or gains a bad reputation in the community may find that elements of that same reputation are transferred to the community education program.  Guilt by association is an uphill battle to fight, and even more difficult, to win.

Determining pricing for advertising may also be difficult.  Logically a continuing education should be able to charge the going market rate.  However, once again if there is a community image to the program, there may be an expectation that rates should be lower than market.  It is possible that many in the community may even believe that the program is funded by local tax dollars making price setting even more difficult.  Even if the parent organization has a link to local tax dollars, the image that those dollars also benefit the continuing education will be strong.

Photo Copyright: ellagrin / 123RF Stock Photo

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