A Welcoming and Efficient Student Helpdesk
Reception Points and Helpdesks in Student Services have a myriad of functions which are perhaps often overlooked. So I thought it would be good to share for my latest blog post!
There is a sincere commitment within my role overseeing frontline delivery of a busy student counselling service to make students feel welcomed and put at ease. Being aware that this may be the first (and only) time a student makes contact with your service means there should always be a friendly face greeting them for appointments, a professional and assured phone style when asking about registering or a clear set of information provided on an easy-to-use website. This also extends to social media where contact is encouraged and responded to quickly and compassionately.
As a team leader, I have ensured that I have coached staff to be polite and respectful in what can sometimes be challenging circumstances when dealing with distress, frustration or contempt. Equally, I encourage my team to be playful and engage in good-natured chat with students that engage in this way. This is not to be confused with being unprofessional – in fact, the Service has received genuinely positive feedback for being able to showcase this personal sincerity of character. I praise my staff in making these (short) interactions fun and sustain a feel-good factor which then helps to create a pleasant, friendly Reception atmosphere.
Training and professional updating
Experience often means that staff in frontline roles can develop role confidence through acquired knowledge which in turn can improve consistency. That said, there is often a point where everyone needs refresher training or to expand their knowledge. Staff in my team will attend sessions annually on cultural awareness, customer service and role-specific training (such as Mental Health First Aid) in order to ensure key knowledge is updated and reviewed. As a team leader, I note where certain shifts in emphasis have developed too – either for the University or the team itself – and make changes accordingly. For example, our Service has undertaken more training that makes interpersonal communication the focus. This was as a result of growing numbers of international students in University. Clearly, there is a duty to ensure customer quality is maintained irrespective of who enquires with the Service.
Refurbishments and resources
Upon starting my role in May 2013, I was frankly dismayed that key footfall areas were unloved and quite shabby. In pre-project scoping meetings I championed the redecoration and review of space as a priority. This resulted in splitting the Waiting Room/Reception function into two separate rooms. As a result, the Reception point could also be better serviced by staff – enabling a more responsive customer service for in-person contact and phone calls. Furthermore, the Waiting Room has evolved into a bright, invigorating space with an inviting self-help book library. These resources are replenished frequently with older titles making way for new ones. The Service also procured iPads for quick online form completion and I took the initiative to create themed self-help shortcut ‘folders’ with useful Apps and web links. The most recent technological addition is a 32”inch plasma screen which promotes key news content detailing the latest workshops, events and fun days. New furniture has been integral which includes modern cube seating in bright bold colours which feels more inviting than the previous outdated décor. Another recent addition was an Art Zone to enable waiting students to unwind by mindfulness colouring. Certainly, there has had to be investment into this area but student feedback – 100% were quite/very satisfied with the facilities (2016 survey) – indicates the importance of facilities to returning student visitors.
The quality is in the detail. If Services are prepared to invest in staff training, continually improve waiting spaces and encourage staff to showcase their personal warmth then maintaining a welcoming and efficient student helpdesk needn’t be such a difficult task.