By Published On: October 28th, 2018

How understanding the service needs of staff can unlock higher satisfaction

Universities and equivalent institutions offer admin and support services to their staff in many ways: IT support, travel bookings, staff recruiting support, teaching and research funding application support, student counselling to name a few. These are far from routine services and some are regarded as very important or critical to their roles by over 60% of university staff. So, it is critical to get these right.

Our research shows that, without good feedback data to assist, many institutions don’t always focus on improving the aspects in their services that are most valued by their staff. The lessons from 1,400,000 user responses covering 65 services from over 30 institutions world-wide are clear.

Some factors consistently matter more to users of particular services than others, and these are different by service. Ignore these, and a university might focus and invest heavily in things that aren’t valued. Focus on these, and they can substantially increase staff satisfaction within a surprisingly short time.

Identify the service attributes that matter

A service comes with any number of ‘attributes’ that define how users experience the service – how responsive the provider is, how reliable they are, or how easy the process is to use.

Moreover, which attributes matter most to users varies radically across different services – for an IT helpdesk, for example, prompt and responsive service has three times more impact on service satisfaction than an efficient system to book and track service requests. In contrast, for travel services, good access to an integrated booking and admin system is 2.5 times more important than the responsiveness of people available to help.

Improving service user satisfaction

Our research has identified what matters most to an institution’s staff for 65 distinct support services, and shows remarkable consistency across institutions in terms of what these things are. We have also found that what matters to academic staff can differ materially from what matters to professional staff.

Focus on the attributes that matter most

At one large research intensive university, it knew how important travel was to its staff and feedback indicated high levels of frustration with the service. Without further insight to what was driving this, the university spent heavily on dedicated travel administrators – well above what other institutions of its scale and research intensity spend. Whilst staff appreciated access to great travel people and reported a highly responsive service, what mattered to them most was the complex administration process they had to deal with. So despite the high investment, satisfaction with the travel service remained in the lower quartile for the university’s peer group.

Another university secured a large lift in user satisfaction with its IT Help Desk services by analysing and then responding to the most valued service attributes for the service. In this case the most important attribute for an IT helpdesk is “prompt and responsive support”. Self-help travel booking is one thing, self-help IT problem-solving is quite another! So this institution worked to improve the reliability and responsiveness of its helpdesk. In just two years, it lifted the overall user experience from near- bottom quartile to mid-top quartile and satisfaction to top quartile levels.

Doing so can pay off handsomely

One large comprehensive research institution had one of the lowest satisfactions for its services portfolio compared to over 30 institutions globally following the introduction of an entirely new service delivery approach. With a highly focused effort, it was able to improve overall satisfaction with 35 core services to being above the median in the space of 18 months. This was without impacting its upper quartile efficiency position.

Several others have made similar strides forward. The evidence is clear, by understanding what matters most with their services, service providers within the institution can focus on the right things and make ground breaking improvements quickly.

About the Author: Edward Curry-Hyde

As founder and leader of Cubane and its UniForum service, Edward provides strategic direction and oversight for the organization on three continents. He has over 20 years’ experience assisting boards, CEOs and senior executives to make strategic business decisions and implement large-scale business transformations. He founded Cubane in 2003 and UniForum in 2009. His grounding includes 9 years with Booz Allen & Hamilton (now Strategy&) where he led their insurance consulting practice and was a member of the Asia-Pacific leadership team, and 7 years working as an academic and research scientist in Europe and Australia during which he authored over 40 scientific publications, was party to international patents and built a large research group with industrial and competitive grant funding. To contact Edward please email [email protected]