By Ken KnoxProgram Director, Business and Management
Jefferson Community College
At the beginning of every semester I ask the students in my entrepreneurship, business, and marketing classes this question: ”What is the most important aspect of long-term success?” Although the answers range from proper planning and goal-setting to financial acuity to training and development of employees, the top two responses always are 1) find new and innovative ways to attract customers and 2) do whatever is necessary to keep those customers happy. The bottom line seems to be that customer service is critical to long-term profitability.
With that in mind, I’d like to pose the following two questions to you: ”Do you consider the students who take your classes customers?” and "What steps are you taking to serve those customers?” Despite some vigorous opposition by some of my colleagues, I absolutely endorse the idea that our students are our customers. When you think about it, they have the same characteristics of customers. They exchange their money (or taxpayers’ or scholarship donors’) for goods and services at our community colleges. The goods include books and supplies and the services include academic advising and financial aid assistance in addition to the classroom instruction we provide.
As each semester approaches, I seek ways to deliver the material in new and innovative ways. Most textbook publishers provide instructor resource materials including video clips and slide presentations. A word of caution is in order when using slide presentations. Be careful not rely too heavily on the presentation at the expense of your own expertise and experiences. The video clips provide foundations for classroom discussions that encourage the student to think creatively and critically. These two skills are invaluable to any entrepreneur.
Technology can also be used to further engage the students. I have found that classroom response units or "clickers” allow each student to participate without fear of embarrassment. This technology is very cost-effective and the students seem to enjoy using them. Today’s students are used to iPods, cell phones, and text messaging. The use of "clickers” in the classroom takes the educational experience to the students on their turf.
The tried and true teaching methods of case study and small group discussion round out my arsenal of in-class instructional methods, along with occasional guest speakers from local business and industry.
You may wonder, "Why bother? The students have to attend the class anyway.” I believe engaged students learn more, and study after study has shown that diversifying the classroom experience engages today’s students more than the traditional lecture-and-blackboard approach.
If we believe the students in our entrepreneurship classes represent the future of American commerce and if we believe, as most of my students do, that customer service is paramount to long-term success, then it’s incumbent upon us as instructors in general and entrepreneurship instructors in particular to reach out to our students and serve them on their level. The result will be more engaging classes, happier students, and hopefully repeat business for our colleges.
Ken Knox may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org