Customer Service Mentality

Just prior to the end of the year, I wrote an email to share some thoughts with you regarding customer service and its primary role in our work. I want to follow up with more on that message and also to provide information on an executive director search and additional changes and next steps.

I began the note sent at the end of November with the following:

Service to and for our customers—whether faculty, students, staff, alumni, or any guest of the University or member of the broader community—is paramount. It is, in my estimation, the single most important focus underlying all of our work.

It has been encouraging to receive replies and feedback indicating this message resonates with many of you. Emphasizing customer service and reinforcing a “customer first” organizational mindset isn’t something that is good simply to say, I believe it is the right thing to do and also something we must do.

We must make it easier, not harder, for our customers to connect with technology; leverage technology to advance their work and their research and academic pursuits; and feel especially positive — delighted — about their experiences using technology and in working with those of us in IT who support that technology.

To move us toward achieving this goal, a customer service review was conducted at the beginning of December. A small team of higher education colleagues came to campus to assess IT Services’ customer service organization and overall approach to customer service. The team provided recommendations regarding the ways in which we can better support and serve our customers.

Figuring out what is next.

Some of us have started to work through the recommendations from the customer service review. In the coming weeks we will begin discussing the recommendations more fully with the ITS Senior Leadership Group (SLG) and the staff in our Solutions and Service Management (SSM) organization, as well as with others throughout ITS.

To summarize just a couple of the recommendations broadly applicable across ITS:

  • All areas of ITS and all ITS staff need to own “great customer service,” not only the SSM organization.
  • Service owners throughout ITS need to have documented service level agreements and must strive to always meet those agreements.

One highlight of the customer service review focused on the TechBar, which was viewed as a center of excellent customer service within ITS. Because there is a natural connection between the work of TechBar and the SSM organization — and to better leverage the best aspects of TechBar throughout the SSM organization — TechBar will be moved out of Academic and Scholarly Technology Services and returned to SSM. While this realignment won’t immediately change the operations of the TechBar, it will provide more opportunities for future expansion and diffusion of the TechBar model.

Within the next two weeks, a national search will begin for a new executive director for Solutions and Service Management. This executive director will report to me and directly oversee the customer service organization within ITS, as well as lead efforts to transform the overall customer service approach across ITS.

Until the new executive director for SSM is hired, we will continue to work with our existing team to provide leadership for SSM. Staff are being asked to identify and, where appropriate, execute on any opportunities to immediately begin to improve our customer service approach.

A few other customer service-focused efforts currently in flight include:

  • A series of Lynda.com courses on customer service are being reviewed and will be added to playlists made available to all ITS staff. Once available, I will ask you to complete those courses as part of our collective professional development and consider how you can incorporate the lessons into your work.
  • By the end of January, a plan will be drafted to establish a roadmap that will evolve the service desk, housed within SSM, to be able to provide tier one support for the services offered by ITS.
  • In February, Apple has invited me to bring a small group of UChicago staff members to attend a special training opportunity at their Michigan Avenue store. There, representatives from Apple will walk us through their approach to customer service and discuss ways we can improve our approach.

As I reiterated in my November note and as I’ve said many times before, our aim is and should always be to delight our customers. We have a good start, a great team, and the beginnings of a plan to be even better.

Please do not to hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or feedback. As always, I appreciate your engagement on these important topics.

3 Things you can do with UChicago Voices today

What I really like about a blogging system is that it is truly a platform for digital expression. What I mean by “platform” in this context is that it allows you an easy to use environment to publish digital content. UChicago Voices is built on WordPress, a blogging system, but I like to think of it as a publishing engine. With that in mind, what are a few things you can use it for today? If I were a student getting set to wrap up the academic year, here are three things I would consider launching with Voices before it is time to head home for the Summer.


Start a Blog

This sounds like a no brainier, but giving yourself a place to write during the Summer months is a long term gift. Not only can you cultivate a habit of ongoing reflective writing, you will be building a living and searchable repository of your Summer experiences. A space that you can share in the moment that belongs to you, not trapped in FaceBook, Tumblr, Snapchat, or somebody else’s space is a really powerful thing. A blog space is personal to you and you control what you write, share, comment on, and everything in between. A blog is a great place to capture the things you are doing outside of the traditional academic experience. If you are reading a great book, have seen a great film, or taken a road trip try and put into pictures and words how that experience impacted you. The evidence you build of your experiences will provide an interesting backdrop to the months spent away from UChicago.

Build a Photo Journal

Many of the pictures we take end up in other places online — Flickr and Facebook for example — and never end up in a place that we ultimately control. Voices is a great place to take, share, and manage your collection of Summer experiences. Again, the gift of doing this in a platform like Voices is that these photos are in your space, not in the hands of a corporation. The other benefits are much like the notions inherent in starting a blog. You will be actively challenged to not only take great photos, but to share the ones that matter to you and the audience that you will ultimately create. Taking the time to care about which photos get shared is a different experience than simply shooting selfies and sharing into Snapchat.


Create a Digital Notebook

I’ve used blogging platforms for years as a “personal content management system,” especially to create and organize notes. To make it easy to use for keeping your course notes together, create a private blog and set up categories for each class you are taking. Each note gets a category related to the course you are taking. There are some really positive affordances in using a blog as a digital notebook — search is a breeze, all your notes are stored (and managed) in the cloud, you can easily mix media by adding photos and video to your otherwise text notes, and by using categories for your classes, you can quickly and easily filter course specific notes. I have seen this done across an entire academic career and having access to 4 years of notes in one digital place is quite impressive.

So there are three quick thoughts on things you can do with Voices this Summer. I hope some of that is helpful.

UChicago Field Notes

As we quietly roll out the UChicago Voices platform I have been thinking of novel ways to share examples of the platform can be utilized. It is WordPress, so it is obvious to think of it as a blogging platform, but I learned years ago that a blogging platform is best positioned as something more than a blog. It is important to see it through the lens of a “platform for digital expression.” I have been talking about that for years and sometimes you can see people’s eyes light up and sometimes they just shrug their shoulders.

I’ve also learned that it is important to show examples of what I mean when I talk about this concept. With that in mind I decided to put together a simple photo sharing site that allows multiple photographers to share what they are seeing. I decided to call it UChicago Field Notes and invited a couple of people to kick the tires with me — to experiment in a homegrown UChicago photo platform.

There are only three of us, but I would love to add more so if you are interested just let me know in the comments and I will invite you. It is really straight forward — take a picture, log into the Field Notes site, and make a new post. I have to admit, I made it a little easier for myself and cooked up an IFTTT script that takes any of my Instagram photos tagged #fieldnote and auto publishes it to the Field Notes site. I love being surprised by other people’s photos and this is an interesting way to see what a few people find interesting.

UChicago Field Notes

Back to this idea of a blog is more than a blog. I spent time yesterday with colleagues in a our career services group here on campus and shared this one example and it resonated to the point where they are going to try out Voices as a way to expose more of the career opportunities that we provide to students. Students will have access to a multi author site and will record their trips to various companies in various cities. We talked about being able to quickly shoot and share photos, videos, and reflect on the things they are learning on site … all in real time. In that one example we can see a blogging tool as something that is much more than what one might think of as a blog — it becomes a place to share, save, and express yourself digitally. That is a critical skill in the world we live in now. I’ll share more examples of how Voices can be used and as I do I will continue to invite you to do the same.

Making Time

At the first Coffee with Cole, we spent time talking about the need to find time to reflect on who we are as individuals, as a group, as members of the UChicago community, and how our work creates impact. The intimacy that a conversation with five people affords seems to give us space to explore things that we might not ordinarily talk about in larger, more formal meetings. I enjoy that. I tend to think about the people that make up an organization so reflecting on growth, pathways, journeys, and behavior is a normal occurrence for me. Often times I am having that conversation in my own head, so getting to spend an hour with colleagues and digging into those topics is a real treat.

image

One of the main items of focus was the notion of time. More specifically not having enough. I often hear from the people around me that there just isn’t enough time to whatever it is that you want or need to do. A boss of mine many years ago told me something really important on my first day in a demanding new role, “make time to think.” That has honestly been some of the best professional advice I have ever gotten. Hearing that from my boss told me that my time is incredibly important and how I use that time equates to power. I do my best to make time to think every week. In my last three positions I have purposefully reserved Friday for myself — not scheduling any meetings unless they were thrust upon me by people I can’t say no to, or unless I valued the need to meet with someone enough to take time away from myself. I am not yet able to control my calendar to have a full day blocked, but I know over time that I will get close to that. For now, I reserve a couple of small chunks of time here and there so I can do some things I enjoy — write, read, learn, walk, think.

I guess what I am saying is that making time to manage your own growth is an important part of what you do here. There are a lot of strategies that I have used in the past that I want to discuss now that I’ve been here a couple months. I’d be interested in getting your perspective on some of these ideas.

I believe the first step in gaining control of parts of your day is to take a personal inventory of the things you have to do in a given month. What meetings are forced upon you and what meetings do you force on others? Is there a standing managers meeting you have to attend? How about one on ones with your boss or staff? Make a list of those and try to make sense of how much time you are giving to others and how much time you are giving to the projects you are working on. Once you have a personal inventory you can begin to think about how to actually use some of that time. Do yourself a favor and schedule some it to learn, write, read, walk, or think. Having a sense of what your calendar is all about is a really good step toward gaining some control.

There has been an interesting conversation going on in our Slack space about meetings and rethinking them. That is something I couldn’t encourage more. Challenge yourself, when you are setting up a meeting, to default to a shorter time that 30 or 60 minutes. Give a 15 minute standing meeting a try. Something I used to do at both Penn State and Stony Brook were walking meetings … especially when the weather is nice. Stand up and go outside. And speaking of standing, take a minute to stand up in meetings when the audience is alright with it. Sitting for 60 minutes is brutal. I do it all the time and people look at me like I am crazy. I’m not.

Meeting

Look at that attention and focus.

Finally, I’ll go back to the simple premise of creating a meeting free time each week. Give yourself the agency to control one small window of time and use that time for productively good things that can help improve your performance in other moments throughout the day.

Welcome! Let’s Talk …

By now I am guessing many of you have heard that I have started. I’ve been on campus since Monday, September 14th but I haven’t had the opportunity to meet all of you yet. For those of you in IT Services, it may not be until our Town Hall next week. For those who might be stopping by it may be a bit longer. At any rate I wanted to say hello, introduce myself, and share a bit about what I hope this space can become. I have been meeting with quite a few people already and have had the distinct pleasure to see some of the amazing sites our University has to offer. It is quite a stunning place.

Views from The University of Chicago

I’ve been blogging for quite some time and have always found it to be a great outlet to work through ideas, share thoughts, communicate my thinking, and invite comments and feedback. I will use this space as much as I can and I imagine it will change over time. Early on it will mostly be about reflecting on what I am learning and to share initial thoughts on my interactions on campus. As time goes on I expect it to become more of an outlet to keep people posted on what I am working on, thinking about, and pointers to things that are of general interest to me, to the campus community, and to those from the outside looking in.

Please consider this first post as an invitation for you to be active participants in this space. I am a believer in the notion of the web as a platform to support “conversations” and this space will be one vehicle I will use to offer opportunities to engage in conversations. It won’t be the only venue for that and in the coming days and weeks I will be sharing other opportunities for us to get together.

We are all incredibly busy doing what we do to support the faculty, staff, and students of our institution and taking time to blog may seem like a waste of cycles to some. To me it is part of the larger process of communicating across the institution. I can’t meet with all of you on a regular basis, the reality of time and scale just will not permit it. If there are things that you want to know from me that you think others will benefit from hearing, send me a note and let me know, that could very well be the prompt I need to take some time and articulate some thinking.

For now you should know that I am very active on the social web, some for me personally and some for professional pursuits. I don’t maintain multiple accounts, as I try to think of my online identity as an aggregate meta identity, so you won’t need to follow me across various twitter accounts, there is just one. I try very hard to maintain my social presence in an intelligent way, Facebook for example, is reserved for family and non-work related friends. Twitter is the place where I am active on the social web in an open way, so that is the place to follow me.

This is as much an invitation as it is an introduction, an invitation to engage in new forms of conversations. I will work to do my part, but my hope and ultimately, my expectation, is that you will be a part of this. I am well aware this will not work for everyone, but if it opens another channel for those that it does work for then I have succeeded in one small way. I will close with a very humble thank you, thank you for allowing me to become a member and a leader of this team. I will do my very best every single day to make sure we are delighting the people that count on us the most at this great University.

Thoughts on Teaching #CDT450

I promised myself I’d write. I did, but just not enough … at least not here. I wrote and posted a lot over at the course site for CDT450: Disruptive Technologies, but that isn’t the kind of writing I planned to do along side the course in a more reflective mode. I think I only did that twice.

I want to try and capture my thoughts on the experience before it becomes even harder to grasp — in short it was an exceptional semester, with an exceptional group of students, that taught me an exceptional amount about how to be a better human, teacher, colleague, and leader. I say that without hesitation. I told my wife last night that in many ways teaching this semester made me much better at my job (that is a self reflection based on only my own data). If I unpack that thought a bit I would say that having to juggle the rigor of my day job with preparing a three hour class each week for 15 weeks pushed me in so many different ways. I had to find ways to say no to some things more effectively so I could focus on the most critical things happening around me. I had to learn new approaches to learning content to teach to brilliant and very challenging students — I’ve not taught alone since maybe 2005, so carrying this load by myself was simply the biggest challenge of the semester. I had to figure out how to take on a presidential project with potentially huge implications to the campus under very tight time constraints while still managing to run DoIT, meet the expectations of my vice presidential role, and craft an engaging learning experience. To say that I grew by leaps and bounds along with my students this semester would be an utter understatement.

The course, as I’ve shared before, is framed around three primary themes — community, identity, and design. This was based on the experiences I had co-teaching this course with my long time friend and colleague, Dr. Scott McDonald at Penn State. Going it alone made me rethink a lot of it as we were always able to lean on each others strengths, so this was a very different course in many ways. I won’t go into details, as it would be easy to track our week by week progression by again visiting the course site. I will say this, there were so many unexpected surprises along the way that I thought I would list the ones that stood out the most.

Week One

The first day of a college class is usually a very basic thing — hand out the syllabus, review the course outline, get to know the professor, and do some basic introductions. Not in this week one! Sure we did the basics, but after listening to an episode of the podcast, Reply All the day before class I redesigned what we would do the night before. The episode called, “The Writing on the Wall” is described by the show’s creators the following way, “Yik Yak is an app that allows users to communicate anonymously with anyone within a 10-mile radius. At Colgate University in upstate New York, the anonymity brought out a particularly vicious strain of racism that shook the school.” What that episode so magically (and tragically) did was mash all three of our themes into a very relevant and difficult story. While it effectively brought community, identity, and design into focus — all while introducing the concept of disruptive technologies — it also created the surprising undertone of “race” as an ongoing theme to be continually revisited. Class was over at 6 … we all headed out after 6:40.

Oh, and they got iPads that they had to write about.

Week Five

This was the first Synthesis week, where they got to take over the class and lead the discussion. I purposefully gave them very little instruction so they could be as creative in their overview of our first theme, community. There were only two teams, but the way they crafted their respective synthesis was truly quite amazing. The two teams unintentionally played off each other during their time creating a whole that was most certainly greater than its parts. We noted a theme emerge — we never end at 6.

I asked at the end of class if we had turned into a community … the quick first response from a student, “we did today.”

Week 6

This is the week we moved onto our second theme identity. I asked them to create videos with their iPads and post them to the course blog … some of them were quite amazing. This was a week that we ourselves were disrupted by a snow day as classes were cancelled. That didn’t stop us. Google Hangout to the rescue — can you believe all of the students showed up for this voluntary snow day virtual class. There is a lesson in this for campus — if the network is running, classes (in some shape or form) can go on.

Week 9

As we worked our way through the identity theme another spike in our conversations about race emerged. This time brought on by the Martese Johnson beating at UVA. During that week I posted a link to an interesting site designed and published by students at UVA that one of my students reacted to in their own blog post that I shared with my community on Facebook. Things got crazy from there …

Two Penn State colleagues joined class that day. One, Sam Richards, via Hangout as his 750 student Race Relations class filed into Thomas 100 on the PSU campus to talk about race in America. The other, Curt Marshall who drove from State College, PA to Stony Brook, NY to join class face to face. What an experience for the students. Sam is known to be one of America’s 101 most dangerous academics and a great instigator and communicator. Curt is the Multicultural Affairs and Recruitment Director for the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture and is one of the brightest and most articulate people I know. It was a humbling day and one that I don’t think any of us will forget.

Week 12

By this time we were fully engaged with our final theme, design. The students were working through their Design Challenge creations via the Human Centered Design approach we utilized. They were envisioning an app for the iPad that didn’t exist that was focused on improving the student experience. An evening or two before class I noticed that Stony Brook Alumni Association had highlighted a recent alum who was now an app developer, so I took the chance and sent him a direct message introducing him to our class. He got back to me a little bit later after reading the class blog and decided he would come to class and talk to the students about app design first hand. It was a killer experience for us all … I think Eric really enjoyed it. I wonder if he realizes how much he inspired the students that day?

Weeks 13-15

The last three weeks of class were so brilliant I can’t single any one out. We did paper prototyping to bring app ideas to life, shared so many incredibly insightful ideas, wrote some amazing reflections, read some killer articles, and I got to watch as the two teams put a bow on the entire semester with two unbelievable final synthesis presentations. They brought the three themes together through the lenses of technology, the iPad as a positive disruptive force in higher education, and emerged on the other side as a group that is much more critically tuned to the potential affordances of the technologies we typically take for granted every single day. Their final reflections were amazing and I can’t tell you what a profound experience teaching at Stony Brook was for me in the Spring of 2015. Two pull quotes from final student reflections touched me deeply …

I can say that this has been one of the most remarkable class experiences I’ve had and I am very sad to see it coming to an end.

I’m actually a lot sadder to be writing this post than I expected to be. This class is hands down the most memorable and stimulating class that I have ever taken.

I felt the same way.

Snow Day Disruption

I’ve just about had it with snow … no, check that — I have had it! Thursdays are the days that I get to teach and I really love it. I’ve been sick all week and when I woke up around 4 this morning I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get through the day, regardless of the snow. I rescheduled my morning meetings and planned on resting until class time. When we cancelled classes later in the morning I figured it was a lost week.

What is disappointing is that last week we had such an amazing class as the groups did their first round of synthesis presentations, focusing on the ideas of disruptive technologies seen through the lens of our first theme of community. Truly an exceptional experience and one that pulled the class together into the early stages of our own community of practice.

So when the snow and my health threatened to cancel class we took matters into our own hands and disrupted the snow day by using Google Hangout to do a check in and a preview of the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly better than not having any time together at all. We did have a few moments of meaningful discussion about Library space, McLuhan, and how technology like Hangouts can be a decent tool for connecting communities.

hangout

Reflection on Day One of #CDT450

http://ift.tt/1yL5psr

Yesterday was the first day of CDT450: Disruptive Technologies. I ended up with eight students in the class … not the 20 I was hoping for, but actually the number works out really well. It is a bit early to tell, but from the interaction the first evening this is a great group of students. There was real discussion right from the get go, so that is encouraging. I was uneasy walking in yesterday for lots of reasons, but I think the primary one is that I haven’t taught alone since 2005 — and that was a 100 level course that I had taught at least a half dozen times. This is a very different animal as I have only ever tried to tackle a course like this with a co-instructor. This course was the brain child of my friend and colleague, Dr. Scott McDonald and I. We always liked the pairing of an administrator and an academic. It created a real interesting dynamic for us and the students. Now it is just me and that is a bit daunting. The crazy thing is Scott is teaching the course this semester at Penn State with two of my other friends and colleagues so I get to follow along.

We ended up packing the three hours — we even went over by 10 minutes. You can take a look at what we did at the course blog, but what you can’t see is the engagement and interaction. I think the most interesting and complicated conversation came after listening to an episode of the podcast, Reply All from Gimlet Media. This episode dealt with the very real and very ugly racism that exploded at Colgate on Yik Yak. After listening to that podcast we had an incredible deep dive into looking at the story through the lens of our core themes — identity, community, and design.

listening

Listening to the students recognize how identity is shaped and created through the use of technology was fascinating … as was their ability to grasp the nuances of the Colgate community reaction. I think the one aspect that pulled it together was the realization Yik Yak by nature is implicitly designed to be an anonymous social network — intentionally stripping identity from an individual. Additionally it is built to only let you really engage with members of a local community because of its location based approach. A truly terrible story, but one that allowed the class to really get an early handle on the interplay of our three themes.

The students all got iPads as a part of the experience. They will be doing an “Occupy Technology” project in which I am asking them to use and reflect on the iPad as a tool within the learning eco-system this semester. I hope to use what I learn to better inform decisions going forward with the use and adoption of mobile devices for our campus. as always a big piece of the course is happening in the open on our course site, so follow along there or on Twitter with the hashtag #CDT450 … all in all, it was a very good start.

Vía Cole W. Camplese http://ift.tt/1yL5nRf