Training Tip of the Month – October

Did you Know

How can you improve your office’s relationships with students? No matter how talented your colleagues are, one of the things that students are most likely to remember is the direct interaction they have with your staff. Effective customer service is key. Here are some tips to help you and your staff/colleagues establish the best relationships with students, so they don’t fear the Financial Aid Office!

First, it is important to build a rapport with the student. Here are a few techniques which can be helpful:

  1. Use the student’s name
  2. Say “please” and “thank you”
  3. Show interest in the student’s needs and goals
  4. Be empathetic
  5. When the answer is no, explain the reasons
  6. Give the student options

Second, practice being a proactive listener so students feel that they are being heard and understood.

  1. Validate the student
  2. Nod your head
  3. Mirror behavior a little later in the conversation
  4. Use confirming statements (“Let me make sure I understand…”)
  5. Summarize key facts
  6. Ask if your understanding is correct; clarify key points
  7. Don’t start with pre-conceptions
  8. Be positive – don’t say what you can’t do – instead, tell them what you can do
  9. Focus on the student and not just the issue

Third, be honest in your content and have empathy in the delivery.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”
  2. Give a specific timeframe for when you will have an answer and get back to them
  3. Take ownership of the problem
  4. Follow through
  5. Admit your mistakes even if you discover them before the student does – this builds trust and restores confidence

Fourth, relay information clearly, keep it simple and leave nothing to doubt. One of the biggest roadblocks in our communication with students and their families is our lingo. We find ourselves explaining situations using acronyms and terms that are a foreign language to others. We need to be sure that we put ourselves in their shoes and speak clearly and in terms that they will understand.


Communicate, Collaborate, Accelerate; Art Young’s 2014 RMASFAA conference presentation

Enhancing Inclusion to Elevate Services to Students; Connie Jaime-Lujan’s 2014 RMASFAA conference presentation

Essay critiques how ‘student as customer’ idea erodes key values in higher education; Inside Higher Ed 

Using Good Customer Service in the Higher Education Marketplace; Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Customer Service in Higher Education: Finding a Middle Ground

Customer Service in the Financial Aid Office: Best Practices from the Field; University Business

Improving Efficiency and Customer Service in Higher Education: HDI White Paper

NASFAA’s Standards of Excellence in Financial Aid Administration

Customer Service in Financial Aid: Strategies to Engage Students and Make a Difference

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee

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