Student Employee and Supervisor Handbook

Dear Student/Employer,

Welcome to the exciting world of student employment.  The Federal Work-Study Program was established by Congress as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Its purpose is to promote part-time employment for students with financial need and to provide work experience related to a student’s interests.

The purpose of our work-study program is to provide students with entry-level employment opportunities which will build skill sets and work history. To the maximum extent practicable, we will provide FWS jobs that complement and reinforce each recipient’s educational program or career goals.

There are several benefits associated with FWS:

  • FWS provides opportunities for employment that are related to a student’s course of study.
  • FWS employers are flexible and willing to work around student class schedules.
  • FWS employment provides beneficial resume-building experience and training.  It can also provide you with opportunities to enhance your interpersonal communication and time management skills while developing work-related skills and responsibilities that can lead to career opportunities while still in school.
  • FWS employment is better than normal employment because the earnings are removed from income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). So, FWS earnings are not considered when figuring your “financial need” for future financial aid.

The Federal Work-Study Program is directed by the Office of Financial Aid at FVSU. We will make all efforts possible to promote job openings, but unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that all jobs will be filled or that all students will find a job.

Students and employers should remember that each has responsibilities toward the employment relationship. Federal Work-Study students are instructed that their job is second only to academics.  Students are limited to working a maximum of 20 hours per week or 40 hours per two-week pay period.  Students are also expected to practice common employment courtesy, such as calling well in advance if they are unable to work at a scheduled time.

Employers should also be sensitive to the special needs of college students, who occasionally may request a day off to study for exams. If both parties consider the concerns of the other and do not abuse the relationship, a work-study job can be a rewarding experience for all involved.

Please note that any student employee or employer who abuses the Federal Work-Study Program policies and procedures will be immediately removed from the program.

Respectfully,

Kimberly N. Morris

Director of Financial Aid


PURPOSE OF HANDBOOK

This handbook is intended to offer assistance to supervisors and student employees on the Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP) regarding effective policies, procedures, and regulations for work-study employment. 

INTRODUCTION

The Federal Work-Study Program is administered by the Office of Financial Aid.  The Office of Human Resources, Student Accounts and Payroll are partners in the employment of students on the FWSP.  Work-study employment is funded by federal and/or institutional funds and is awarded to students who qualify.  Only eligible students can be employed on the Federal Work-Study Program.  Work-study students cannot be employed as a work-study student and as temporary part-time or regular employees at the same time.

Work-study positions are hourly-wage jobs in which a student works for an employer according to a mutually agreed-upon schedule and is paid on a biweekly basis for the hours worked. Work-study awards are not grants automatically applied towards one’s tuition bill, nor is the amount of the award guaranteed. An award simply authorizes a student to participate in the program and sets a limit as to the amount of income a student can earn during the academic year. It is the responsibility of the student to work enough hours to reach the earnings limit and to budget the money wisely throughout the year to meet necessary college costs.

The Office of Financial Aid does not place students in jobs, nor can we guarantee a job. This responsibility rests with the student and the hiring supervisor. There are many different jobs available through the Work-Study Program. Some positions do require a background check.  With a variety of positions available, it is hoped that students will find jobs which are both interesting and related to their career goals.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

The University is required to allocate a percentage of federal work-study funds for community service employment.  Community service positions must be designed to improve the quality of life for community residents.  Examples of community service areas would be positions in health care, child care, literacy training, education (tutorial), welfare, social services, transportation, housing and neighborhood improvement, public safety, crime prevention and control, recreation, rural development, and community improvement. The services must be available to the general public. Community service assignments may be located on or off campus (with the approval of the Office of Financial Aid).

The University is also required to allocate a percentage of Federal Work-Study funds to the America Reads/Family Literacy tutoring program. Students interested in this type of community service employment must qualify for work-study as well as meet criteria established by the department.

QUALIFYING CRITERIA AND APPLICATION PROCEDURES

Students interested in work-study employment must apply each year by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Students meeting the financial aid deadline of March 1, with exceptional need, are given priority consideration for work-study funding.  Students can complete the FAFSA as earlier as October 1st and are encouraged to apply no later than March 1 of each year for the upcoming award year.

Students are awarded on an individual basis. An award is a maximum amount that may be earned by the student during the specified award period. The award reflects the maximum allowed earnings. Work-study awards are subject to change based on receipt of additional awards from other resources. Supervisors and students will be notified, via FVSU email, of any adjustments to the original work-study award.

It is the responsibility of the employer and student to ensure that student earnings do not exceed the award. If earnings exceed the award, the employer must pay 100% of the overage through departmental funding. Awards are subject to revision, increase or decrease because of changes to a student’s situation, awards and/or availability of funding.

The award goes to the student not the department. Therefore, if a student changes jobs, (s) he needs to come into the Office of Financial Aid to speak with the work-study coordinator to complete the necessary documents for the transfer.

The Office of Financial Aid will award a student a certain amount for work-study at the beginning of the award year, however; a student may not start a work-study position right away.  A student may not start employment until all payroll documents are completed and submitted to the Human Resource Department.  Students will not be paid from work-study funds if they are employed prior to authorization. 

Federal regulations require that students maintain a minimum enrollment of six credits each semester

Work-study students must:

  • File a FAFSA and be processed by the FVSU Office of Financial Aid.
  • Maintain a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)-SAP must be maintained to remain eligible to receive Title IV aid. Title IV aid includes Federal Pell Grants (PELL), Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), TEACH Grants, Federal Work Study (FWS), Federal Direct Loans and Federal Perkins Loans. SAP is determined by measuring the student’s cumulative grade point average (GPA) and the student’s rate of progression (PACE) toward degree completion. Student must maintain good standing at all times in order to receive FWS. If a student is on Warning, Probation or Suspension they will not be eligible for FWS.  (see Financial Aid website to read about SAP)
  • Be enrolled in 6 or more credits.
  • Have no defaulted Student loans (NSLDS).
  • Not be on Academic Suspension, Financial Aid Suspension or any other HOLDS.
  • FVSU full-time and part-time staff are ineligible for work-study funds.
  • All students should make sure they keep track of the status of their financial aid files. The financial aid packaging system awards on a 9-month period of enrollment (Fall-Spring).

EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITIES

EMPLOYMENT PLANNING

Most students seek employment at the beginning of the semester. Consequently, it is more difficult to employ a work-study student later in the semester. Many jobs that remain unfilled are those that require highly specialized skills, rigid working hours, or other very specific requirements. 

The purpose of the work-study program is to provide students with entry-level employment opportunities which will build skill sets and work history.  Work-study students are to keep their educational commitments as a priority; whereby other college employees are to keep work assignments as a priority.

REHIRES

There is no automatic rehire process for students on the work-study program.  Supervisors and students are reminded that work-study is awarded to students who meet the priority deadline of March 1 and is awarded on a first come-first served basis. 

SUMMER HIRING

Ordinarily, funding for the summer term is available only when total programs funds are not exhausted during the award year.  If a student is planning to attend one or both summer sessions, he or she should make an appointment to discuss funding with a financial aid advisor prior to enrolling for the summer session(s). The student and advisor will work together to determine summer work-study eligibility if funding permits. Summer work-study depends upon the availability of funds.  Funds are made available only by unearned wages during the course to the academic year.  Only students who meet eligibility requirements will be considered. Students may inquire in the Office of Financial Aid to see if they meet the criteria.  Departments must have prior approval from the Office of Financial Aid prior to employing a student for summer work-study.

JOB POSTINGS

Employers are required to submit job descriptions to the Office of Human Resources (OHR). The OHR will then post job vacancies on the website at https://fvsu-csm.symplicity.com/.  An accurate job description can promote a better selection of student employees which ultimately leads to better work performance and employee relations.

Students will be contacted by the hiring manager if selected for an interview.   

INTERVIEWING

A student must have a current Federal Work-Study Student/Employer Agreement Form before interviewing with an employer.  It is the employer’s responsibility to ask the student for an approved form before the interview begins.  New student employees as well as rehires must have current hiring documents on file in the Office of Human Resources.

The employer/supervisor should inform the student of job responsibilities and discuss specific skills required.  The employer should discuss dress code, working hours, punctuality and the student’s class schedule. Other items that should be discussed include cell phone and computer usage, customer service expectations, and school work policy.  Work-study students are paid employees and job duties supersede school work while on the job.  It is highly recommended that individual departments enforce this policy. Departments are not free to develop specific school work policies but should be flexible in allowing requested time-off for school work.  The employer/supervisor should try to establish a rapport with the student but be aware the student may not have the necessary interviewing skills required to impress a potential employer.  A student may not begin work until the hiring process has been completed and the student’s eligibility for work-study has been confirmed.

Determining the Number of Work Hours

Supervisors are responsible for determining the number of hours a student may work per week and for the length of the work agreement.  Supervisors should take into account any school related holidays and breaks in the academic instruction.  Each student’s hours to be worked are determined by dividing the award by the current hourly wage ($8.00 for Grade Level I, $9.00 for Grade Level II & $10.00 for Grade Level III for 2018-2019).  This provides the total amount of workable hours for the student.  The hours are further divided by the number of weeks in the semester which provides the maximum number of hours per week the student should be permitted to work.

Example:

The award for the year is $2,000.  First, divide the award by the hourly rate of pay to get the total work hours for the year ($2000 / $8.00 = 250 hours of work for the year). Then you would take the total work hours for the year that can be worked and divide by the weeks in both semesters (30 weeks) to calculate the number of hours per week that can be worked (250/30 = 8.31 hours per week). The amount of hours/week then would be 8.31 hours/week.

If the student works more than 8.31 hours per week, the student will run out of funding before the year is complete.  The employer will then be responsible for any excess earnings if the employer permits the student to work over the allocated award amount,   (employer responsibility 100%).

The student can also use the ADP website to check the amount they have earned.  Earnings on the award screen are usually current as of the last pay date.

As a courtesy, the Office of Financial Aid makes every effort to increase a student’s award upon request if: 1) funding is available, and 2) the student meets all eligibility criteria.

HIRING FORMS

Work-Study Application documents are provided to students at the student employee orientation at the beginning of the fall term. 

These forms include the following:

  • Federal Work-Study Agreement
  • Employee Data Form
  • Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification
  • Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (Federal)
  • Form G-4, State of Georgia Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (State)

During the Work-Study Orientation Session, students will be given all required hiring documents.  New hires must complete the Employee Data Form, Form I-9, Form W-4, and Form G-4.  Students previously on the FWSP within the past year or on a Personnel Action Notice (PAN) within the last year, need only complete the FWSP Student/Employer Agreement.  The Federal Work-Study Agreement is sent via email and it indicates the Student Employee/Supervisor information and the award amount.  The Form I-9 must have all the information requested to verify the student’s citizenship or visitation rights. It must be completed in full or this will cause a delay in the hiring process. The student and the employer must sign and complete the Form I-9 on the same date. It must be completed prior to a student beginning work.  All hiring documents must be returned to the Human Resources Department before the student can begin employment. 

If the employer decides to hire a particular work-study student, they should sign the Federal Work-Study Program Student/Employer Agreement and submit it.  The Work Study coordinator will send the completed Federal Work-Study Program Student/Employer Agreement to the Human Resources Department. The student is required to complete all hiring forms with the Human Resources Department. The employer must not permit a student to begin work until Human Resources Department clears student for employment. 

If the student is permitted to begin work prior to authorization, the department will be responsible for payment of all student earnings. If you don’t receive these documents please call the Human Resources Department at (478) 825-6301.

HOURS

A work-study student may work a maximum of 20 hours per week, based on eligibility, while classes are in session.  Students are not permitted to work during scheduled class time.  If a student is permitted to work during scheduled class time, the employer must provide written documentation to the work-study coordinator indicating that the class was not held.  This proof is required for audit purposes.   DO NOT permit students to work during scheduled class time without written documentation. 

NO overtime pay will be allowed for work study.

WAGES

Work-study students must be paid at least the federal minimum wage level.  The Office of Financial Aid sets the wage rate for work-study students and all students are employed at this rate. The current rate at FVSU is from $8.00/hour to $10.00/hour which started during the fall 2017 semester.

Students are paid bi-weekly on designated paydays set by the Payroll Office. Paychecks are posted to a student’s BankMobile Card or their personal checking or saving account.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, prohibits employers (including schools) from accepting voluntary services from any paid employee. Any student employed under work-study must be paid for all hours worked.

TIMESHEETS

Departments are encouraged to maintain a timesheet for each student employee.  Students are responsible for entering the time worked in ADP and supervisors are responsible for approving that time each pay period.  It is important that each work-study student clock-in/out daily. The supervisor should have procedures in place to verify and approve the hours thru ADP.   In the event that the student has not been set up for time entry in ADP, a paper time sheet must be turned into the Payroll Office.

Hours worked must be documented by a time sheet. It is important that students enter the amount of hours worked daily.  The supervisor must verify these hours to avoid any conflict at the end of the pay period. Any hours paid and reported for more than one month ago will be charged to the departmental account at the 100% rate.

Student earnings can be viewed on ADP. This will help assist the employer in monitoring earnings and to alert the employer of changes to the total award.

PAYROLL DEADLINES

Payroll deadline dates are established and published by the FVSU Payroll Office if you have any questions telephone (478) 825-6225.

It is not necessary to turn in a time sheet for hours entered in ADP. However, if the deadline has passed you will not be able to enter time and will need to complete a paper time sheet.

Timesheets should be turned in promptly according to the payroll deadline schedule to student’s direct supervisor.  The supervisor will then submit the late timesheets to the FVSY Payroll Office.  Please keep copies of timesheets.  Payrolls turned in after the deadline date will be processed and submitted for payment the following pay date as long as all required hiring documents are completed in the Office of Human Resources.

STUDENT TRAINING

All work-study students will complete a customer service training session as part of their application requirements.  They will review basic expectations of customer service quality at FVSU.  Applicants must complete the training, available through the Office of Financial Aid, before being allowed to interview. 

Despite the customer service training provided to all applicants, it is highly recommended that the employer/supervisor conduct a training session with each new work-study student hired. This should occur on the first day of work and preferably on an informal basis. It is the duty of the supervisor to furnish the new employee with clear responsibilities. Simple training is usually the most effective.

The supervisor should explain the work procedures.  It is also suggested that each department have some written explanation of the duties for each job within the department.

During the training session, the supervisor should inform the new employee of office policy in regard to where and when to report for work, office dress recommendations, basic homework policy, cell phone and allowable computer usage, how and who to notify in case of absence, how to report hours worked, how earnings are paid, and any other necessary information.

BACKGROUND CHECKS

Some departments, primarily those having direct contact with minors and children, issued multiple access keys, and handling money, may require criminal background checks of student workers.  Background checks will be conducted by the Office of Human Resources and in accordance with FVSU policy.   Please contact the HR Department for more information.

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS

The Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) was put into place to protect the privacy of student records.  FVSU has adopted a FERPA policy in which NO student information is released to a third party without written consent of the student.  Many campus departments and offices hold sensitive and confidential student records and information.  Offices must have students sign a confidentiality agreement.

An example confidentiality agreement can be found under the ‘forms’ section of the financial aid webpage.   You should tailor the agreement to fit your needs.  Contact the Office of Financial Aid if you have further questions regarding FERPA or would like your particular agreement form reviewed.

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYER /SUPERVISOR

  • Develop accurate and useful job descriptions for all work-study positions.
  • Interview each applicant in a similar fashion. It is recommended that the supervisor ask each student similar questions and to put the interviewee at ease during the interviewing process. All questions asked should be job related. Students should have a current FWSP Student/Employer Agreement.
  • Agree upon scheduled work hours which are compatible with the employer and the student’s class schedule.
  • Inform work-study students of all duties and responsibilities and to supply any other information they may require such as pay per hour, line of authority, etc.
  • Students should be informed of school work policy.  It is highly recommended that students not be allowed to complete homework during scheduled work-study hours. 
  • Train student employees to successfully carry out all necessary duties of the job.
  • Inform student employees of any changes in procedures, scheduling, or working conditions.
  • See that all employee work hours are reported accurately and that work performed during that time was satisfactory.
  • Inform all work-study students that developing good working relations with all employees is important.
  • Correct inappropriate behavior as soon as possible. Immediate action should be taken when explaining to the student why the behavior was incorrect and exactly what is expected of the employee.
  • Resolve any problems pertaining to performance or working relations with an employee. If no resolution can be reached, the supervisor should bring the problem to the attention of the department head.
  • Provide a reasonable explanation for terminating employment of a student to both the worker and the department head. If the termination is involuntary, a reason needs to be stated for the termination.
  • It is recommended that informal evaluations of student employees by the supervisor be conducted at least once a semester. The immediate supervisor performs the evaluation. It should be made available to the students to let them know how they have been performing assigned duties and responsibilities and methods of improvement if necessary.
  • Maintain accurate accounting of employee’s hours worked and meet Payroll Office deadline dates.
  • Employers should have work-study students sign in and sign out each day worked to avoid any conflict at the end of the pay period. Hours worked must be documented.
  • Keep track of all students’ work-study awards and their remaining balances available to earn for each semester. It is very important that the student does not exceed the award. The department must pay 100% of the overage.

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR STUDENT EMPLOYEE

  • It is the student’s responsibility to satisfactorily perform specific duties assigned.
  • The student should cooperate in scheduling work periods. Once a schedule is established the student is responsible for working those hours.
  • Students should not be completing homework assignments during scheduled work-study hours for which they are being paid.
  • The student should always record time worked accurately and consistently at the end of each work period.
  • The student should always report to work on time and inform the supervisor whenever it is not possible to do so. Notification should be given as soon as possible so the employer can make arrangements to cover for the absence. The same procedure should be taken when the student is unable to work a scheduled shift. The student should be prepared to give a reason for absence as this may be needed information to be kept in an employment record.
  • A student has a right to file grievances for issues of discrimination and unfair employment practices.  The student is to file the grievance with the Office of Financial Aid. 
  • The student is to inform the supervisor and the Office of Financial Aid of any plans to end employment. The customary notification time period is two weeks.
  • Work-study employees are required to notify the employer of any changes in their work-study awards.

PROBATION

All work-study employees are employed as temporary employees with the university and on a probationary status for the first thirty (30) days.  During this time the supervisor will determine whether the student is able to perform the assigned duties satisfactorily.  A student employee who does not meet the required standard of performance may be terminated without cause or notice.

If the work-study student has performed sufficiently to be retained, but shows deficiencies which must be corrected, the supervisor/employer is to communicate with the individual both in person and in writing about performance expectations.

TERMINATIONS

Voluntary Termination – The student may decide to leave a work-study position voluntarily.  Such a request is usually presented to the employing department in writing.  Employer should process a Termination Form online.

Involuntary termination – A supervisor/employer may determine to end a work-study’s employment for performance or funding reasons.  The method to use before the termination of a student’s employment is as follows:

  1. After a work-study student has been thoroughly trained and performance issues persist, a verbal warning is given to the work-study student with opportunity for improvement.
  2. If the performance issues continue, a written warning should be given to the work-study student with a copy of the warning sent to the Office of Financial Aid, again with opportunity for improvement.
  3. If the student is unable to correct the performance deficiencies, the supervisor/employer should contact the Office of Financial Aid and be prepared to discuss a summary of the issues.  The Office of Financial Aid will contact the student and inform them that their employment assignment has been terminated.
  4. Immediate termination – In certain instances of a serious nature, the supervisor/employer may contact the Office of Financial Aid and request that a work-study student be removed immediately from the employing department.

GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Misunderstandings and disagreements between supervisor/employer and a work-study student may arise regarding assignments and performance expectations. These disagreements should be resolved promptly through a discussion between the work-study student and the immediate supervisor. Questions involving interpretation of university policies should be referred to the Office of Financial Aid. If a conflict cannot be resolved, the work-study student will be removed from the department and the Office of Financial Aid will look for other work assignments or may dismiss the individual.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICY

It is the policy of Fort Valley State University that all employees and students are able to work in an environment free from all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment refers to behavior, either direct or indirect, that is not welcome, is personally offensive, debilitates morale, and therefore interferes with the university’s mission and its effectiveness. Sexual harassment includes behavior that may not be considered overtly sexual.  Federal law prohibits sexual harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The existing Board of Regents’ policy declares “that it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer, because of the sex of any person, to discharge without cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against any person with respect to any matter directly or indirectly related to employment or academic standing.” Sexual harassment, whether it be by peers, by persons in authority, or by students to faculty, violates federal law and Board policy. It is the intent of these policies to include sexual harassment by peers. Some examples of relations to which harassment policies apply are as follows:

a. faculty – faculty.

b. staff – staff.

c. student – student.

Additional examples of relations to which harassment policies apply and that involve sexual harassment by persons in authority include:

a. faculty – student.

b. faculty – staff.

c. graduate student-undergraduate student.

d. supervisor-subordinate.

Sexual harassment of faculty by students is covered by these policies if it interferes with the faculty member’s work or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Consenting sexual relationships between faculty and students, or between supervisors and subordinates are actively discouraged and may be deemed sexual harassment.

Definition

Sexual harassment of employees or students of Fort Valley State University is prohibited and subjects the offender to dismissal or other sanctions after compliance with procedural due process requirements. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1984) guidelines, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing; or
  1. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting an individual; or
  1. Such conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment.

Consensual Relationships

An employee of or student at Fort Valley State University should realize that sexual harassment most frequently occurs when one person has some power or authority over another. The relationship between a faculty member and a student should be considered one of professional and client in which sexual liaisons, even consenting liaisons, are inappropriate .because they threaten the intellectual dependence and trust that underscore the teacher/student

bond.  Likewise, the relationship between a supervisor and subordinate must be a professional one free from sexual involvement.

Although the policy of Fort Valley State University does not expressly forbid consenting sexual relationships, such relationships are strongly discouraged and all personnel are cautioned that persons entering into such relationships do place themselves in danger of subsequent charges of sexual harassment which would be most difficult to dispute.

In light of the above, Fort Valley State University strongly discourages consenting sexual relationships between faculty and students and supervisors or faculty who engage in such relationships must remove themselves from any decision-making activities regarding their consenting partner.

President’s Statement on Sexual Harassment

The Fort Valley State University is committed to maintaining a working environment free of objectionable and disrespectful conduct and communication of a sexual nature, especially when such conduct is imposed by one on another and adversely affects a member of this institution’s employment environment. Sexual harassment subverts the mission of the University and is viewed as a violation of Title VII and Title IF of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated by the university. Sexual Harassment in any context is reprehensible and is a matter of particular concern to the academic community in which students, faculty, and staff are related by strong bonds of intellectual dependence and trust.

Customer Service the FVSU Way

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for your interest in becoming a student-worker at Fort Valley State University.  To ensure that all employees under the student-worker programs are aware of basic customer service expectations we require all potential student-workers to complete the training session on customer service when applying for a work-study position. Below is the written version of the customer service training.  Please feel free to reference this section of the handbook if you need a refresher in any segment.

WHAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE THE FVSU WAY?

Customer service the FVSU way is all about QUALITY SERVICE.  It is FVSU employees who demonstrate high levels of motivation, enthusiasm, skill and knowledge when serving their customers because they understand that each customer is an individual who had unique needs that must be satisfied.  FVSU employees implement the FVSU way of customer service by working hard to meet, and whenever possible, exceed their customer’s needs.

WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT CUSTOMER SERVICE?

The best colleges and universities understand that students have many choices from which to obtain their education.  By addressing our customers’ needs, we help ensure that the University is providing a quality educational product, service and experience to our customers.  In addition, great customer service helps the University build a loyal customer base both now and for the future.  It is our belief, that our commitment to quality customer service, encourages every employee in every department to work together to ensure the FVSU experience is effective, efficient, satisfying and meaningful for every student, parent, staff, faculty and community member.  For these reasons we care about customer service.

WHO ARE OUR CUSTOMERS?

Get the idea?  Everybody is, or potentially is, a customer of the University.  The effect of consistently good customer service over time builds a strong and loyal customer base.  The effect of poor customer service just one time can do irreparable damage to the customer relationship.  Keeping in mind that everyone you deal with is a customer, makes your job easier.  You don’t have to decide who deserves your best, because EVERYONE DESERVES YOUR BEST!!

WHAT DO CUSTOMERS WANT?

Every customer has two basic kinds of needs, to be treated with decency and respect (personal needs) and to have their service / information / product needs (practical needs) fulfilled.  How well you satisfy both kinds of needs shapes your customers’ perceptions of the service you provide.  To satisfy your customers, you must meet or exceed both personal AND practical needs.   

Personal needs

Customers want to feel good about the way you serve them.  They want to feel as if you care about them.  They want to feel confident in your ability to meet their needs.  They do not want to feel ignored or embarrassed or as if they are an interruption to you.  The way customers feel about the service you have provided address the customers basic personal needs.

Basic personal needs include:

  • Feeling valued, respected, important, and special
  • Knowing they are heard, understood, and cared about
  • Being involved in processes and decisions that affect them

Practical needs

Customers initially come to your department for a variety of reasons.  For example, they want to take a class, earn a degree, check out the campus, utilize the students services area, apply for graduation, talk to someone about financial aid, or get information on nutrition and healthy living.  FVSU provides services that can enhance someone’s life, encourage the pursuit of goals toward a career, and expand their mind.  When you efficiently and effectively determine what customers want you to provide, and take appropriate actions to supply it to them, you satisfy their practical needs.

Practical needs include:

  • Having a problem solved
  • Getting information or having a question answered
  • Obtaining a product or service
  • Getting assistance in performing a task

KEY PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN PROVIDING EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE

One thing that helps customers decide between similar products and services is the way they are treated.  When you make customers feel good about doing business with you and your department, they are more likely to return.  Providing services that meet or exceed the customers’ basic personal needs is what it is all about.

Some key principals for meeting or exceeding your customers’ basic personal needs are:

  1. Maintain or enhance self-esteem
  2. Listen and respond with empathy
  3. Understand non-verbal communication
  4. Involve the customer

MAINTAIN AND ENHANCE SELF-ESTEEM

“Maintaining and enhancing self-esteem,” means helping people feel good about themselves.  Customers feel valued when they are treated with respect.  Because customers are the reason FVSU exists, you will want to give every indication that what they say and do is important to you. Customers who feel valued are more likely to continue to be loyal, satisfied customers.

To maintain or enhance self-esteem, it is important for you to:

  • Use the customer’s name
  • Show your appreciation for the customer
  • Compliment when appropriate. (Be specific and sincere when complimenting or acknowledging.)
  • Choose words carefully to avoid damaging the customer’s self-esteem.

Examples of maintaining or enhancing self-esteem include:

“That’s a good question to ask, Mr. Smith, the registration process at FVSU can be complicated.  I am here to help answer any questions you may have and get you registered for the right classes.”

“Thank you for pointing out the difficulty you had in getting into the correct class.  I appreciate you taking the time to tell me there was a problem, and I assure you I will look into this right away.”

Maintaining or enhancing self-esteem is NOT:

  • Offering false flattery
  • Sounding insincere
  • Providing compliments only to get what you want
  • Building one person’s ego at the cost of another’s
  • Avoiding the customer
  • Overusing the customer’s name

ACTIVE LISTENING AND RESPONDING WITH EMPATHY

“Active listening and responding with empathy” means demonstrating to your customers that you understand and care about what they say.  The purpose is to show customers that their feelings are important to you.  Do not assume that customers know you understand their concerns.  Express your understanding- show them you understand.

To listen and respond with empathy, it is important that you:

  • Listen actively for the FACTS of the situation.  Do not interrupt.
  • Listen and watch for signs of how the customer is FEELING.
  • Respond in a way that shows you understand both the FACTS of the situation the customer described and how he or she FEELS about it.

Examples of listening and responding with empathy include:

  • “I can hear that you’re frustrated (feeling) about this problem.  You’ve been inconvenienced by the delay in publishing the spring schedule (fact).”
  • “I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the new class schedule that we worked on together (fact).  Have a great semester (feeling).”

Always acknowledge both the facts and feelings that customers express to you.  If you acknowledge only one, customers will think you do not fully understand them.  When customers express negative emotions or describe problems, it is critical for you to demonstrate that you have understood.  Once customers believe you understand them, it is easier to focus their energy on working with you to resolve their issue.

Active listening and responding with empathy is NOT:

Pitying or patronizing

Necessarily agreeing with the person

Simply saying, “I understand” (especially when you really don’t)

Repeating the customer’s remarks word-for-word

NONVERBAL CUES: TRUE FEELINGS SHINE THROUGH

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when someone said, “Have a nice day” without making eye contact?  Did you ever feel unwelcome when someone said, “I can help you here,” without smiling at you?  Do you ever think service providers are insincere when they rush through and / or mumble the phrase, “Thank you for your business?”  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you were reacting to nonverbal communication.

Types of nonverbal communication

Although the words you use to communicate are very important, a message is also conveyed by your:

  • Facial expression
  • Posture and how close you are to the other person
  • Voice tone, pitch, volume, speed
  • Eye contact

When these nonverbal cues conflict with what you are saying, people will believe the nonverbal message. Studies have shown that over 90% of communication is nonverbal.  The shrug, the turned away eyes, and the frown – these are all nonverbal indicators of your TRUE feelings – regardless of the words you use.

Being aware of your own nonverbal communication style and fine-tuning it to match your words is very important.  This will help you:

  • Understand how the customer perceives your nonverbal cues.
  • Identify when nonverbal communication doesn’t match the verbal message.
  • Become aware of your nonverbal habits on the phone and in face-to-face interactions.
  • Identify how you can adjust your nonverbal communication to increase your effectiveness on the job.

Tips for enhancing nonverbal skills

As you work on your nonverbal skills, consider these points:

  1. Smiling usually makes people feel good. Customers can tell when you’re smiling even on the phone.  Be careful when and how you smile when talking with a customer who is upset or is making a complaint; the customer then could see your smile as a condescending smirk.
  2. If you would like customers to perceive you as confident, speak at an even pace, in a moderate volume, and with a lower pitch.
  3. Eye contact is extremely important.  If you don’t make eye contact with your customer, that person may be suspect of your motives or think you are being insincere.
  4. Vary your rate of speech depending on the situation.  In routing situations, an even, moderate pace is good.  Matching the customer’s pace works well too.  If the customer speaks slowly or speaks a native language different from your own, you might need to speak more slowly.

INVOLVE THE CUSTOMER

To involve the customer means to share the appropriate information with customers and get them to participate in decisions and actions which affect them.  Customers want to have a say in what’s happening to them.  They dislike feeling ‘processed’ or ‘handled.’  By involving customers, when appropriate, you let them know that you value their thoughts and ideas, that you are their partner, and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to meet and exceed their expectations.

When involving the customer, it is important to:

  • Ask the customer for his or her preference.
  • Share important details or information about the situation.
  • Make the customer aware of options.
  • Ask for ideas, even when you have a good solution.
  • Explain what you are doing or going to do (especially over the phone).
  • Avoid telling or demanding.

Examples of involving the customer are:

  • Which days of the week are best for you to see your financial aid advisor?  Do you prefer a morning or an afternoon appointment?  I am going to put you on hold for a minute to check what is available.
  • I understand that you are looking for information on Biology scholarships.  If you will hold, I will transfer you to the Biology Department where they will give you the information you need.  Let me give you the phone number for the the Biology Department in case we get disconnected.

Involving the customer is not:

  • Asking for input from the customer on everything.
  • Asking for input you don’t intend to use.
  • Seeking input on meaningless issues just to appear to be involving.
  • Overexploiting or giving too much detail.
  • Sharing inappropriate or personal information.
  • Complaining to the customer about anything, especially work-related issues.

SERVICE STEPS

To satisfy a customer’s practical needs, you must efficiently and effectively determine what they want you to provide then take appropriate action to supply it.  You should never pass a customer off to another employee or department without properly assessing your ability to help.  Below is a 4-step process called the Service Steps, which can assist you in determining your ability to help a customer.

Step 1:  Acknowledge the person

It is simple but important to greet customers as soon as they call or walk near you.  A good rule to follow is the 5/10 rule.  When you are 10 feet away from someone, you make eye contact.  When you are 5 feet away, you should acknowledge the person by greeting them.  For example, when you answer the phone, say “Good morning, it’s a great day at Fort Valley State University, this is Jane Pittman.  How may I help you?”  This common courtesy is often missing in our everyday encounters with internal and external customers.  As part of your greeting it is a good idea to tell the customer your name.

Step 2:  Clarify the Situation

Before you can satisfy a customer’s practical needs, you must find out what those needs are.  Be careful not to assume what a customer needs.  Ask open-ended questions and do not put a customer on the defensive.  Open-ended questions typically start with a “W” (What can I do for you?) or “H.”  (How may I help you?).   Paraphrasing back to the customer can also help to clarify issues.

Step 3:  Meet or Exceed the Need

Once you know what the customer needs, you can begin to meet, and hopefully exceed, that need.  Always try to give the customer a little more than what they expect.  That extra effort can, and usually does, pay off handsomely in the way of loyal customers.

Step 4:  Confirm Satisfaction

You need to check to see that you met the customer’s needs before they leave your department or hang up the phone.  Ask confirming questions such as, “What else can I help you with today?” Or, offer additional assistance such as “Once again, my name is Jane.  Please don’t hesitate to call me if you would like instructions on filling out those forms.”  This demonstrates commitment to qualify on your part and shows the customer that you, your department, and FVSU stand behind its products and services.

TAKE INITIATIVE TO MEET AND EXCEED THE CUSTOMER’S EXPECTATIONS

Example One

Arriving late one night, a hotel guest who had an important meeting the next morning realized he’d forgotten to pack a tie.  The clerk at the front desk offered to lend the guest his tie.  After the clerk’s shift was over for the evening, he delivered the tie to the guest’s room.

Example Two

A diner quietly asked the hostess if a secluded booth was available because he planned to propose to his girlfriend during dinner.  Not only was the couple seated in a secluded area, but the server also placed a single rose in the vase on their table after the proposal had been accepted.

Example Three

A student wanted help with her English paper that was due the next day.  She was new to the campus, as her classes were all online.  Not only did the FVSU employee write down the name and number to the Student Success Center with hours of operation on it, but she also walked her to the SSC tutoring lab and introduced her to the tutor.

These stories express the commitment and response that service providers extend to go beyond customer expectations to truly delight their customers.

Typically, a service provider’s job means reacting to customer’s needs.  What can distinguish great service from good service is a proactive approach.  In other words, taking initiative.

  • Prepare by learning all you can about FVSU (services provided, degrees offered, building locations, etc.) and about customer’s needs.  Customers appreciate having questions answered promptly and accurately.  Also, know who to ask for help and responsibilities of the various departments within FVSU.
  • Explore what you can do to exceed expectations even when the customer is satisfied.  Also, consider what you can do for the customer when you can’t do what they want.  Both cases require that you understand how much authority or empowerment you have in a particular situation, and when you need to ask a supervisor for assistance.
  • Follow through on customer feedback by alerting other FVSU employees and supervisors to suggestions, complaints, or compliments you’ve received on behalf of the customer.

Top five phrases that anger customers:

  1. “You’ll have to come back later when someone is here to help you.”
  2. “I’m not allowed to do that.”
  3. “That’s not my job.”
  4. “That’s our policy, sorry.”
  5. “I don’t know.”

TAKING THE HEAT

Taking the HEAT is an effective method for dealing with unsatisfied customers.  It provides you with an opportunity to address the customer’s personal needs (feelings) as well as his / her practical needs (facts).

  1. Hear them out:

More often than not, an unsatisfied customer wants someone to hear him / her out completely and without interruption or excuses.  You can show that you are listening by:

    • Nodding
    • Taking notes
    • Maintaining eye contact
    • Asking open-ended questions

Encourage an angry customer to talk it all out.  Do not pass an angry person off to another person or department if possible.  If you cannot calm down the angry customer, get your supervisor.  Explain to your supervisor, in detail, what has transpired, so the supervisor can have the context of the situation in order to assist the customer in the best possible light.

  1. Empathize:

After being heard, the customer wants to know that you understand and care about his / her situation.  For example, “I can understand why you are so frustrated by not being able to sign up for the English 111 class without first taking the placement test.”

  1. Apologize:

The customer wants to hear that you (FVSU) are sorry for whatever took place.  You can apologize without taking the blame.  For example:

  • “I’m sorry this upset you.”
  • “I’m sorry you weren’t treated fairly.”

But, be careful not to apologize too much.  Doing so might make you or FVSU appear incompetent.  When apologizing, be sincere and specific.

  1. Take Responsibility for Action:

This is called the “so what” stage.  So, now that you know I’m upset, what are you willing to do about it?  This means clarifying whatever unmet needs the customer still has, and then taking action to personally make sure those needs are satisfied.

Right to refuse service

If a FVSU customer’s actions are deemed inappropriate toward an employee or student worker, the employee or student worker should terminate the interaction immediately and notify a supervisor as soon as possible (with a follow-up in writing).  In addition, if you see a co-worker in a situation that may require assistance or support, please contact a supervisor immediately.  Behaviors that should be communicated to a supervisor include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Rudeness, including loud and offensive language.
  • Unreasonable demands which do not adhere to the FVSU guidelines for customer service.
  • Being under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol.
  • Threatening or erratic behavior.

TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE

Part of doing business means doing business over the Telephone.  Because the telephone is such and important instrument in our daily business listed below are some helpful hints and proven telephone techniques that will help to make your telephone conversations more effective.

Creating a good first impression:

  • Try to answer the phone on the second ring.  Answering a phone too fast can catch the caller off guard and waiting too long can make the caller angry.
  • Answer with a friendly greeting.  (Example – “Good afternoon, it’s a great day at Fort Valley State University, Office of Financial Aid, Jane Pittman speaking.  How may I help you?”)
  • Smile- it shows, even through the phone lines!
  • Ask the caller for their name, even if their name is not necessary for the call.  This shows you have taken an interest in them.  Make sure that if you ask for their name, that you use it.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.  Never talk with anything in your mouth.  This includes gum.
  • Lower your voice if you normally speak loud.

Putting callers on hold:

When putting a caller on hold, always ask permission.  If they ask why, provide them with the answer.  Examples: “Would you mind holding while I get your file?” or “Can you hold briefly while I see if Mrs. Smith is available.”

When taking a caller off hold, always thank them for holding.

Transferring a caller:

  1. If the caller needs to speak to another person or department, please transfer the caller directly to the desired person’s extension.    This will save the caller from having to explain his / her requests another time and it will cut the number of times the caller needs to be transferred.
  2. When transferring a caller, tell them to whom you are transferring them.   Remain on the phone to ensure that the desired person answers the call. You do not want to have the caller reach a voice mailbox.  If the voice mailbox is activated, ask the caller if they desire to leave a message.   

Taking Phone Messages:

When taking a phone message for someone, always be sure to include the following information:

Caller’s name and company name if applicable

Time and date of the call

What the call is regarding

Obtain a phone number to which it is best to return the call

Last Impressions:

Before hanging up, be sure that you have answered all the caller’s questions.

Always end with a pleasantry: “Have a nice day” or “It was nice speaking with you.”

Let the caller hang up first.  This shows the caller that you weren’t in a hurry to get off the phone with them.

CUSTOMER SERVICE SUMMARY – COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Your ability to satisfy customers’ practical needs is what brings them to you.  Your ability to satisfy customers’ basic needs is a key factor in bringing them back.  Certainly, you need to provide and relay the services that FVSU has available efficiently and effectively, but it’s equally important that customers feel good about interacting with you.  Remember, when a customer has a good experience, they tell five people and when they have a bad experience, they tell 50 or more people.

When you effectively use customer service techniques to satisfy personal needs, you make your customers feel good about doing business with you, your department and FVSU.  When you do this consistently, you help to build positive relationships with your customers.  You encourage them to do business with you, and only you, rather than with your competitors who provide similar services and products.

Keep in mind that opportunities to use good customer service techniques come without warning and pass quickly.  They are vulnerable tools for building loyal, positive customer relationships, which enhance the success of your customers, you and FVSU.

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