Recently, Boston University administrators and staff personally called over 4,300 freshmen and transfer students to see how they were adjusting to life at BU. In an effort to build community, according to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, the phone calls were meant to let students know of the many resources available if they had any problems with classes, roommates or finding a home away from home in Boston. Other colleges and universities, including the University of Portland, Boise State, and Suffolk University, have similar strategies to help keep students academically and emotionally happy.
Building a community directly influences an organization’s reputation and brand. It is important for organizations – universities, non-profits and companies big and small – to keep a constant flow of communication among its stakeholders. BU’s most important stakeholder group is its students, and considering the size of the student population, it’s a tough job to keep everyone satisfied and connected.
For a company to have a strong reputation, internal communication is at the root of reputational success. Zappos, the online footwear and apparel company, has consistently proven this by ranking “Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication” as number six on its Core Values list. Zappos values strong relationships with all its stakeholders in order to be successful at what they do. They will even pay employees-in-training $1,000 to walk away from a job offer. Zappos only wants the best-of-the-best representing their company and knows that an unhappy stakeholder can tarnish its reputation.
Many companies do not have the financial resources to do something like this. But there are other ways to ensure stakeholders are satisfied and upholding your company’s reputation. Picking up the phone is one way to do just that. An organization could chat with new employees to see how they are enjoying their new position and discuss goals or ideas. Or, a company could follow-up with a new client or customer to see if they are enjoying their product or service. In the retail business, oftentimes a purchase is a one-time deal. The customer pays you and you never hear from them again. But facilitating that communication can make a big difference when they are in the market again.
I’m trying not to be biased, but BU’s move to personally connect with over 4,000 students was a smart one. It boosted its reputation both among students, faculty, and parents. What mom or dad out there wouldn’t love to know that their student has a strong support system filled with people who are eager and willing to help? That peace-of-mind is worth the price tag.