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Little things lend quality to a welcome

Last weekend, we took a trip to Oregon to get our youngest son registered for fall classes at Pacific U.

During the lonnnng drive (it’s about 10 hours each way) from Montana past Portland, a few things about processes brought me back to our talk about QuickBooks and my own process improvement from last week.

What kept tweaking my “slight edge” nerve during the trip was that I was reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” for the first time. If you haven’t read it, one of the constants of the book is the impact of quality in one’s life, work, thought, psyche and in fact, quality’s impact on almost everything. I found it a fascinating read and something I really hadn’t expected.

The teachings of the book aside, one thing that stood out during the trip was the difference between my admission at a large state college years ago (too many) and today’s at a small, private university.

Shake and Sign

Each student begins their stay at the U via a personal face-to-face with the University president during new student orientation just before their first semester begins. During this time, the new student shakes hands with the president and signs into a book where all prior students have signed in.

This “shake and sign” event fires psychological triggers relating to commitment, group membership, and the beginning of a process that comes with what likely feels like a personal obligation to a new mentor to complete it. When the student graduates, only then do they sign out – by that time, they’re only leaving campus. The relationship to the school is fully vested by that time.

The process of starting school is transformed. For most, it’s a group event with potentially impersonal “herding” of hundreds (or in my case, thousands) of new freshman through all the processes typical of orientation and starting college.

Turning that into something very personal to each student is simply brilliant.

Personal. Individual. Welcoming. Obligation.

It created an experience like those that Walt Disney focused on: one that you had to tell someone else about.

How do you welcome new customers?