Davenport Serves Up New Degree

August 2, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Recognizing the increased need for companies to be able to compete on the basis of service and customer satisfaction, Davenport University is in the midst of developing a bachelor’s degree program in service management and marketing for the fall of 2005.

“The companies we serve through our corporate services division, as well as the corporate folks and advisory bodies for our board, are all expressing the same emerging needs,” said Tom Brown, senior vice president and dean of Davenport University’s Maine School of Business. “More and more they are becoming aware of how important it is to compete on the basis of service, as opposed to product.

“Part of this, I think, is a reflection on all of us as consumers, how often we’re appalled at the level of customer service,” he said. “Almost every company thinks that they are really good at customer service, but very few are. There is an emerging science in competing on the basis of service, and it’s becoming pretty well recognized.”

“Currently, employees are learning customer service on the job,” added Michelle Van Dyke, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank Western Michigan, through a statement. “However, in today’s competitive environment, businesses need knowledgeable employees who can provide outstanding service as soon as they are hired.”

With the service industry the fastest growing segment of the U.S. economy, and the state’s manufacturing sector hemorrhaging jobs, Davenport recognized a gaping hole in Michigan’s educational opportunities.

Although many educational institutions and training providers, including Davenport, offer specialized programs in areas such as retail management, restaurant and hospitality management, and financial service management, among others, none focus on the fundamental competencies associated with building the service culture and competing on the basis of service. These are competencies and skill sets that are transferable from one industry to another.

The program will initially be offered at Davenport’s new main campus, the W.A. Lettinga Campus, upon its opening in 2005. The university also hopes to secure funding for a new Center of Service Training and Education at the Lettinga Campus. When and if the degree will become available at other Davenport campuses has not yet been determined.

The first of its kind in Michigan, the program has many peers nationally, with many local companies opting to send employees to study at a similar training center at Purdue University. The Davenport program will likely be designed using some of these programs as models.

The design and naming of classes will occur in the coming months, with the primary emphasis already determined.

The degree will focus on three separate areas: the human resource aspect of hiring and training to develop a service culture, the design of operating systems and strategies to better compete on the basis of service, and the development of scorecards and models of measurement for a company’s success within the service function.

In addition to classroom courses, components of the new program also have the potential to be the foundation for seminars that Davenport can offer to companies as training opportunities for their employees.

“Everyone is moaning about the loss of jobs in manufacturing and how we need to figure out a way to get them back,” Brown added. “The service industry is the fastest growing part of our economy, and we need to be able to prepare students for a future in that.”

The program will also instruct in the area of nonprofit management, detailing the unique aspects of managing a nonprofit organization, which are almost exclusively service organizations.

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