A Tale of Two Universities

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Customer Service, Leadership, Remarkability

Can a university be remarkable?  Absolutely! "You’ve got to be kidding?"  No, I’m not. Like I say over and over again, "Anyone and anything can be remarkable," which, believe it or not, includes a university.  Let me explain.

Recently, my wife and I took our 17-year-old daughter on a series of college tours.  On a Thursday morning, we drove down to North Carolina to visit Elon and then on that Friday we were scheduled to visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In addition, I had asked my daughter to check out High Point University because I knew the president, Nido Qubein. Around noon on Thursday, we were making good time so my wife decided to call High Point, on the spur of the moment, and see if there was any way we could schedule a tour.  The woman who answered the phone said, "Of course, would 2:00 p.m. work?" First WOW.  Then when we arrived, we pulled into a parking spot that said, "Reserved Parking for Admission’s Special Guest, Chelsea Johnson."  Second WOW. 

The campus was spectacular.  A beautiful water fountain was strategically placed next to visitor parking (along with a beautiful sculpture).  And everything was immaculate.  Third WOW.  Then when we entered Admissions, on a large flat screen TV, we read, "High Point University Welcomes Chelsea Johnson."  Fourth WOW.  What makes this even more amazing is, if you remember, we had only called two hours earlier, just before lunch, to schedule this tour.

Next, after we were greeted, we were escorted into a beautiful room with free snacks (both healthy and not-so-healthy) and free drinks while my daughter filled out the paper work.  Fifth WOW.  Then we were taken on a personalized tour in a golf cart with a student, Kara, who did a phenomenal job filling us in on the campus. Sixth WOW.

If I had time, I could go on and on and elaborate a lot of other WOWs, like the residence halls that look like vacation condos with single rooms for students or the President of the University taking a few moments to visit with us or free valet parking for students at night or free soft drinks for students or . . . but you would stop reading.  What you can get from this brief description is, since Nido Qubein has become president of High Point University, High Point has become remarkable (obviously, I’m remarking about it). 

On the other hand, let me briefly explain our experience at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Visitor parking was a long way from Admissions (and it was paid parking–how terrible is that).  There were no signs (or fountains) leading us to Admissions (so we had to ask a university employee who wasn’t sure where Admissions was).  We finally found the Admissions building and were held in the front area with no seats, no refreshments and no greeting.  Finally, a woman stood up and, without a microphone, shouted out some brief instructions.  We then went out in groups of around 20 students and walked around the campus in the rain (no umbrellas given, no carts).  After walking around campus, we were brought back to a room where an admissions counselor gave a brief overview of the University. After which we were all herded out the doors–on the opposite side of campus from where our cars were parked. Basically, it was cold and impersonal. Very unimpressive.

What’s interesting is, when we drove down, UNC was my first choice of the three schools and High Point my last.  But when we left North Carolina, all three of us put High Point in first place, Elon in second and UNC-Chapel Hill in third. Does remarkability matter?  Absolutely.  In this case, to the tune of at least $100,000 (plus all of the other people we’ll tell, "You’ve got to check out High Point University").

So, if a university can create WOW moments, how much more can your business do the same? Go ahead and walk through every moment of truth in your business.  Then figure out how to add value to it and make it a WOW!

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