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Solutions Support – a New Way to Look at Customer Service

Four years ago Student Accounts felt like the office of “no”. Working with student finances, timely payments, avoiding registration holds, and often telling students “no” was a stressful environment for both students and employees. Student Accounts leadership realized that a change was needed.

Business Transformation Manager Lori Serna and University Controller Marc Benadiba enlisted Director of Student Financial Services Justin Vastine, and Solution Support Facilitator John Buerger, and the team began with some basic data collection. Questions such as who are our customers? How do they engage with us? And what questions are they asking? Were further investigated to help better understand the issues. Once the collected data had been studied, they went to work creating a plan.

Enter Solutions Support. Based on empathy, digging deeper and providing help, Solutions Support is Student Accounts’ innovative way of thinking about customer support.

Enacting Solutions Support required two main ingredients, consistency and culture.

As it does, consistency came over time. Every message had to have a templated response so all students can receive stable, reliable support. Each experience is rooted in empathy with the objective to give students a clear path. Lastly, the brand was based on none other than Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto, a hands-on experience that pairs nicely with Solutions Support.

Arguably more important than consistency was the change in culture. This culture specifically was, and still is, all about building relationships with partners while constantly trying to improve.

Each element of Solutions Support was so unique that the team was invited to the Western Association of College and University Business Officers (WACUBO) for 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the conference was cancelled but interest in Solutions Support was so high that the team was invited back in 2021. The goal of this conference was to allow university leaders around the world to share their success stories in hopes of inspiring others. At this conference, the Solutions Support presentation did just that.

“We were thrilled to share our story to other universities through WACUBO but we would be even more excited to share what we've learned with other parts of Cal Poly so they can benefit from our experiences,” Vastine said. “Solutions Support is an approach that can be applied to any problem-solving scenario, and truly elevates the Learn by Doing experience.”