Meet... Manon Lalande

Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2016

Manon Lalande and some members of her team during the 2015 Service Excellence Week

For the past two years, every employee has had to set service excellence goals as part of their Performance Management and Development Program, and this has become crucial to fulfilling the Service Excellence mandate. Now, these individual goals are starting to snowball, as an increasing number of campus teams are setting service excellence goals. This is timely, considering that setting team goals is one of the strategic imperatives of the Service Excellence 2015-2018 action plan. Manon Lalande, Administrator of Undergraduate Programs at the Faculty of Social Sciences, explains how service excellence has become a team project and how this change is already improving her team’s dynamics.

This team approach to service excellence began when Annie Suzor, Supervisor of Academic Services, pointed out to Lalande that champions often felt uncomfortable telling their colleagues how to respond to students: they felt like gossips when they reported what they had seen or heard, with comments like "I saw this assistant respond to the student this way," "His tone was dry," or "The student waited too long." Lalande says that the champions’ sense of unease really motivated her to extend the “champion” concept to her entire team. Annie and Manon realized that this reluctance to interfere could be overcome with time by engaging the team in a common purpose: providing the best possible service to students at the University of Ottawa. From there, they developed goals for academic assistants and academic advisors (see box below). Now, team members feel they can really make a difference and are no longer afraid to join a conversation between a colleague and a student to provide a more complete answer. As a result, the student leaves the office knowing everything they need to know.


 "Excellence is about teamwork, not about personalities." - Manon Lalande


Manon has noticed that setting service excellence goals for the team has improved collaboration between academic advisors and academic assistants. Given her 10 years’ experience as an academic assistant, she firmly believes in breaking down the walls that tend to separate academic advisors from academic assistants. For example, now that team members are encouraged to help one another, if an advisor overhears a tense conversation between an assistant and a student at the counter, the advisor will gladly step in to assist. Or, if an advisor falls behind in their appointments and a student is waiting, another advisor will ask the student if they would like to meet with them instead. Either way, by working together more closely, the team members feel less alone. After all, as Lalande says, "Excellence is about teamwork, not about personalities."

Although she has noticed that implementing service excellence goals as a team has quickly improved the work environment, Manon is looking forward to seeing the effects of these changes on service to students in September, when the office will be at its busiest. Even with thirty-plus years of experience at the University of Ottawa under her belt, she still strives to motivate her employees to see their work as student-centric, so that the motto—"I'm here for the student"—becomes automatic, forming the basis for top quality service at the University.

FSS Office of Undergraduate Studies Service Excellence Goals

Goals

  • Implement a plan to promote service excellence at the FSS Office of Undergraduate Studies
  • Apply best practices for service excellence
  • Share tips and best practices for good customer service
  • Identify students in distress and take appropriate action
  • Discuss and role-play real-life experiences
  • Attend a meeting with the Service Excellence specialist

Performance indicators

  • A 45-minute meeting every two or three weeks between the academic assistant team and the supervisor of academic services to take steps to meet all goals
  • Four one-hour observation sessions, two on the telephone and two in person, during which supervisor will assess customer service according to specific criteria provided to the employee
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