Initiatives & Programs

The faculty of the Center for Excellence in Service offers consulting services to help organizations put cutting-edge research into practice, driving innovation, entrepreneurship, and excellent performance at their organizations.  Through our executive education programs, we offer career development to aspiring mid-level marketers who have been identified by their firms as having outstanding potential for advancement.  We also offer customer service workshops to firms and government agencies that leverage Smith’s faculty thought leadership to help them gain a competitive edge and maximize the value of their programs to customers. 

Customer Service Workshops

Workshop on Service Failure and Recovery

a2zInc provides cloud-based event management tool for sponsors of trade shows and conferences around the world. On June 17, 2016, Janet Wagner facilitated a workshop on service failure and recovery, attended by the entire a2z team of fifty business managers, engineers, and company leaders. The thrust of the workshop was best practices in service recovery – how to avoid service failures and how to manage them when they occur. The team engaged in an enthusiastic discussion of challenges they face when service failures occur. The workshop culminated in a role-playing exercise, in which teams of three a2z staff members practiced client-focused service recovery skills. The session was followed by a lunchtime discussion led by CEO Rajiv Jain.

District of Columbia Housing Authority Offers Workshop on Best Practices in Customer Service Recovery

On April 26, 2016, CES Director Janet Wagner presented a two-hour workshop to customer-facing employees who serve clients of the District of Columbia Housing Authority. In addition to providing housing, the DCHA works with the DC government to offer support services designed to help residents develop personal and job-related skills to help secure their futures. Customer-facing employees in any service organization often encounter situations in which customers believe service is falling short, and are dissatisfied. The challenge is to manage such encounters in such a way that their satisfaction is restored. To help DCHA employees meet this challenge, the focus of the workshop was best practices in service recovery. Participating managers participated in a role playing exercise, designed to reinforce what they learned. The service recovery workshop was part of an ongoing effort by DCHA to improve the quality of its service to its customers.

Smith Leadership Academy: Customer Service Workshop

Professor P.K. Kannan, distinguished research fellow of the Center for Excellence in Service, is offering a customer service workshop as part of the Smith Leadership Academy curriculum. The Smith Leadership Academy is a leadership development program created specifically for UMD staff by Smith School Human Resources and the Smith School Office of Executive Programs. This innovative program cultivates leadership potential through a combination of coursework and experiential learning. It is open to rising and mid-level leaders nominated by senior staff members. The customer service workshop focuses on marketing service in the context of higher education. It is organized around the GAPS model of service excellence, which is used to identify and analyze service problems, generate alternative solutions, and guide users in choosing the best of the alternatives. The Smith Leadership Academy is offered every fall.

Executive Education

The CES partners with Smith Executive Programs to offer challenging, managerially-oriented courses, with an emphasis on classroom interaction and case-based learning. Our programs are tailored to meet the unique needs of companies around the world. Our world renowned faculty thought leaders present the latest information on best practices in global business strategy, with a focus on professional services.

Find out more about executive education opportunities with the Center for Excellence in Service:

2012 China Telecomm Delegation Visits UMD for Customer Service Seminar

A delegation of directors and managers from the customer service department of China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom) met with Professor Janet Wagner on November 24, 2012 for a day-long customer service seminar. The delegation was led by Mr. Huang Zhiyong, Deputy Managing Director of China Telecom’s customer service department. The focus of the workshop was how to market and manage a service business for profit. Topics included the essentials of service marketing strategy, how to brand a service firm as an employer, customer lifetime value, and how to manage different profitability segments of the customer market. China Telecom is the third largest telecommunications firm in China. The workshop, in its second year, was sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Service (CES) in partnership with Smith Executive Education.

First-ever China Telecomm Delegation Attends Customer Service Seminar

China Telecom, one of Chinas largest telecommunications companies, visited the University of Maryland on October 30, 2011, for a day-long customer service seminar. Zhu Zhengwu, deputy managing director of China Telecoms customer service department, led a delegation of twenty directors and managers from provinces across China. Janet Wagner, director of the CES, presented the latest research-based information on customer service, as well as best practices in customer service from leading U.S. telecommunications companies. Topics included customer relationship management, customer lifetime value, service failure and recovery, service blueprinting, and integrated marketing communication. The seminar concluded with a discussion of strategic pricing in telecommunications.

2016-17 Professional Services Leadership Initiative (PSLI)

The Professional Services Leadership Initiative (PSLI) is an exciting executive development program for mid-level marketers, offered by the CES in conjunction with Smith Executive Programs and Expertise Marketing, Inc. The program targets professional services firms that are global leaders in their industries and are committed to pursuing marketplace excellence. A unique feature of the program is that it is cross-sector. The professional service firms with which we partner are from non-competing industries, allowing the managers who participate to exchange ideas on what works and what doesn't in meeting the challenges of professional service marketing.

The PSLI was launched in fall 2013, with three founding partners, Randstad, T. Rowe Price and Jones Lang LaSalle that sent 23 mid-level marketing managers to Cohort One of the inaugural program. We have since welcomed two new partners, PwC (2014) and Bloomberg, Inc.(2016). If your firm practices accounting, architecture, engineering, consulting, law, or another professional service, you are invited to partner with us in Cohort Five of the PSLI, to be offered in 2017-2018. Cohort Five will accommodate up to 30 mid-level marketers, from up to six non-competing companies. The program will be offered in two three-day sessions, tentatively scheduled for October 2017 and January 2018. In each session, Smith School faculty will present the latest information on best practices in marketing, as they apply to the marketing of professional services. Sessions are highly interactive, including case studies and industry speakers. A highlight of the program is team-based action learning projects (ALPs) offered during the break between sessions. In the ALPs, teams from each company analyze and propose solutions to challenging strategic marketing problems identified by their firm's leaders. Teams present their proposed solutions to executives from the partner firms at the end of the second session.

This program emphasizes building skills that help marketers:

  • Address the unique challenges and opportunities of marketing in the professional services business environment
  • Collaborate with their internal colleagues to deliver optimal marketing results
  • Understand their companies' business imperatives as they seek to increase global market share
  • Improve their capabilities in problem solving, execution, communication, and leadership

PSLI Alumni Testimonials

The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) partnered with the Center for Excellence in Service (CES) for the fifth consecutive year, to offer the 2015 Leadership Advancement Program. Cohort 5 was held on October 14-16 and November 12-13, 2015. It was designed for A/E/C marketers and business developers to help them gain the business knowledge they needed to advance their careers.

SMPS University was offered in two sessions. The first of which was held at the University of Maryland's state of the art campus in College Park, MD. The second session was held at the Smith School facilities in downtown Washington, DC. A panel of faculty from the CES taught a variety of cross-functional topics that exposed participants to critical business management concepts, including client research, client relationship management and client lifetime value, service process blueprinting, return on investment, employee management, and leadership. Participants developed a clear understanding of best practices in professional service marketing, as well as how marketing can affect firm performance and profitability.

The leadership advancement program offered a low student-to-faculty ratio that promoted interaction between students and instructors. Faculty members include Janet WagnerMichael Faulkender, Gaurav Bhalla, P.K. Kannan, Joydeep Srivastava, and Neta Moye.

The SMPS University curriculum included modules on service marketing strategy, financial management fundamentals, service innovation, customer-centric marketing, and how to lead with authority. Courses included discussions of case studies and best practices from inside and outside the industry as well as worksheets, tools, and supplemental readings to reinforce concepts. The SMPS curriculum also included action learning projects, team-based projects that encouraged participants to apply concepts learned in class to address current problems they face at their firms. Each participant receive a certificate from the Smith School upon completion of the program.

View testimonials from previous students!

MBA Activities

The Center for Excellence in Service sponsors MBA Consulting Projects offered through the Selective Marketing elective course. The project team of 2-5 students, supervised by a marketing faculty member, works on a company-specific project for one semester. Recent projects include a user experience blueprinting project for The Washington Center and an integrated marketing plan for IHAS Inc. CES also works closely with the Smith Hospitality Club to develop events and networking opportunities.

The Center for Excellence in Service strives to deliver flexible, wide-ranging, and multifaceted solutions to the service strategic challenges that many businesses face. The CES accomplishes this through utilizing its talent base of world-class faculty and MBA students.

MBA Group Consulting Projects

The MBA Consulting Project involves a team of 2-5 students, supervised by a marketing faculty member, working on a company specific project for one semester. The deliverables include a mid-point presentation, as well as a final presentation and white paper incorporating all requirements made by the client. These projects are done mostly on campus, with visits to the company as necessary.

Please contact us if you are interested in hiring a team of MBA consultants.

McKeldin Library is the largest library in the University of Maryland's library system. Given recent changes in the way students and faculty find and use information, the McKeldin leadership team is repositioning the library to better communicate its services to its users. Libraries have traditionally been associated with books. Today, they are also spaces in which students gather not only to study but also to collaborate in new and innovative ways of learning.

Three teams of Smith MBA students, enrolled in the MBA Consulting Program, were assigned this project. Each team used primary and secondary data collection techniques to learn about the library's current positioning, and applied tools learned in their MBA program to develop a set of recommendations for repositioning the library. Each team will also developed a marketing plan supporting the repositioning. The faculty advisors were Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service, and Judy Frels, director of the Smith Online MBA.

The Washington Center (TWC) is the largest independent nonprofit academic internship program in the country. The goal of the project was to improve the application experience for undergraduates interested in TWC's internships and seminars.

Four teams of MBA students used participant observation, a research technique in which they posed as applicants to the program, to evaluate the process by which undergraduates from around the world apply to TWC, are accepted, and apply for financial aid. Each team completed and evaluated all the steps in the pre-internship process, and made recommendations for improvement. The project culminated with PowerPoint presentations to TWC's staff at its new state-of-the art residential facility in Washington, D.C. Donald Kandel, TWC's Vice President of Administration and Chief Financial Officer, and Carmenchu Mendiola, Vice President of Communications, were the project champions. Mr. Kandel is a graduate of the Smith School's EMBA program.

IHAS Inc. is a healthcare service firm that has provided managed care and case management services in the Washington area for 22 years. The firm recently launched a new managed healthcare service, MyCareAdvocate, targeted to self-paying clients on a pay-per-hour basis. In spring, 2010, Mr. Clyde Burke, President of IHAS Inc., approached the Center for Service Excellence at the Robert. H. Smith School of Business to engage an MBA student consulting team in developing an integrative marketing communications plan for MyCareAdvocate.

The team was comprised of Pauline Batiller, Brad Husser, Mai Theravuthi, and Aswani Valiveti, all first year MBA students at the Smith School of Business, supervised by Professor Janet Wagner, Director of the Center for Excellence in Service. The team performed research on the managed healthcare industry, using key word search on databases such as IBIS World, Mintel, and Hoover's, as well as on websites of government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Results indicated the need for a service that caters to individuals or caregivers with crucial or burdensome healthcare challenges. Changes brought about by the new healthcare reform bill further underscore the timeliness of such a service entering the market.

Preliminary interviews with stakeholders of MyCareAdvocate (physicians, registered nurses, social workers, managed care providers, previous customers of MyCareAdvocate, and employees of IHAS, Inc.) helped identify the target customer as high net-worth individuals who have the willingness to pay for a service that provides case management services, negotiates on behalf of the client with insurance companies and healthcare providers, and forms liaison assignments between the customer and various healthcare service providers, such as physicians, hospitals, medical equipment suppliers, insurance companies, and rehabilitative care services. The team identified vital collaborators, such as medical practitioners (particularly private practitioners), nurses, hospitals, and home health agencies; direct competitors that offer similar services, and indirect competition from health insurance companies, corporate benefits departments, and do-it-yourself websites.

SWOT Analysis revealed the advantage IHAS, Inc. has by virtue of its prior experience in the industry, in launching MyCareAdvocate. In the integrative marketing communication plan, the team provided recommendations pertaining to the communications message, website development, logo and brand management, and design of ad materials. To capture the personal nature of the service, the team recommended a tag line, "Your personal healthcare ally." The team also had recommendations regarding customer relationship management and metrics to tie the strategies adopted to the results obtained in terms of new customer enrollment and revenues.

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