Since its beginning in the spring of 2004, the TCC Information Center has handled myriad phone calls and emails from students and prospective students, as well as faculty, staff and community members. With a staff of 17 (13 full-time and four part-time), the Center fields anywhere from 11,500 calls per month during moderate periods to 21,500 per month during peak periods (August and January), providing general information and enrollment support for all six campuses. Additionally, team members respond to approximately 1,000 emails per month.
Enrollment-related calls comprise 40 percent of calls received. “The Information Center is in a unique position to see students in all phases of the student lifecycle,” according to Michael Tribble, manager of the Information Center. “Our role is to be student advocates. Our goal is to create a genuinely supportive atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and safe.”
Issues with enrollment addressed by Information Center assistants and specialists include Admissions, Transcripts/Records, Financial Aid, Testing, Advising and Counseling, Registration, Business Services, Student Activities, directions to and on campuses and navigational assistance for Blackboard, WebAdvisor and the TCC website.
David Ximenez, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment and Academic Support Services, considers the Information Center an important asset to the enrollment and onboarding process. “The team is knowledgeable, helpful and responsive to those who contact the Center,” he said.
What qualities does Tribble look for in his team members? “We ascribe to the Toro Way: 1) Greet, 2) Listen and 3) Resolve. The Toro Way is a resolution process that helps our Information Center assistants hone all the critical skills needed for good customer service.” Human Resources and the Information Center collaborated on retooling the customer service training course, “Taking Care of the TCC Customer,” for newly hired and current employees.
Sarah Chavez-Reckling, an assistant in the Information Center, believes “you have to be passionate about providing quality customer service.” Excellent listening, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are important to her, as well as patience and emotional self-control. Because the Information Center is often the first contact callers have with TCC, Chavez-Reckling says, “We truly need to know a little bit about everything in the District.”
All calls are considered Tier 1 when they first come in and are handled by Information Center assistants like Chavez-Reckling. If needed, they are escalated to Tier 2 calls, which are handled by Tribble or Information Center specialists like Teshia Barnett or Katie Pham.
Barnett says she enjoys helping students navigate through the enrollment and academic process. “Some students are excited, while others are nervous. Either way, I aim to make them feel welcome with a positive experience of TCC when they call the Information Center,” she said. In their roles, she believes it is necessary to have a true passion for helping people and the ability to network with colleagues across the District to provide knowledgeable information to the TCC community.
According to Pham, “effective communication, a pocket full of patience and a positive attitude” go a long way in the success of Information Center team members. She says while representing all TCC campuses and centers is “understandably challenging,” she considers the Information Center team “resilient and great at what they do.”
With the high volume of calls the Information Center receives, invariably there are those that are rather unique and require Center assistants and specialists to go the extra mile. Chavez-Reckling recalled a student who asked if she could get security footage because a cat she had been feeding on campus had disappeared. She was connected to the TCC Police Department.
A TCC alumnus once asked Pham for directions to a restaurant. He didn’t know how to work his smartphone. “He mentioned that we are so helpful, he thought would could help with that,” she said. “He was very appreciative of the help. It was an unusual call, but it goes to show that TCC has left a great impression with the community.”
Barnett says some of the most unique calls they receive are not related to TCC at all. “I remember during the 2017 solar eclipse, I received a call from a senior couple wanting help in making a homemade eclipse viewer from a cereal box,” she said. “I found a YouTube video and helped the couple; they were so excited and appreciative.”
And then, there are those calls that stay with team members because they are so touching. Tribble says they receive calls like that all the time, especially from first-generation prospective students. “Every time, it brings me back to my first experiences at TCC as a student when I was in the same situation. This is the main reason why I enjoy working at TCC.”
Pham agrees. “Because our Center is the College’s first, and potentially only, contact with the prospect/student, my favorite calls are the ones where we got the chance to be a cheerleader helping to motivate the prospect/student to continue to pursue their goals,” she said. “Those are the type of callers I have a soft spot for, because I understand how hard it is to make the decision to go back to school.”
She shared about a recent call with a veteran seeking information on coming back to school with TCC. “I could tell he was on the fence and a bit on edge with the decision,” said Pham. “After going over his account and speaking with him, he felt comfortable enough to share why he wanted to come back to school. That’s when I knew we won his trust.” Pham considers it gratifying to connect with students. “Making the first call carries a lot of weight to that individual, and we want to respect that.”
Chavez-Reckling said she is often touched by students who are overcoming odds to work toward their degrees and career goals. “Just yesterday, I spoke with a student who shared how nervous and excited she is to get back into college. She left college about five years ago due to a terrible divorce and had to focus on providing for herself and her child,” she said. “I was moved by her determination and tried my best to encourage her on the next steps in her journey. I believe that is a major part of my job — to be a voice of encouragement and positive energy in that moment.”