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Customer Service Benchmarks: 3 Every School District Should Monitor

You can't improve what you don't measure. But if you really want to know how your district is performing on customer service, you need to compare measurements against past years' data and other school districts. Here’s a starter guide to tracking customer service metrics!
3 minutes

Imagine you surveyed parents and asked, “How safe do you feel sending your kids to school on one of our buses?” Of the parents who responded back, 65 percent agreed or strongly agreed their child’s transportation to and from school was safe. 

Would you celebrate those findings, or be concerned? Before you answer, it’s not a trick question. The answer is: It depends.

And while that might seem like a disappointing answer at first, we’re here to convince you that it’s not. If you’re a superintendent or school district leader, your evaluation of this data should consider, at minimum, two factors:  

  1. What parents in peer districts would say in answer to that same question (in other words: Do other school districts boast a higher perception of transportation safety?)
  2. How the answers compare to previous years (in other words: Is confidence in your district’s transportation department trending up or down?)

If you examined similar data from a neighboring school or district, with which you routinely compete for students, and 75 percent of parents there responded positively to the same question, you may have cause for concern. If, on the other hand, the same comparison revealed the neighbor district in question was at 55 percent, you could feel confident in your trajectory — knowing more work would push those numbers even higher.

K12 Insight has been helping school districts deliver superior customer service, improving culture and climate, for over a decade. Our expert-led Managed Research team has found the average sentiment around transportation shows two-thirds of parents believe buses in their district are safe. That doesn’t necessarily mean the other third feels buses are unsafe or that you’re on the verge of catastrophe. It simply means your risk for this is no higher or lower on average than other districts.

What is customer service benchmarking?

Drawing meaningful conclusions and determining whether to provide additional resources and oversight is far more difficult when you look at numbers without context. “Benchmarking” is a reliable system by which to compare yourself against one or more of your peers, and it can make all the difference.

Using customer service benchmarking to measure year-over-year improvements

In addition to peer data, you’ll also want to collect year-over-year data to “benchmark” against yourself. 

Consider the sample question about bus safety: If you’re at 65 percent parent satisfaction this year and last year showed 55 percent, that’s a gain worth celebrating. If, on the other hand, parent confidence declined by 10 percent, you might need to investigate the drop in confidence.

When it comes to measuring benchmarks like parent and community satisfaction, the story is not so much about where you are as it is where you’re going

Bringing intentionality to your data collection and analysis

Over the last decade, our team has helped more than 500 school districts implement a highly intentional approach to customer service. A big part of that is tracking metrics!

Two things make our work highly intentional:

  1. The data: Also known as the rigor with which we conduct and measure our work. Looking at and measuring feedback (like overall response time, customer satisfaction and feedback score) helps us track where and how we can further support school district partners.
  2. The impact: Within two years of this journey, districts are usually able to take the output from this work to their leadership cabinet to demonstrate time-savings and efficiencies in nearly every department.

To get started, you’ll need action plans for measuring each of the following key customer service metrics.

One: Customer service interactions

For every thousand students in your district, roughly 450 customer service interactions take place every day. Said differently, a 10,000-student district receives more than 4,500 daily customer service interactions (of course, there is a seasonality to incoming inquiries, with more during the beginning of the school year and other high-traffic periods).

By now, almost every school district superintendent or leader has a system for identifying critical customer service interactions. The problem is: By the time those conversations hit your desk, it’s usually too late.

Problems often come in the form of overly emotional anecdotes and through a process of escalation. By the time they reach you, they might have already hit social media or the local papers. You’re learning about them after parents, and oftentimes alongside board and cabinet members. This kind of approach immediately puts you on the defensive.

When the perception of your district and its relationships with the community suffers, so does the capacity of your staff and leadership team. When this happens, promising programs stall out or get delayed. You spend time putting out fires instead of building momentum for strategic priorities. Hard-fought bonds and levies fail. The list goes on. 

But school districts streamlining incoming inquiries through a districtwide platform have been able to:

  • Introduce a clear line of sight into trending topics, helping leaders understand what really matters to the majority
  • Offer quicker response times (and more accurate answers), reducing misinformation
  • Track data and Critical Alerts with a dashboard that can drill down to the department, campus, or topic level for extra insights
  • Bonus: School districts with a generative AI-powered chatbot deflect about 80% of inbound questions, as most are repeats

Two: Customer service ratings or feedback scores

The second key metric for an intentional customer service focus is a feedback score, calculated after parents and other stakeholders are asked to rate the quality of their experience engaging with your district.

Don’t think of this like a survey or something that gets mailed days or weeks after an interaction. We’re talking about an instant rating, like you’d see from Amazon or Uber. It helps gauge an immediate response, or emotional reaction, to your service. At K12 Insight, we use a five-point scale. The information from the ratings helps our district partners benchmark the quality of their interactions. When they hit a critical mass of responses, they can start to make informed decisions about how to engage their stakeholders moving forward — whether it’s in parent meetings, answering phone calls, or responding to emails. If your district typically receives a feedback score of 3.5, you might set a goal to get that average score up to 4.5 in a year, and develop a tactical plan to help do that.

And it’s not just for external customer service. 

If your district is losing teachers, you might look at how quickly your internal Human Resources team responds to questions from staff. Might those response times have an impact on overall job satisfaction? If the answer is yes, you can work to improve staff engagement through a commitment to stronger internal customer service and improved response times or higher feedback scores.

Three: Average customer response time

The last metric we’ll discuss here is average response time, or the amount of time it takes your school or district to initially acknowledge a question or concern and reach a resolution. Often, resolution requires more than one interaction. Because schools aren’t open 24/7, the clock should take into consideration school hours, weekends, and holiday schedules. Different questions or concerns will likely also have different levels of priority. For instance, safety concerns would rate higher than run-of-the-mill questions about cell phone policies or dress codes.

To determine the right response time for your district, you can again consult the benchmarks. What are districts similar to yours promising? Many districts have a 48-hour SLA for non-urgent questions. If you keep year-over-year data, what was your average response time last year? Can you improve on that? Have you already? 

The faster your district responds with accurate information, the higher the feedback rating you’re likely to receive. Of course, speed isn’t the only factor. It’s important to provide the right information and close the loop. Use customer service data and benchmarks from similar districts to frame a baseline and build your service framework up. 

Bringing it all together: Superior customer service in schools

Having these three metrics on a dashboard alongside data from your peers gives you the visibility you need to to define a standard for superior customer service in your school district. It will help you gauge where and when to allocate resources and political capital as you strive to compete in the increasingly competitive landscape of public education.  

And if you want a professional partner on the journey of K-12 customer service, check out K12 Insight!

We’re helping school districts nationwide automate workflows, centralize inbound and outbound communications, create a culture of customer service, and listen to their community with a powerful customer service platform: Let’s Talk. Our suite of customer service solutions also includes a generative AI-powered chatbot, expert-led research services, a DIY survey solution, and professional development.

With Let’s Talk, districts have improved community engagement, identified problems before they became crises, built trust with their community, lessened political polarization, and made data-driven decisions. Busy administrators and staff across the country are spending less time searching for answers to questions, responding to redundant questions, or duplicating efforts.

Over 500 school districts rely on K12 Insight to help them elevate customer service, improving school climate and advancing student achievement. Join them by requesting a consult today.

By K12 Insight
Originally published May 12, 2021 Last updated March 28, 2024