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Assessing Customer Service: 4 Questions for Your District

Building a culture of customer service in your district is key to increasing parent satisfaction and keeping families enrolled. Here are four questions to ask when considering the state of customer service in your school community.
3 mins

1. How do we know our district is truly serving families, teachers, and staff well?

As a school or district administrator, you may hear anecdotes about positive and negative experiences from your customers — in passing in the hallways, through emails sent to your overflowing inbox, or during public comment at board meetings. You may have a gut instinct about how things are going in your district, but you likely don’t have the data to back up your story.

Superior customer service is not about one school or one department. With many school campuses and departments, the public perception of your district’s customer service is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

To help deliver and measure the customer experience, you need a systematic approach for customer service — which includes equipping your staff with a districtwide unified inbox where every interaction is cataloged and analyzed.

The system must support automated routing and workflows so questions and concerns always reach the correct staff member in any department or school — no matter what channel customers use to reach out.

With a feedback loop allowing customers to rate every interaction, this system becomes a single source of truth that provides rigorous data to you to understand the quality of service provided districtwide.

This helps:

  • Ensure strong alignment between administrators and board members to drive governance by data rather than anecdotes
  • Identify areas in which additional training or support is needed
  • Minimize the potential for reputational crises by driving consistent messaging on polarizing and complex issues
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2. What if we’re wrong about the quality of our district’s customer service?

Customer service is more important than ever for school districts — especially as options for families expand through school choice programs, charter schools, and virtual schools. And the quality of its customer service is the most important factor behind a district’s brand, according to a study presented by Austin Independent School District in 2017.

Our research has found school districts that are not delivering positive experiences are more likely to lose students, jeopardizing their budgets.

You need a comprehensive system for customer service to help you:

  • Understand and measure the customer experience districtwide
  • Identify problems before they become crises
  • Reduce staff turnover and student attrition 
  • Build and improve community support and engagement
1 in 3 parents don't know where to go when they have a question

3. What is the status quo on customer service costing us?

The tools you’re currently using for customer service are likely outdated, inefficient, and costly. Many “crises” with districts begin as mishandled customer inquiries that are not rectified in a timely manner because of these aging tools and systems.

Many districts lack a clear and consistent way for parents, teachers, staff, and students to get help. And customers struggle with a tangled web of department-specific channels and processes.

On the back end, this increases communications overhead and takes away precious time from supporting student success.

If this sounds like the state of K-12 customer service in your district, you’re not alone. Implementing an intentional customer service strategy can help:

  • Free up staff time through automation, data integration, workflows, and enhanced collaboration
  • Provide direct savings by consolidating multiple department-level systems
  • Improve culture with well-defined, uniform standards of service and support, creating a consistent experience for every customer and ensuring fewer adverse headlines
Infographic illustrating automation in education

4. What is preventing your district from adopting customer service?

Change can be difficult, and it’s likely you’ve felt “new initiative fatigue” when presented with options that may save time and reduce overall costs. But, past initiatives may have gotten in the way — you might even have some deep scar tissue from prior projects gone awry.

There may never be a “perfect” time to adopt a new initiative that requires time and financial resources. Many large urban school systems that similarly hesitated about this journey at first have presented case studies about the impact of their transformation once they started.

School districts across the country have experienced a positive impact after adopting a customer service strategy, including:

  • Enhanced board and community trust and support
  • Increased productivity and morale
  • Improved equity and access
  • Reduced teacher and staff turnover and student attrition
  • Automated and simplified communications
  • Clarity and better decisions based on access to customer data
Illustration depicting statistical data

free, no-obligation workshop Free customer service workshop
By Dan Wittich
Originally published June 27, 2023 Last updated June 26, 2024