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Accelerating School Customer Experience: 6 Essential Steps

Dr. Shelby McIntosh
Dr. Shelby McIntosh

“I hate to claim that there’s one silver bullet that solves all of a school’s problems, but if there ever was one, I’m starting to believe that customer service might just be it.”

That’s according to veteran teacher and education researcher Dr. Shelby McIntosh.

Dr. McIntosh and her team at K12 Insight have worked with hundreds of school leaders across the country to ensure parents, students, and staff members at their districts feel engaged and empowered.

In a recently released on-demand webinar, Dr. McIntosh highlights key experiences from her career as a teacher and researcher which taught her that school success is vitally linked to how well district leaders and staff listen to the customers they serve.

“This component of listening is so important to both understanding the customer journey and the customer experience—and also improving it and providing the best customer service or experience to your stakeholders,” Dr. McIntosh says.

Dr. McIntosh outlines six key strategies for school districts looking to implement—or simply improve—their customer experience strategy in time for next school year.

1. Understand the current customer experience

“Before you can determine what needs to improve or what’s going really well in your district, you need to ask your stakeholders what their experience is like,” says Dr. McIntosh.  

The customer experience doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The interactions and experiences students, parents, and staff have with your district are deeply personal. To improve those interactions, school districts must first understand stakeholder perceptions. “The only way to truly understand what the current experience is like is to ask people,” says Dr. McIntosh.

2. Define “the why”

One of the biggest challenges to implementing a quality customer experience culture is achieving buy-in with your entire staff on why customer service is so vital to the success of not just their district, but of their own individual departments and positions. “Whether it’s a teacher or a front office staff member or a bus driver or someone in food service, they have a why,” says Dr. McIntosh. “You’ve got to understand what their ‘why’ is everyday, so you can help them understand how customer service will help them achieve their why.”

3. Develop the customer service reflex

Once everyone is bought in, that’s when districts can concentrate on practical ways to deliver a quality customer experience. “The point that you want to get to is where everyone in your district sees every interaction with a customer or a stakeholder as an opportunity to win them over,” says Dr. McIntosh. She acknowledges that it’s easier said than done-—especially when interacting with frustrated parents. Ideally, districts want to equip every staff member with the skills to take tough situations and turn them into positive experiences. Training is key to making this happen, according to Dr. McIntosh.

4. Establish an owner

“I think there’s a difference in saying everyone’s responsible for customer service and everyone owns it,” says Dr. McIntosh. Just like every district has a specific person who’s in charge of technology or transportation or food service—and receives the positive kudos and the negative criticism that comes along with that position—so too should there be someone in charge of customer experience, whether it’s explicitly in their job title or not.

5. Measure your success

“If you’re going to establish an owner,” says Dr. McIntosh, “you have to equip them with the ability to measure that success.” The customer experience can be measured in several ways, whether it’s through asking simple questions like “How’d we do?” or by tracking specific customer service metrics like response times or the amount of people you’re interacting with on a daily basis. “The important thing is that you pick one and that you track it,” says Dr. McIntosh.

6. Use technology as an accelerator (not a solution)

Technology can play a huge role in streamlining a district’s customer experience strategy, says Dr. McIntosh. But, technology alone can’t solve all your problems. “I will caution you against thinking technology is a silver bullet solution,” she says. “It is not. Once you’ve done the work of defining the why, establishing an owner, developing the customer reflex, and now you need to scale it quickly, that’s where technology comes in.”

For more on Dr. McIntosh’s work improving the school customer experience in districts across the country, check out the full on-demand webinar.

Watch it now.