While K-12 schools throughout the U.S. continue to struggle with teacher recruitment and retention, another concerning personnel shortage has been making headlines.
More than half of school transportation leaders said school bus driver shortages were their number one problem or concern, according to a 2016 survey of school transportation directors and managers by the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT). And since COVID-19, the concern has only continued to grow.
Ensuring that students get to school safely and on time is one of the most important responsibilities for school districts. That responsibility becomes exponentially more difficult when your team is short on qualified, well-trained drivers.
The role of school bus drivers extends well beyond safely transporting students. In most communities, school buses are the first and last daily touchpoint that a school district has with its families. That means drivers are also responsible for helping to shape the perception, culture, and brand identity of your school.
As school districts look for ways to grow and empower their driver corps, many are also implementing new strategies to turn school transportation into a vehicle for superior customer service and community engagement.
Changing perceptions in Richmond County
The first day of school in 2015 was a difficult day for Georgia’s Richmond County School System (RCSS).
When faced with late or missing busses for their children, over one thousand parents called or emailed their district. Administrators struggled to keep up — and as the local news caught wind, negative headlines only served to make the job of the transportation department harder.
RCSS leadership knew they needed to improve communication and customer service, so they turned to Let’s Talk — the only customer service and intelligence platform purpose-built for K-12 school districts.
Now, a custom button on the transportation department’s webpage guides families to submit bussing-related inquiries through a single platform. On the backend, Let’s Talk’s automated routing technology immediately logs the feedback and forwards it to the right person based on keyword.
Reducing response times in Douglas County
In the first few weeks of each school year, transportation officials for Colorado’s Douglas County Scho
ol District field anywhere from 800 to 1,000 parent and student inquiries. The volume of feedback once made it nearly impossible to respond to everyone quickly (if at all).
Before implementing Let’s Talk, the transportation department relied on a tangled web of sticky notes, emails, and verbal reminders to manage inbound concerns. With no formal process or centralized system for routing and tracking conversations across the team, the external customer experience was poor — and staff were stressed out and tired.
“Communications were so difficult before Let’s Talk,” said Transportation Director Donna Grattino. “We always had that parent, the one who calls district leadership and says, ‘Nobody in transportation ever calls me back.’ That broke our hearts, because we were working so hard behind the scenes, we just lacked the processes.”
Eager to improve customer service in the transportation department, administrators turned to Let’s Talk. Unlike email, where messages filter to a single person and get lost in jumbled inboxes or endless forwards, K12 Insight’s cloud-based platform routes all communications to a single universal inbox, where different team members have access to metrics like response time and customer satisfaction scores. Accountability is ensured. “If I notice a neglected message, I can view the full history of the dialogue and make certain it’s resolved quickly.”
The year before implementing Let’s Talk, Donna and her team estimated it took about four days to respond to parents or students (although there was no way to formally track that metric). After launching the platform, their average response time dropped to less than a day. In most cases, community members could expect to receive a response from the department in under four hours.
What steps is your school district taking to ensure communications around transportation is quick, reliable, and positive?
To learn more about how K12 Insight can help your transportation efforts, sign up for a free consult here. Already a K12 Insight client? Reach out to your dedicated Client Success Manager to implement new transportation-related workflows!