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How to improve customer service in schools: A step-by-step guide

K-12 customer service is more than a once-a-year professional development training. It takes realistic, expertise-driven systemic thinking, true prioritization, comprehensive, districtwide culture change management, and metrics and data that drives decision-making.
3 minutes

In the age of school choice, staff shortages, and political polarization, high-quality customer service is the best defense for school districts.

In fact, Rice University and the University of Texas at San Antonio found public schools can reverse student attrition and revitalize themselves by embracing a customer-focused approach to strategy planning and execution for improving student performance.

But here’s the thing: Truly good K-12 customer service takes more than a once-a-year professional development training. It requires realistic, expertise-driven systemic thinking, true prioritization, comprehensive, districtwide culture change management, and the right metrics and data to drive decision-making. 

Let’s break these requirements down.

K-12 customer service as a districtwide priority 

First things first: To make the changes listed below, customer service needs to be a clear, intentional priority — ideally mapped out in a strategic plan. It simply isn’t enough for school district leaders to say customer service matters: It must be part of every new hire’s training, intentionally considered with all additions to policy and procedure, and embedded in day-to-day operations.   

Find guidance on adding customer service KPIs into your next strategic plan here >>

“Systems-oriented” thinking for customer service in schools

All too often, school district operations exist in silos. Transportation processes are separate from HR, communications, or enrollment management — not to mention the totally different IT ticketing platform.

A customer-centric school district utilizes one omnichannel support system for every department, bringing all incoming and outgoing communications into one, unified inbox. This increases visibility across the district and allows for streamlined interdepartmental problem-solving. 

Limiting the tech stack to a few districtwide necessities cuts down on budget, simplifies new hire onboarding, and reduces duplicative efforts. Most importantly, it allows staff to redirect inquiries to the correct person or department. 

Using keyword recognition, K12 Insight’s Let’s Talk automatically reroutes incoming inquiries to the person best suited to respond. 

For example, parents don’t often know that transportation is a district initiative, and most contact their child’s school when they have a bussing concern. Let’s Talk would identify words like “bus” “bus stop” or “bussing” and redirect the email to the transportation team where the first available department member could answer. 

If the parent follows up with a phone call to their school’s front office, the campus staff member could look at the caller’s Let’s Talk profile to identify the status of their original inquiry. 

After the issue is resolved, a log of the interaction is stored in the platform for future reference.  

Culture change management

But of course, implementing new systems and mindsets across a school district can be extremely challenging. New software is simple, new human behaviors can feel nearly impossible. 

And because a successful K-12 customer service plan is not limited to one department or office, it demands a commitment to family satisfaction that extends from the superintendent’s office to every single campus principal and their staff. 

In short, it takes time and energy. 

Many districts, like Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), have managed districtwide culture change strategically and successfully thanks to a clear, comprehensive vision set by leadership. IPS’s Executive Director of Strategy & Integration Ashley Cowger used a three-pronged approach: 

  1. Implementing and sustaining new processes 
  2. Creative a culture of positive change 
  3. Enabling and engaging the district organization 

Dive into Ashley’s culture change management tactics here >>

Data-driven decision-making in K-12 customer service

Let’s Talk offers more than just streamlined communications — it also provides valuable insights and analytics to help K-12 school districts make data-driven decisions. The Let’s Talk data dashboard tracks customer service metrics like: 

With these data points — viewable at districtwide, department-specific, or campus-specific levels — leaders can analyze patterns in inquiries to identify areas for improvement and tailor their customer service strategies accordingly. 

The K-12 marketplace is competitive, and providing exceptional customer service is no longer optional — it’s essential. Over 500 school districts nationwide are improving K-12 customer service using Let’s Talk, elevating the customer experience and setting themselves apart from the competition.

With this intentional approach to improving K-12 customer service, school districts must: 

  • Make customer service a districtwide priority 
  • Shift their approach to managing communications  
  • Develop a practical plan for creating positive culture changes  
  • Make data-driven decisions (instead of reacting to anecdotal evidence) 

Customer service in schools matters. Connect with K12 Insight to start transforming your districtwide experience today. 

By K12 Insight
Originally published March 6, 2024 Last updated April 3, 2024