I questioned if that school really was committed to students and families like they claimed. Because, on that day at least, it certainly didn’t feel like it.
What would people say if they could rate interactions with your schools like they do with experiences on Amazon or Zappos? How would you score?
These questions aren’t as silly—or as far-fetched—as they might have sounded a few years ago. With school choice driving increased competition and an increase in family involvement (especially with the uptick in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic), the days of parents reflexively sending their children to neighborhood public schools are long gone.
How you treat parents and other stakeholders is just as important as the quality of education you provide—and that experience can make or break your reputation in the community.
Consider restaurant reviews. How many one-star reviews are the result of a waiter who’s rude or inattentive service as opposed to the quality of the food? People are far more forgiving of a bad experience when they are treated with respect. When they don’t feel respected or valued, they leave—and most never go back.
IT TAKES LESS THAN 5 MINUTES FOR A VISITOR TO FORM AN IMPRESSION OF A SCHOOL.
I heard a stat once that said 90 percent of parents never go beyond the front office of schools. That means a strong majority of any single school’s community are forming first impressions—lasting impressions—from interactions with the front office staff.
I will never forget the time I visited a middle school and—when sitting in the front office next to a bulletin board highlighting the school’s commitment to students and families—I overheard two staff members talking about how much they disliked a certain student (who they mentioned by name). They went on to say that the student should be expelled for x, y, and z reasons but the principal was too afraid of the family’s response to take action. I left feeling demoralized and humiliated for that student and his/her family. Not to mention, I questioned if that school really was committed to students and families like they claimed. Because, on that day at least, it certainly didn’t feel like it.
It’s possible this was an off day or an atypical situation that isn’t reflective of the entire school or even the district—at least I hope interactions like this aren’t the norm there or anywhere else—but you can’t say that with any confidence without first taking a hard look at the customer service your schools and district provide.
Because the impact from a moment like that is immeasurable. Especially when you consider I wasn’t the only one visiting the office that day. There were at least two students and another parent who could have just as easily overheard the conversation, formed their own impressions of the school, and even taken the conversation beyond that front office by sharing it with others in the school community. And that’s a risk no school district I know can afford to take.
REVEAL THE TRUE STATE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE IN YOUR DISTRICT
Preventing negative impressions and ensuring positive ones that support your district brand promise starts by understanding where you’re at.
Businesses have learned to do this well. And, while school districts are not businesses, customer experience and satisfaction is just as critical to the success of schools as it is to businesses. That’s why we took a pivotal service evaluation method from the business world and adapted it in a meaningful and practical way for schools.
The result? The first-ever secret shopping program designed specifically for the K-12 space.
Our secret shopping program gives district leaders an effective way to understand, measure, and improve customer service in their districts, helping them:
- Avoid negative interactions that drive stakeholders to consider other options
- Limit unnecessary risks and build strong, trusting relationships
- Realize their brand promise and stand out from other educational options
- Identify opportunities for training, support, and additional resources
But we know that secret shopping can be intimidating—especially when you try to apply it effectively to the K-12 space. That’s why our team of customer service experts did the heavy lifting for you by creating The Ultimate K-12 Secret Shopping Toolkit (which district leaders can download for free here).
The free DIY toolkit, reminiscent of Undercover Boss, walks users through an effective quick-shop method that school leaders actually have time and capacity to complete while also providing all of the guidance and resources needed to successfully secret shop (including grab-and-go and customizable resources).
As part of this free program, we also help school districts make sense of their findings in what we like to call a Data Dive session. We comb through the results, extract key highlights, and make recommendations so you can quickly and easily turn secret shopping data into meaningful action plans.