As a former teacher, I love being around people that have a passion for learning and collaboration.
That’s why I was especially excited to go to Birmingham, Alabama last week with some of my K12 Insight colleagues to share findings from our first-ever national State of K-12 Customer Experience Report at an exclusive lunch and learn for school PR leaders.
My colleague Dr. Shelby McIntosh, lead researcher on the report, was joined by our special guest, Lesley Bruinton, public relations coordinator at Tuscaloosa City Schools in Alabama, to present findings and strategies from our survey of over 500 school leaders from across the country.
One of the report findings that really stood out to me was that more than 75 percent of school leaders see providing quality customer service as very important to their schools, but nearly the same percentage rely on once-a-year school culture and climate surveys to track their progress on customer service. While a survey is great as a snapshot in time, our research shows that districts need more comprehensive, continuous ways to monitor the experience of their stakeholders.
Shelby and Lesley offered key suggestions for improving how school leaders measure the customer experience they provide, including using technology to track response times and customer satisfaction ratings year-round.
We were also joined by my colleague Dr. Christine Wells, senior director of professional learning and research at K12 Insight, who invited school leaders to participate in one of our customer experience workshops, a unique professional development approach that teaches school staff and leadership key customer experience skills.
It was a great day of learning and networking. But, as much as my team enjoyed sharing what we’ve learned, we also learned a lot from the school leaders who joined us.
The conversations I had with school leaders who attended the event spotlighted some key concerns they have when it comes to providing a quality experience for students, parents, staff, and other community members.
Here are 5 of my key takeaways:
1. More school options make customer service vital to the work of school leaders
It’s becoming easier than ever for students to bypass their local public schools and attend the school of their choice. With more school options available, school leaders have quickly realized that they aren’t the only game in town for students and parents. Many of the leaders I spoke with have committed to customer service as their top strategy to stay competitive. But they’re still looking for effective strategies for creating exceptional experiences in their schools.
2. Managing difficult conversations is increasingly challenging
Today’s social media-fueled atmosphere means that any conversation between district representatives and parents can be fodder for controversy online. Many of the school leaders I talked to said they are looking for strategies to help facilitate real, difficult, and meaningful conversations—both in-person and online.
3. Schools must effectively communicate with parents of multiple generations
Today’s K-12 parents span multiple generations and have different communication preferences and needs. For example, while Gen Xers and Millennials may both use social media, they often use different platforms in different ways. School leaders must have a better understanding of how parents of different generations prefer to communicate with their schools–and have strategies for meeting parents where they are.
4. Building trust with students, parents, employees, and other stakeholders is vital to district success
The conversations I had in Birmingham support one of the most important findings of our State of K-12 Customer Experience Report: building trust with stakeholders is priority No. 1 for a vast majority of school leaders. However, findings also show that many leaders are still trying to find the strategies and resources that will most effectively build that trust. By focusing on customer experience, schools can build strong, trusting relationships with the community.
5. School leaders are looking for ways to break down communication silos
Silos between K-12 departments is something districts have dealt with for years. But as districts look to remove those silos, they need to find a way to ensure smooth communications within and across departments–from PR to transportation to human resources, etc. This is where a comprehensive approach to customer experience can play a key role.
The Birmingham event was the first in a series of lunch and learn meetings we’re planning across the country. Interested in meeting other school leaders in your area and learning about our research and strategies for improving customer experience? Simply register below and we’ll let you know when we’re coming to your area!