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Streamlining customer service: K-12 leaders reduce complexity and improve experiences in school operations

school operations

When it comes to determining the success of a school, we tend to focus our attention on the classroom–and rightly so. That’s why teachers and principals are often first to receive praise for high student performance–and the first to suffer criticism when students struggle.

But the path to student achievement starts long before students sit down in class. To succeed, students need to arrive to school on time, feel safe when they get there, and have the support of a highly-trained staff. That requires the hard work and dedication of school operations professionals who oversee critical divisions like transportation, facilities management, information technology, school safety, and other key aspects of a school’s overall climate.

Operations departments are on the frontline of delivering a quality school customer experience. But all-too-often, that experience is bogged down by overly complex systems of communication between students, parents, and the departments they need answers from–which can make already stressful times of the year (when operations inquiries are at their highest) even worse.

We’ve seen districts with full-page flowcharts outlining the multiple steps (think four or five) a parent must take just to get a question answered about a bus route or lunch issue. These overly complex and needlessly slow interactions can cause  community members to become frustrated and shatter their confidence in your district.

Cultivating a strong customer experience is the responsibility of everyone in your schools, especially your operations team–from the school bus drivers who pick students up in the morning to custodial staff who interact with students and faculty throughout the day to the IT professionals who ensure learning and communication continues uninterrupted from the opening bell to afternoon dismissal. This relies on having efficient systems in place for ensuring every student, parent, and community member is responded to in a timely manner. 

Here are five school districts whose operations teams are succeeding at turning daily interactions with students, parents, and staff into exceptional and memorable experiences by creating a strong customer experience culture and reducing service complexities.

As you consider your district’s operations strategies, hopefully these stories will give you some ideas on how a stronger customer service approach can improve your operations. 

1. Harrison County School District 2 trains transportation customer experience experts

School bus drivers are often the first and last school representatives students and parents see each day.Harrison Transportation Customer Service Training

At Harrison County School District 2 in Colorado, administrators wanted to equip bus drivers and other transportation professionals with important customer service training and skills. So, the district held a series of customer experience workshops led by K12 Insight to train team members–from mechanics to bus drivers to dispatchers–on customer service strategies for everyday situations. 

“Taking time!” was a key takeaway for  one workshop participant. “Slowing down and taking a moment to understand where my ‘customer’ is coming from during my interactions so that I can be a service hero for them to and from school.”

2. Richmond County School System streamlines transportation

Richmond County SS Let's Talk!Richmond County School System in Georgia knew it had a lot of work to do to improve the customer experience around transportation when—in just one day—it faced more than 1,000 transportation-related inquiries from parents and community members.

So they turned to Let’s Talk!, a cloud-based customer service solution from K12 Insight. Now, a custom button and form on the transportation department’s website enables community members to send inquiries directly to transportation officials. On the backend, the technology immediately routes it to the person best suited to respond and makes it easy for users to collaborate within or across teams for a timely, accurate response.

“One of the things that I like as an administrator is the dashboard component,” says Dewayne Porter, senior director of transportation for the district, “where I can see how we’ve done as far as responding and the feedback that we get.”

To hear the full story, don’t miss our exclusive on-demand webinar with members of the RCSS team.

3. Youngstown City School District moves beyond the standard IT helpdesk

After seeing success using Let’s Talk! to better engage its school community, administrators at Youngstown City School District in Ohio set their sites on improving internal-facing customer service.

“We started using Let’s Talk! for the customer-focus, community channel side of things and then we branched out to use it for our help desk system,” says John LaPlante, the district’s chief information officer. “Employees really like it. They like the ability to request things online and the trades that use it like the ability to receive and resolve work orders on their phones.”

A backend data dashboard presents district leaders with key metrics about the quality and status of each engagement—such as number of inquiries, average response times, and customer satisfaction score. School leaders use that data to understand and inform school climate and customer experience.

4. Manor ISD empowers its community to help with safety

Manor ISD bullying preventionA key charge of any operations department is ensuring a safe and secure school environment.

Manor ISD in Texas wanted to improve its approach to school safety–specifically around bullying. Though the district previously had a strong bullying awareness program, it needed better reporting. That’s when they considered using Let’s Talk!.

If anyone even mentions the word bullying or harassment or fights, district leadership including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and director of student safety receive critical alerts. District officials say they are able to respond to such critical alerts in just a few hours, if not within the hour. 

5. Lake Washington School District involves the entire community in important boundary decisions

Facilities management and maintenance is one of the most important responsibilities of any school operations department. But, making decisions about changing school boundaries, closing old schools, or building new ones, is never easy.

Lake Washington School District in Washington has gone through multiple boundary changes over the past six years to meet the needs of its fast-growing community. But with several schools at or near capacity — and the opening of three new campuses thanks to a $398 million bond passed in 2016—administrators faced another boundary modification process.

Administrators used Let’s Talk! to inform community members about the process and took them to a landing page where they could pose questions and learn more about each boundary proposal.

Each scenario featured a brief video that walked community members through the changes and their potential impact. Then, with the help of Let’s Talk!, community members could fill out an online form and share thoughts, questions, and concerns directly with district officials. The process resulted in a more positive boundary process than the district had seen in the past.

“Let’s Talk! was definitely a part of that positive outcome,” says deputy superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen. “It allowed families to have a deeper understanding of the proposed changes and gave them an opportunity to provide significant input. That helped us modify the proposals and tailor the outcome to meet as many interests as possible.”

Want to see how K12 Insight and Let’s Talk! can help your operations team contribute to a culture of customer experience? Sign up for a free consult.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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