Every school district does customer service. But only 30% of districts measure the impact of these efforts on other strategic areas, such as accelerated learning, staff engagement and retention and parent satisfaction. These 5 key-performance indicators provide the basis of a framework used by more than 500 school districts.
Last week, we shared a perspective that customer service is one of the most overlooked disciplines in K-12 schools. Forty-eight hours later, my phone was still buzzing.
People said they were performing the work — responding to parents, providing opportunities for staff engagement, giving students ways to reach out for help — but they’d never considered the benefits of measurement.
Anecdotally, they knew it was important for their schools to elicit positive feelings from parents, students and staff. But, absent data, they couldn’t put their finger on the connection between a positive stakeholder experience and school performance.
Research suggests two thirds of K-12 school districts (71 percent) still do not measure the impact of customer service on strategic priorities. Among the 30 percent of districts that do track these efforts, a compelling narrative is starting to emerge: When K-12 schools commit to making customer service part of their culture, good things happen.
After a year of unprecedented change and anxiety, school leaders say the right customer service indicators are helping drive operational and programmatic efficiencies in every corner of their organizations. And the best part? All you need to get started is a strategy and a framework.
If adrenaline and a will to succeed helped sustain K-12 school leaders through a global pandemic, a commitment to service has them looking to the future.
So, what does a customer service mindset look like in schools? Here are five big takeaways from more than two decades of experience working with over 500 school districts.
#1 Embrace resistance
Getting people to think or act differently takes time — and it isn’t easy, especially in schools. Expect resistance from different people in your organization and be prepared to go slow. If customer service is not something you’ve focused on in the past, consider phasing in your commitment over a two to three-year period. This allows you to get the right people in the organization on board and encourages a more intentional and systematic approach to meeting stakeholders’ needs.
#2 A whole lot of carrot, not much stick
Find meaningful ways to incentivize your team at the department and campus levels. If you keep customer service metrics, these numbers shouldn’t feel like a gotcha to teachers and staff. It’s about grace and asking, when you see someone struggling, “How can I help you?”
#3 Use the right words
Develop a consistent way of speaking about customer service that can be used in every department. Consider creating a Service Level Agreement for your staff, where every staff member voluntarily commits to responding to questions or concerns over a set period of time — say, two days. If you service stakeholders according to a five-star rating scale, for example, can you commit to achieving, at minimum, 4-star-quality service for everyone?
#4 Identify & promote rockstars
Your school district no doubt already produces its share of newsletters and speeches and videos. Use that burgeoning content expertise to help tell your district’s customer service story. Identify the campuses and departments and people doing tremendous work and provide a platform for staff at those campuses to share and comment on their commitment and experiences.
#5 Make it a matter of routine
Episodic culture change is not a thing. Take five minutes at the end of every staff meeting and/or three minutes at the start of your monthly board meeting to update leadership on progress toward your key customer service indicators. Make it a matter of pride. If you’re speaking to your board on a Tuesday night, keep it high level. Develop a report that shows progress toward key metrics. Avoid the temptation to share campus level data at every meeting and ask for grace when sharing metrics. Progress, after all, takes time.
COVID is not the first crisis to disrupt our schools — and it certainly won’t be the last. We’re talking about it now because of its scale. But everyday, there are new risks to the work that we do. A comprehensive, reliable approach to customer service measurement is the anecdote to distractions that would seek to derail your agenda.
Want to learn more about the potential impact of a customer service mindset on key programs like back-to-school or accelerated learning or staff engagement? Looking for more on the framework that you can apply to start doing this work now? Join us April 22 at 2 pm EST for a national dialogue with school leaders from Dallas ISD and Osceola (Fla.). Register here.