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5 reasons to adopt a customer mindset in schools

customer service in schools

K-12 schools are changing.

But, then, you knew that.

The rise of education technology, along with the expansion of school choice and other competing brands of schooling, are redefining how K-12 administrators approach their work.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that great academics–while critical to student success–aren’t enough to keep students and parents engaged and enrolled. Across the country, efforts are underway to improve every facet of the school experience, from the classroom to the front office.

Increasingly, how your schools make students, parents, and teachers feel is as important as what they teach. If you’re hesitant about adopting a customer-first approach, here’s five reasons why it might be time to take a second look.

1. Competition is here–and it’s growing

While many K-12 school districts have yet to report a mass exodus of students to school choice, there’s little doubt that the competition is heating up.

Nearly 18 states are projected to report enrollment declines over the next 10 years. For more, check out the video below.

Between 2010 and 2015, U.S. charter school enrollment grew by more than 60 percent, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In Detroit, more than 50 percent of students now reportedly attend charter schools.

And the trend isn’t limited to urban districts. In Wisconsin, 73 percent of rural districts lost students in the 2013-2014 school year, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. For more on shifting K-12 enrollment trends, check out this infographic from K12 Insight.

2. Quality service can boost school funding

Because most school district budgets are tied to student enrollment, the thinking goes that when students leave, the money often leaves with them.

The average cost per full-time K-12 student at a public U.S. school district is $11,392. The average teacher salary is $45,483. That means that for every four students a public school district loses, it also stands to lose a teacher’s salary in funding.

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3. Private and charter schools are better at community engagement, parents say

A recent national survey out of Rice University found that only 43 percent of public school parents are overall “very satisfied” with their child’s school. That’s compared to 56 percent of charter parents and 61 percent of private school parents who said the same.

A closer look illustrates a clear connection between parents’ overall school satisfaction and how they view their school’s level of community engagement.

While 50 percent of private school parents and 47 percent of charter school parents said they were overall “very satisfied” with their schools’ level of engagement, a mere 34 percent of public school parents felt the same way about their districts.

4. Marketing helps. But it’s not the answer.

In the face of rising competition from charters and other alternatives, many public districts are investing in traditional marketing–think TV ads, billboards, and radio spots–to retain current students and attract new ones.

In the 2016-2017 school year, Austin ISD spent close to $1 million on marketing to stem declining enrollments. Within six weeks of launching its strategy, the district had enrolled 548 students over initial projections for the year.

Advertising is a great way to build buzz around your school district. But keeping students, and their parents, enrolled year over year is another story. That’s where great customer service can win people over.

5. Your schools already do customer service

Your school or district might not have a formal approach to customer service, but every staff member who interacts with parents or students–either in person, on the phone, or via email–performs some type of customer service.

The question isn’t are they doing it; it’s are they doing it well?

Former school district superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins recommends what he calls the “100:1 rule.”

It goes like this:

For every 100 students your school district serves, consider that at least one staff person is responsible for customer service. It’s up to the district to provide the standards and training these staff members need to succeed–and to offer a consistent experience.

Has your school or district adopted a mindset of customer service? What strategies are available to help your district stay competitive? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

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

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