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Unrolling Let’s Talk!: 5 tips from a school communications professional

While many of today’s K-12 districts are facing the challenge of retaining students in the wake of declining enrollment, others are facing the opposite problem.

Nearly three years ago, Tennessee’s Wilson County Public schools faced a two-pronged communication breakdown due, in part, to a growth rate of nearly 500 students per year.

Jennifer Johnson

As former public information officer Jennifer Johnson puts it, “The community was clamoring for something…a way to get information in a streamlined way.”

So district leaders turned to Let’s Talk!, K12 Insight’s cloud-based customer experience solution, to increase community engagement and help build strong, trusting relationships with stakeholders. But, as with any new tool or initiative, administrators knew they needed to be strategic in how they introduced and implemented the solution.

Reflecting on the past three years with Let’s Talk!, Johnson says the tool has become “overwhelmingly popular” with the school community. During the 2018-2019 school year, the district has received more than 3,500 dialogues from parents, students, staff, and others, while maintaining an average response time of less than 24 hours and an average customer feedback score of 8.6 out of 10.

So how can you successfully roll out Let’s Talk! in your district? Here are some tips based on Wilson County Schools’ experience.

Have a Let’s Talk! Champion

Like with any new solution or initiative, you want to make sure you have the right people standing behind it. Champions’ roles might vary in each district, but Johnson points out there is one champion everyone should have on board:

“You want someone who has some skin in the game,” she explains. “For me, if something goes poorly, I’m the one who would feel the consequences of it. I’m the one they would rant and rave about on social media. So I have that incentive to avoid negativity.”

Garner employee buy-in

Let’s Talk! only works if you have the right people behind the tool–and that requires getting employee buy-in upfront. That means not only sharing the benefits of the solution but also taking the time to understand and address potential concerns from users.

For Wilson County, Johnson says that meant addressing how the data they collected would be used, including average response time and customer feedback scores. “When you’re unrolling Let’s Talk! to users, I think it’s important to communicate things like feedback scores and timing aren’t being calculated for punitive reasons,” she says. “We don’t look at those scores as a pass or fail on you as an employee…they are an opportunity to make sure we’re providing the best possible service to our community.”

One solution can find many homes

At Wilson County Schools, the solution is in play at each school and across several district departments:

  • The district’s transportation department, which experiences a high volume of inquiries, uses a Let’s Talk! form to get all of the necessary information upfront so that the department can quickly address inquiries.
  • The Instructional Technology department uses Let’s Talk! to manage their workflow, including software questions and training requests, since they can all see when an inquiry comes in, use internal comments to collaborate, and respond to the customer—eliminating duplicated efforts and driving internal efficiencies.
  • The district started at the central office and found that a lot of inquiries would come to them that should have gone directly to the schools, so they brought Let’s Talk! to the school-level.
  • In the Human Resources (HR) department, employees use Let’s Talk! to reach out with questions and concerns on topics such as licensing and health benefits.

Nail the messaging—and the follow through

Getting the initial messaging right about Let’s Talk! was key, says Johnson. “Let’s Talk! really sells itself if you can just get that original message out correctly,” she explains. “We’ve been able to continue to build an audience on Let’s Talk! because people know about the tool and recommend it to others.”

The key to earning word-of-mouth referrals from parents and community members relies on trust. “I can’t stress this enough: If you don’t answer the dialogues quickly, people won’t use it,” Johnson says. “Parents aren’t going to believe a word we say unless we follow through on our promises.”

Administrators say the district’s commitment to listening and responding to its community has changed how people approach the school system.

Her final piece of advice?

“I would tell any potential client that Let’s Talk! is as valuable as you make it,” Johnson says. “If you’re working the tool, it will work for you.”

Ready to put customer experience to work in your district? Sign up for a free Let’s Talk! demo.

About the Author

Kyle Freelander
Kyle Freelander is the Customer Marketing & Communications Manager at K12 Insight.

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