Like it or not, schools are modern day businesses. Private schools funded by private income are catering to paying customers who can happily take their business elsewhere. Public schools funded by the taxpayers are only allowed to function if they live up to their expectations. If they fall behind, they can close in favor of new developments or existing competition.
With the rise of choice in school selections, options, and programs, schools can’t afford to skip out on marketing and customer service of their own. Anyone that interacts with your school should be treated like a valued customer if you want to produce repeat business and embody your school’s goals for years to come. So, how can you know when your school provides adequate customer-friendly support? How can you improve upon current performance?
Here are a few key ways to tell and to improve your customer service.
What Customer Service Options Do You Offer?
When looking to determine how customer-friendly your school is, it’s best to start by analyzing your current customer service options. Customer service is all about creating a better, faster, easier, and more seamless experience for the customer. Typical pain points with schools revolve around payments, reaching the correct staff members, and common student troubles like housing, courses, and information.
First, start by analyzing your payment system. Does your school have online payments enabled? Paying online is standard practice for almost anything and everything we buy. Ensure that your customers can pay quickly and securely with their own online account. Incorporate features like auto-pay and saved payment information for ease of use.
Beyond online payments, what support options do you offer? Phone calls can be great, but unless you have multiple front desk people, the lines can quickly get jammed up. Plus, customers aren’t using voice as a support system as much as they once did:
Instead of just voice, can customers email, live-chat online, or use a mobile app to check-in? These multi-channel options give customers their preferred outreach method to get the task completed. For instance, Harvard developed a mobile app for students and parents alike to improve experiences in everything from day-to-day lives of students to contact options and payments for parents. If customers want to check-in with school events or news, they can do it right on the app. Signing up for courses is simplified with their app, too.
Compare your current service options to everyday struggles that students and parents relay to you. If billing is an issue, explore ways to improve the ease of use. If course scheduling isn’t optimal, see if mobile apps or live-chat support can guide users through the process faster than a back-and-forth email chain. Take a look at your existing customer service options and look where you can expand to provide better, multi-channel support.
Remember: the better the experience for your customers, the happier they will be.
Setup and Prepare For Better Customer Interactions
First impressions are vital in the modern world. They are formed fast online and offline, within just seconds.
When interacting with potentially new customers or existing ones from students requesting information or parents trying to pay bills, you need to have stellar customer interactions to build long-term relationships. This involves everything from directing the phone call to the right person or managing student requests for housing and classes. All of these can quickly get lost in the weeds if you aren’t managing them with a single base of data, like a helpdesk.
Freshdesk client Lesley University found this out the hard way. With over 7,000 students, incoming requests would pile up without a good way to identify the problem, the right person to solve it, and how to solve them for future employees. Issues from password resets to classes and wifi troubleshooting were significant problems.
Their existing call center wasn’t cutting it, either. Support wasn’t living up to expectations, leaving customers frustrated with the system. Processes had to be adjusted to adhere to their reputation as a great school with customer-forward initiatives.
The solution? They started using Freshdesk as a centralized database for operations. This helped them vastly improve their phone calls, ticketing system, and agent success.
With a knowledge base, they could manage support and help docs for customers (students and parents) and for employees. Having a private knowledge base for their employees solved the need for training or new employees to guess what the best action was. Instead, the knowledge base was a wealth of employee info on every process from responding to students and fielding phone calls.
We were blown away when we saw Freshdesk. The combination of social, email, knowledge base, mobile, and gamification all together is what sealed the deal for us.
—Charles Cooper, Director, Technology Support Services at Lesley University
Having a centralized help desk will aid in preparing for customer interactions. Less time on hold to find the information needed to relay to your customers and faster email responding is sure to please your customers and develop a customer-friendly school. Plus, these knowledge bases can act as on-going projects where you can continually update and add to them as new processes come and old ones change.
Take charge of your schools customer service and make lives more comfortable for your customers and employees.
Rewarding Good Service And Correction Bad Customer Service is Key
Excellent customer service needs to be recognized and encouraged, while bad customer service should be noted to prevent in the future.
Every time that your employees engage with a student, a parent, or prospective customers, they should be getting the best service they can. This means anyone from your front desk employees to higher-level management and everybody in between. A single bad customer experience can compound into negative reviews, lost donations, and more. So how do you reward good service and correct lousy service?
One way that Lesley University and University of Sydney do this is through gamification. Gamification is a help desk feature that turns support into a game where your employees can set up custom ‘quests’ and challenges to reach new points and rewards. When an employee or agent provides great customer service, they get rewarded with points. When they provide bad experiences or get bad customer reviews, they lose points.
Every employee impacts your schools customer-friendly nature, and gamification is the perfect way to motivate and inspire better service. Gamification helps otherwise dull sectors or campaigns become enjoyable and sustainable in the long run. If you struggle to find ways to motivate your school staff to be more customer-friendly, try using gamification!
Communicating The Mission of Your School Can Help Expand Growth
Communicating the mission of your school is a crucial step in producing a more customer-friendly environment. You want your school to be welcoming to new customers and showcase the excellence of existing ones, too. Students should be proud to be customers of your school.
Social media is the perfect place to amplify your school’s mission and expand customer growth. For instance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showcases their student body (current customers) on social media to foster growth and further portray their mission.
Social media is also a great place to run support inquiries from new customers. Getting recognized as a customer-friendly school means having a diverse marketing communications plan. And within that plan, social media can play a great role.
If your school doesn’t already have a newsletter, develop one and share it to your existing customers via email, and try to reach new ones by sharing it on social channels. A customer-friendly school is one that cares about the growth of their students and caters to their needs. Newsletters are a great way to show appreciation and drive loyalty long-term from your customer base. Plus, fostering this customer-friendly mantra with your mission can help land future customers and sustain growth.
In your newsletters, showcase how your students and parents are impacting the community through your school. In your communications plan or newsletter, focus on short content that fits with your audience. Split up your newsletters based on what departments your customers are in. If you have business school segments, develop a newsletter catered towards their passions and interests.
Personalize your newsletters with stories of customer success to catch the eye of prospective buyers, too. Communicating the mission of your school as customer-friendly requires some changes to your existing plan. But they can pay off big time for reaching new customers and maintaining a favorable brand image.
Looking at your school like a business can feel strange. Your goal is to provide better education and craft experiences that help people develop their skills and life goals. But whether you like it or not, schools are businesses in public and private sectors. If customers don’t like the service they receive, they can take their business elsewhere.
Start by assessing your current customer service options to see how you can appeal to your students and parents to give them better experiences. Review how you reward and punish bad customer service and enact strategies to improve it over time. Prepare your staff for first impressions, they can make or break customer relationships and potential ‘sales’. Communicate the mission of your school on social media to keep your base informed and delighted to be a customer.
Is your school customer-friendly? Follow the suggestions here to pave the way for high quality service and satisfied customers.