10 Reasons to Adopt a Customer Service Mindset in Schools

Although schools aren’t “businesses” in the traditional sense, they can still benefit from adopting a customer mindset. With this approach, institutions choose to view their students, their families, and the surrounding community as valued customers. Of course, a student earning a degree or diploma is a very different scenario from a customer paying a professional to repair their computer or cut their hair. But the basic exchange is the same.

The student is paying for a service, and they expect a positive experience — just as they would from any other business they hire or purchase from. So if you’re not yet treating your students like valued customers, keep reading to learn why this approach can be so beneficial for schools.

10 Reasons Why Schools should Adopt a Customer Service Mindset

The concept of students as customers is still relatively new within the educational system, but it’s a shift that has benefits for students and schools alike. In this post, we’ve compiled ten of the most compelling.

1. Schools Depend on Students Financially

When it comes down to it, your school relies on students financially. Whether they make tuition payments or your institution is government-funded, maintaining high enrollment is essential for keeping your programs running.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of schools are struggling to generate the funds they need. This means that schools need to make it a priority to maintain a steady flow of revenue — and that requires treating students as a customer they have to earn.

2. Students and their Families have Plenty of Options

An education now costs more than ever, and 68% of seniors at public and non-profit colleges graduate with student loan debt. In fact, the total student loan debt in the United States now stands at over $1.5 trillion1.

If a student is investing this much (and potentially going into debt), they need to be satisfied with the quality of the education they’re receiving. And if they’re not satisfied, they know there are plenty of other options — and they’ll be more than willing to explore those options considering the cost that’s on the line.

3. Treating Students like Customers Leads to a Better Student Experience

Many businesses operate on the philosophy that the customer should always come first. They listen to their customers’ needs and concerns and make it a priority to address them in order to make their experiences as positive as possible. Unfortunately, you don’t always see this approach in schools.

For example, let’s say students frequently complain about a lack of parking. For most businesses, a lack of parking for customers would be unacceptable and quickly addressed. Within the context of a school, however, these concerns often go unresolved. This is mostly because the mindset of the classroom tends to exist on entire campuses.

After all, students attend schools to earn an education and a degree — not to be handed them merely because they’ve paid tuition. And while that’s certainly an appropriate approach within academic settings, students should be able to expect certain amenities after paying their schools tens of thousands of dollars. Taking the time to determine what those expectations are can help you improve the student experience your school provides.

After all, for every student that brings an issue to your attention, you can safely assume that at least a handful of others have the same concern. Putting those needs first can go a long way in showing your students that you value their input.


4. A Better Experience Leads to Higher Retention

Although many schools focus their efforts on maintaining enrollment of incoming students, retention is arguably an even more important goal. After all, it’s much more cost-effective to keep current students enrolled than to attract larger numbers of new students each year.

And it should come as no surprise that the better experience your students have, the more likely they’ll be to return year after year. By prioritizing your students’ needs, you can improve your retention rates — and, in turn, your enrollment and revenue.

5. Students have an Extremely High Long-term Value (LTV)

Education is not a one-time investment for students. Unlike product-based businesses, which may generate all the revenue they’ll ever see from an individual customer all in one purchase, students have the potential to bring your school much more value over the long term.

They pay tuition each semester at the very minimum, and many students also pay additional fees for housing and meal plans. When you consider the fact that some parents send multiple children to the same schools, this can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single family. This means that it’s more than worth the effort to treat these students and their families as valued customers — because when it comes down to it, that’s what they are.

6. A Customer Mindset can Improve Understanding of your Student Body

Collecting audience demographic information and developing “personas” are standard parts of the marketing process, and are used often by traditional businesses.

Schools, on the other hand, often attempt to define the type of students that attend based on the fact that they’re attending. They ascribe the values of their institution onto their student body, instead of taking the time to learn what their students’ values really are.

This is unlikely to lead to the kind of educational experience those students want. But treating students as customers forces schools to establish a clearer picture of who their “audience” really is.

As Danielle Brown, Continuing Education Director at Kansas State University, explains, “It is important to know the characteristics of your students. Know the demographics and barriers facing them. We are living in a world of customization. Defining the profile of your student will allow you to tailor communication.”

With this approach, you can be confident that your picture of your students is an accurate one — and that the decisions you make are the ones that they want to see.

7. A Customer Mindset Drives Innovation

Businesses know that earning and keeping customers requires continuously improving the customer experience and tailoring it to their audiences. They can base these improvements on both their audience’s needs and their competitors’ strategies.

And adopting a customer mindset requires schools to do the same. For example, looking for ways to better serve students might mean taking steps like upgrading class registration tools, simplifying the application process, and offering more online resources. This way, you can keep up with your competitors, while offering your students the best educational experience possible.

8. Many Students already See Themselves as Customers

If you’re not yet taking a customer mindset, there’s a strong chance that your view of the educational system isn’t aligning with that of your students. In fact, a survey at the University of South Alabama found that 52% of students considered themselves customers of the university. Shifting to the same viewpoint can help you establish a similar view, and make sure that you’re meeting your students’ needs and expectations.

Student experience

9. Great Customer Service Builds Lasting Relationships

People who have ongoing positive experiences with a business often become long-term customers. And while most students will only attend your school for a few years, they can still make valuable contributions as alumni.

And considering that the extent to which they do is largely dependent on the experience they have while attending, it’s in your best interest to offer the kind of service that leads to a lifetime of loyalty to your institution.

10. A Customer Mindset can Improve the Quality of your Programs

When it comes down to it, adopting a customer mindset requires listening to your students and their families, and making the changes they want.

This not only shows that you listen but can also lead to the kind of improvements that change your institution and programs for the better. And if you continue to make these improvements, the overall quality of your school will only continue to increase.


Although the concept of treating students and their families like customers is still a relatively new one, it’s a shift that can have a significant positive impact on the overall experience each student has. Viewing students as customers not only reinforces the value that they bring to your school but can help your institution as a whole focus on those students’ needs and feedback.

After all, every successful business owner knows that keeping customers happy is essential for keeping those customers around, earning new customers, and building a positive brand reputation. And all of these statements are certainly true of schools.

So if you’re not yet approaching your students with the same level of service and care that traditional businesses offer their customers, it could be time to make a change. Listen to their concerns, use their feedback to make impactful changes, and create a better experience for each of the students that enroll in your programs.

1 – https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2018/06/13/student-loan-debt-statistics-2018/#290bb91d7310

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