Customer experience is one of the hottest buzzwords in Catholic education these days. Schools are retaining national consultants such as Partners in Mission, Inc and committing resources into building a strong customer experience. In many parts of the country Catholic schools are already competing more based on the customer experience versus price or curriculum. After all, a school is a school is a school, and all elementary schools in essence offer the same education adhering to both state and national standards.

So, what is left then to set the school apart but the customer experience. Parents need to be able to rationalize the school purchase decision and the customer experience is the key to happy satisfied parents who are willing to serve as good will ambassadors for your school.

Outside of the education business, we are seeing research that companies that invest in customer experience boast a higher stock price. That said, more companies are also taking customer experience seriously.

The truth is that in the business of Catholic education, there are a many ways to care for and interact with parents to create a positive customer experience.

Customer service is the advice or assistance a school leadership and staff gives to parents.

The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, and it usually comes by answering questions – often before they need to be asked.  Some schools offer Kindergarten readiness testing for parents and parenting workshops open to parents of both enrolled students and parents with children enrolled elsewhere who members of Catholic parishes. This strategy can be viewed as a customer service gesture on behalf of the parish leadership as well.

Customer care means how well parents are taken care of while they interact with school leadership and staff.

A term used less often is customer care, which is how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the school leaders, faculty, and staff and yes even the custodial staff. Customer care in Catholic education is actually caring for parents, listening to their needs, and finding the right solution – even if it means sometimes helping them find a neighboring Catholic school more prepared to meet their needs.  In many instances, customer care moves one step beyond basic customer service by building an emotional connection and making parents feel like a member of the community. I refer to this as the Starbucks experience. Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee but rather the experience of community.

Customer experience is the total journey of parent’s interactions with a school.

Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching school options, to touring a campus, applying, admission notification, registration, enrollment, and the day to day interactions each day of the school year with EVERY member of the school staff. with to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection parents as a consumer have with the school.  Customer care for school parents isn’t a one-off interaction, but rather includes the entire lifecycle and every touch point a parent has with the school.

If these three concepts all sound similar, it’s because they all contribute to a school delivering on its promises and building loyal, satisfied parents and alumni. Customer experience is the overarching sum of all interactions, and customer service and customer care are pieces of that puzzle.

Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service. However, customer service and customer care often fall under the responsibility of the school leadership. To be effective, everyone in the organization should be invested in customer experience.

Customer experience is more than just a buzzword—it should be at the heart of everything a Catholic school does. By including customer service and customer care, Catholic school leaders can exceed expectations and delight parents.