Here are 8 suggestions and a few customer service core values for improving customer experience in Catholic schools.
1. Streamline. Millennial parents “digital parity.” They expect schools efficient, streamlined, user friendly and the best of what they customers have experienced online in every other part of their lives. Millennial parents expect self-service options, they don’t expect to repeatedly fill out forms with information they’ve already provided elsewhere, and they actively rebel against org chart-mandated siloing (“I don’t handle that, you’ll have to go down the hall, or “you’ll have to come back on Tuesdays, when Mr. ____ is in the office.”)
2. Try it yourself. Are you easy to use? You won’t know until you try. Try your own website without your auto-log in. Is it easy? Or a pain? Come in the front door of your building (rather than entering from the employee parking area) and see if the front door swings open easily, or whacks you on the shoulder. Look for the signs and symbols at the get go and throughout the building that say we are a Catholic school. Try a little secret shopping – Fill out a “request information” form online and see if anyone—ever!—responds. You may be shocked at what you find out.
3. Do the hustle. Perfect customer service, delivered late, feels wrong. And the timeline in this digital age for what parents as the consumer consider a delayed response is continually getting shorter. You’re not being judged based on what’s always been “fast enough for education”; you’re being judged, implicitly and unconsciously, based on the speed of Amazon.
4. Benchmark outside of education. More and more, what your parents are expecting in customer service comes from the service they experience outside of education–and you, too, should look outside of education to great companies and organizations regardless of industry for inspiration that will improve your user friendliness.
5. Learn to apologize. Things will go wrong. Prepare for this, emotionally as well as operationally. Note that sometimes–often–you’re simply apologizing for the situation, not for something you did wrong. It doesn’t matter; an apology is still of value. Parents are willing to recognize we are all perfectly imperfect.
6. Don’t make parents ask simple questions that they should have been able to find online. Customers don’t like to be burdened to contact you for items that could easily be provided for them on a self-service basis. The lunch menu and photo day requirements are good examples here.
7. Get the welcome to your school right even before you greet the parent. Welcomes are first impressions and are a key moment in customer service. If parking is hard to find, if disabled access is poor (or–just as common–confusing), if office hours are posted incorrectly online, then you’re making a poor impression before the parent or prospective parent gets to consider all the wonder you can do to prepare their child for college and heaven.
8. Build a culture of yes. A hallmark of a great school is an attitude by every teacher and staff member, that “The answer is yes—now what was your question?” There’s great power in getting everyone in your school to share a goal of getting to a “yes” for every consumer, rather than figuring out ways to say “no,” “not my department,” “it doesn’t work that way around here,” “sadly, we cannot accommodate that request,” or “if you call back in the morning, perhaps we’ll be able to help you.” Well-meaning teachers and staff can still find a dozen ways to say no to their parent consumers. You accomplish this by modeling a spirit of yes, hiring for a spirit of yes, and rewarding a spirit of yes. (And there’s one more thing: Sometimes in education, achieving a culture of “yes” requires rooting out or/and reforming “situational tyrants.” Any institution can become a breeding ground for what I call “situational tyrants,” people who have the power to say “no” within their tiny little fiefdom, and who exercise that powers every chance they get. It is incredibly important to get these people to come over to your program of having “yes” as the goal: “Yes, we can assist you with this and would be happy to do so.
Finally, work with all staff members to adopt customer service core values I refer to as:
- Make it Happen
- No Drama
- Absolute Persistence
- Relentless Support
- Passion in All Things
- Get Your Hands dirty