The Importance of Customer Service in Education, and How to Improve It

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When you think of the term customer service it typically always brings to mind thoughts of shops, restaurants, salons, supermarkets, and other traditional business settings. However, one industry where customer service is incredibly important but often not concentrated on enough is education.

When it comes to schools and colleges and other educational spots, there are multiple “customers” to take care of, including students, parents, sponsors, the community, and even taxpayers. How many facilities stop and take the time though to think about how to satisfy these customers, and how to stop them from taking their “business” elsewhere or, in the case of the nearly half a million high school students who leave school each year, how to stop them from dropping out all together?

Whether you’re a current educator or someone who is planning to enroll in an educational leadership degree, it’s important to be aware of your responsibilities when it comes to finding, securing and retaining customers over the long term. Read on for some tips you can consider today to improve the service provided by your organization.

Focus on Being More Welcoming
One of the first things education providers can do to improve customer service is teach all staff members to really welcome parents, students, board members, community members, and other people who visit or get in contact. After all, making a good first impression matters.

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While receptionists and secretaries are often the first ones to make an impression by way of greeting people in person or chatting to them on the phone, it is important for all school staff to be involved in a creating a friendly, positive, welcoming presence. This includes not just teachers, principals, deans, administrators, and office staff, but also bus drivers, cleaners, food service staff, gardeners, security staff, and more. Be aware that everyone on the payroll is part of the face of an organization.

Take a look at how visitors are greeted when they first arrive at an educational facility. Ask yourself: are there plenty of parking spaces for those driving to a school to utilize, and is the signage clear so that people can find their way around easily? Will someone greet them quickly, or will they have to wander around the premises trying to locate a friendly face? Will visitors and people on the phone be directed promptly to the person they need to speak to? Is there a warm and inviting atmosphere within the grounds? There are also key issues to address.

Responsiveness Is Key
It is also vital that schools, universities and other educational venues are responsive to their “customers.” Responding to questions or requests within a day or even sooner will help people to feel valued, even if they don’t receive the response they expected or hoped for.

Don’t forget social media and websites too. In this day and age, many parents, students and other contacts will get in touch via websites or avenues like Facebook and Twitter to find out information or provide feedback that should be actioned. If educational providers have a digital presence, they must keep up to date with such avenues if they want to provide solid customer service.

Hire the Right People
One of the best ways to provide a “wow” customer service experience every time, no matter the industry, is to ensure that the people employed within an organization have the right attitude. In educational settings this is particularly important.

Institutions should not only hire on skills and experience, but also look to find candidates who possess a positive outlook, and who have key personality traits and core values which align closely with the organization’s mission, vision, culture and expectations.

Workers who are passionate about their job and the venue they work for; who can demonstrate patience, calm and optimism even at the most stressful or challenging times; and who genuinely like to interact with people, are always going to help deliver a more impressive customer service experience than employees who only have the requisite technical skills.

Test and Measure
If you want to find out if the customer service provided at your facility is actually seen as positively as you hope, you should spend some time testing and measuring results in a variety of ways. If you ask students, parents and other people involved in the school or university setting to evaluate the venue in different areas, you will be able to see what actually is working, and what still leaves a lot to be desired.

Completing evaluations will help you to take your user experience to the next level much more quickly, and will stop you from simply hazarding a guess at what needs improvement or what is already top notch when it comes to customer service.

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