Student Experience Resolutions

Some good food for thought posted today by Forrester Analyst, Bruce Temkin on his blog.  He offers up his annual top-ten list of resolutions that companies should consider this New Year.  Surprisingly, there’s no mention of losing weight, quitting smoking or better managing their budgets (though that would be a good one).

Here are his Customer Experience Resolutions for 2010:

  1. We shall put in place a robust voice of the customer program
  2. We shall stop playing with social media and put it to good use
  3. We shall treat customer service as a loyalty-driver, not a cost center
  4. We shall go beyond just fixing problems and inspire brand promoters
  5. We shall establish clarity in our brand, internally and externally
  6. We shall identify a senior executive to lead the transformation effort
  7. We shall help new customers get value from us faster and easier
  8. We shall improve the usability of all self-service interactions
  9. We shall communicate more clearly with customers across all channels
  10. We shall make our culture more customer-centric

How are these points relevant to higher education?  Here are a few thoughts on how Bruce’s suggestions could be applied at your college or university (feel free to add your own):

1. We shall put in place a robust voice of the customer program – 

Many institutions still wrestle with the notion that students are in fact customers that are purchasing a service from the college or university. As a result, institutions sometimes forget to gather feedback from constituents about their experience.  How can you be expected to improve your service if you don’t bother asking those you serve? It’s time to start hearing the voice of YOUR customer – students.

2. We shall stop playing with social media and put it to good use

2009 was the year of Twitter and of course Facebook continued to exert its massive force across the universe.  Despite having a reputation for being laggards with respect to technology, few industries have been as quick as higher education to adopt social media.  A study conducted last year by UMASS-Dartmouth found that 13% of the Fortune 500 and 39% of the Inc. 500 currently have a public blog, it is interesting to note that college admissions departments continue to lead the pack with blogs at 41% of US colleges and universities.  Social media has arrived on campus in a major way.  However, 2010 will be the year where colleges and universities must stop viewing social media as a “rogue” channel and start integrating it with their other marketing channels.

3. We shall treat customer service as a loyalty-driver, not a cost center –

What’s the average cost to recruit a new student? About $2,500 (according to NACAC).  How much are they worth to your institution over 4-years? In many cases well over 6 figures.  Ironically though, particularly for public institutions, having students stick around too long could result in diminishing returns and extra costs to both parents and the institution. You should start thinking about retention and student success before you even enroll a new student.  The more you know up front, the better prepared you’ll be to ensure they’re the right fit for your institution and that you’re prepared to make them successful.

4. We shall go beyond just fixing problems and inspire brand promoters –

Don’t strive to just meet expectations…strive for greatness.

5. We shall establish clarity in our brand, internally and externally –

Are you afraid you won’t be able to differentiate your institution from the competition?  It’s probably because it’s true.  Differentiation is hard. And as some think, it may not even be what you should be shooting for as “uniqueness is overrated.”  However, ensuring consistency of your brand can go a long way towards helping your constituents make positive associations with your institution which may be enough of a differentiator (especially if your competition has lousy branding).

6. We shall identify a senior executive to lead the transformation effort – 

We often hear about how difficult it is for those at the lower levels of higher education administration to affect change at their institutions.  To that I say, “hogwash.” That’s right, hogwash…not a word I use lightly. You’re in the position that you are in because someone, at some point, trusted you.  Leverage that trust to help implement change. Take your ideas to senior executives.  You never know which ones may stick.  The reality is that you sometimes need to know people in high places to get things done. Get heard by finding an executive champion for your ideas.

7. We shall help new customers get value from us faster and easier – 

As I alluded to on #3, shaping your enrollment properly, and providing excellent service and first-year learning experiences goes a long way toward delivering a life-long fan of your institution.  It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to prove a ROI to your students. 

8. We shall improve the usability of all self-service interactions –

It’s important to help customers help themselves, but make sure you’re consistent with your offerings.  Provide access to the information they need without re-inventing the wheel and forcing them to sign up for a different site for every stage of the student lifecycle. 

9. We shall communicate more clearly with customers across all channels –

Marshall McLuhan is known for saying, “The medium is the messsage,” meaning that a medium influences how a message is perceived.  However, try not to let the medium control your message too much.  Whether it’s social media, email, traditional or paid search advertising, your customers want a continuity of experience across all channels.  

10. We shall make our culture more customer-centric – I think this one speaks for itself.  Try to make your culture more student-centric.  Otherwise, why bother having students to begin with?

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