“Customer Service” can be an uncomfortable phrase to use in the education world. We’ve seen this lack of comfort at the K12, community college, and university levels. There is often a discomfort with viewing students as customers.
But the idea of serving others is clearly important to those in education – it’s amazing how much care that education industry professionals can show for that student – whether they’re the kindergartener or the near-term college graduate. So where there’s care, there’s a heart part to what people do in education.
To learn to best deliver what we’ll call “Service Excellence” to students, parents, and others inside and outside of the school district, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is partnering with the Cleveland Clinic on training that taps into their HEART customer service training program. According to the article Cleveland school district getting heart-to-heart talks from Cleveland Clinic, the District is “no longer a monopoly in the market where people go to school because we said so.”
Competition has spurred this focus on Service Excellence, and the training is just a piece of what the District’s doing. They’re also “labeling” (in a good way) staff’s roles beyond their functional responsibilities to also address their role in the service experience. A local community college is better measuring satisfaction, and they’re sharing results with the community to raise transparency about performance.
When you think about competition, growth, and success in the eyes of a community – don’t be daunted by the challenges, and don’t try to manufacture growth or focus on the competition. To get there, you have to start here – inside the organization.
Equip staff with the tools, motivation, training, and expectations to deliver Service Excellence. Take Customer Service to HEART.
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In the article North Peace Economic Development Commission to launch a regional Business Retention and Expansion, the NPEDC says that it’s creating a BRE program – in short – to convey it cares about local business – those that aren’t being recruited like royalty and yet still provide well over 70%-80% of job growth in most communities. But as you read further in the article, there is a key statement: The NPEDC says the information gathered through the program provides live business intelligence to attract new investment, foster and support growth of the existing investment, and identifies key challenges facing the business sector of the region.
This is the 21st century – information travels at the speed of a click, a tweet, a post, or a like. It’s vital that local BRE programs have the intelligence on your local businesses (and FOR your local businesses) that identifies opportunities for growth, risk of job loss or facility closure, needs for improving aspects of the local business climate or technology infrastructure, opportunities to address development-constricting processes or policies, challenges in workforce development or excessive permitting fees, etc.
When we work with clients outside of the BRE world in local government, healthcare, pro sports, and education, we often suggest that they need to have a Voice of the Customer (VOC) strategy. Likewise, for BRE organizations to have “live business intelligence,” they must be intentional about that VOC strategy. Take and use these quick VOC tips that we’ve shared with clients in other industries:
- Have a quantifiable component (i.e., surveys) to evaluate multiple aspects of the local industry’s experience in working with municipal processes, policies, code/ordinances, and people.
- Utilize predictive characteristics about retention/growth likelihood based on key factors (e.g., Leadership Change, Economic Concerns, Alternative Locations/Recruitment Efforts, Business Performance, etc.) or historical risk factors locally.
- Gather information from more Passive means on a daily basis about the company, other company facilities, organizational performance, etc. – See http://brebuzz.com/ – this defines “live business intelligence.”
- Include Focus Groups and 1-on-1 interviews for deep dives on specific issues or about consideration of future changes/improvements.
- Include Local Industry Advisory Boards that provide some consistent feedback mechanism as ideas are developed, refined, and moved toward implementation.
- Use multiple platforms (face-to-face, web, social media, e-mail, telephone, etc.) to ensure breadth of responses to/from clients and the community.
- Share results in actionable formats with deadlines and timetables – ensure customers know what you’re doing or planning to do with the information they provide to you.
Make “live business intelligence” a part of your Voice of the Customer strategy.
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See more on Business Retention & Expansion business intelligence at: http://brebuzz.com/
In the Forbes article This 15-Year-Old Absolutely Nails What ‘Patient Centered’ Is – And Isn’t, the author addresses patient satisfaction (or a lack thereof) in today’s hospitals. He shows the video of a 15 year old patient who discusses her complaints about her current inpatient stay and her suggestions to make it a better experience.
She talks about the need for sleep, the need to be a part of discussions about her care, and the desire to feel cared about as a person. A key quote is “I am a patient – and I need to be heard!”
Whether we’re working with our healthcare clients or those clients in other industries, this desire of customers to be heard can be overwhelming at times. The desire is often so strong because too many organizations are too deaf to the voice of the customer. Too many organizations strategize on what customers want instead of asking the customer. Too many leaders are focused on the product, service, or technical aspect of what they do that they lose sight of the people for whom they provide those services.
Too many hospitals preach customer care but haven’t taken the cultural approach to trying to embed the customer service mindset into every fabric of the organization – from hiring to training to processes to the facility to leadership modeling and internal communications.
They react to the complaints, they review the quarterly patient satisfaction survey results, but they don’t work to create a culture that encourages the ongoing engagement of the customer.
When you think of how to deliver a great customer experience, start with creating a culture of individuals and teams whose collective heart is focused on caring for its customers, and conveying that care for its customers.
Patient Satisfaction…from a Child’s Mouth to Our Ears.
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Many times when we address key customer retention strategies and customer retention success stories, the crux of what we’re saying is that you have to get to know the customer on more of a personal level. You need to build a relationship and not relegate yourself to viewing a customer as a prospect and selling to them as if you don’t even know them.
But this blog post is different. This time, I want you to envision yourself in a meeting at your business, and the meeting is all about customer retention and growth. Before you can develop a strategy, you have to ask yourself some key questions about your current state:
- Do you know why existing customers initially bought?
- Do you know why they would not return?
- Do you know who your customers view as your competitors?
- Do you know what differentiates you from your competitors in your customer’s mind?
- Do you know the differences in demographics, purchasing patterns, participation rates of clients who return every year v. those that don’t return?
- Do you know what internal operational factors impact those customer retention drivers?
- Do you know how you’re performing in those internal operational areas?
- Do you stay in contact (proactively) with customers, even when they’re not in your store, on your website, or contacting you directly?
- If so, are your proactive communications about you or personalized about them?
- In other words, do your proactive communications seek to learn more about them and educate them, or are they primarily pushing your products and services?
Before you embark on the next big strategy, do a self-scan. Find out what you know…or need to know first.
Ask yourself and those in your organization these 10 Key Customer Retention Evaluation Questions.
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Big data? Let’s start with Smart Data.
Pro sports organizations feel they know their fans well, and then they conduct their own fan surveys and are frustrated by the lack of useful information. The results are usually broad brushstrokes of fans – general ratings and likes/dislikes. However, research done the right way creates a 1-to-1 view of specific Season Ticket Holders (STHs). Consider the following 3 profiles of specific fans (we changed their names below) that came out of a research project we conducted for a pro sports club:
- Fred Smith will definitely renew for next year. In fact, he’s considering adding seats and is likely to want to upgrade his seats. He’s a STH because he loves basketball and the perks associated with being a STH (particularly ticket exchange and the post-game shoot-arounds), but he’s dissatisfied with the direction of the team. He doesn’t know who to contact if he has ticket issues, and he doesn’t know the name of his account representative. Fred’s married, has a doctorate, and usually attends with a business associate or with his wife.
- Janie Watson is a brand new STH, in her first season with the club. Janie’s uncertain whether she’ll renew her tickets, and although she loves the events, she doesn’t like her seats. She’s 32 years old, single, and loves the relationship with her account representative. She prefers to be contacted via e-mail, and – even though Janie loves her account representative – what’s most important to her is the game itself, getting in/out of parking quickly, her seat location, and getting ticketing needs/issues resolved quickly.
- Bob Jefferson is somewhat unlikely to renew. He’s been a STH for 7 years, and he has the tickets for family entertainment. He’s become disillusioned the past few years because the ownership preaches family values, but several players and some of the game day staff don’t convey those values. Bob wants more opportunities for kids to interact with players, and he’s particularly dissatisfied with the relationship with his account representative, the attitudes of Security, and the game entertainment. Bob noted that he’d like to talk with someone about his issues with the team.
What would you be able to do with this information for these 3 STHs? The answer should be obvious. You know who to contact about what; you know what SPECIFICS to discuss with each. You know HOW to contact them, and you know whether you’re in sales mode or service recovery/retention-mode.
When you look to do fan research, begin with the end in mind. Structure STH research to tell you the level of information you need to nurture and grow relationships – on a 1-to-1 basis.
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With the proliferation of relatively inexpensive online customer satisfaction survey solutions (at least for web-based surveys), there has thankfully been more of a tendency for organizations to ask customers about their experiences. This first-hand feedback can be very helpful for businesses in understanding customer perceptions and preferences.
But organizations can’t be so focused on just getting feedback from customers (those external to the organization) that they ignore many of the internal measures of operations that drive the customer’s (dis)satisfaction.
In the article City, county teaming up to speed land-use permits, Fort Wayne and Allen County governments were recognized for working well together on a new online land-use permitting system. According to the article, “The system will allow developers to track their projects online. It will also help city and county employees track their performance and understand where in the process applications are getting stalled. The system will chart a permit’s progress from department to department. If it is held up too long in one department, the system will red-flag it, and a computer-generated letter will be sent to the applicant.”
The system was developed – in part – to improve customer service. And a large part of that improvement will be driven by the organization looking at internal performance reports that are impacting speed of service processes for external customers.
When you review your customer satisfaction/service performance metrics, think beyond those surveys that customers complete. To truly improve customer service, you have to have effective measures of internal operational performance that impacts service delivery to customers.
Look internally to ensure you’re satisfying externally.
Interested in improving your organization’s customer service? See our other blog posts at: http://serviceadvice.cssamerica.com/category/government/
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When theory moves to practice, it’s always a good thing. As much as we love talking about why and how to conduct client surveys, it’s always helpful to look at actual surveys and pinpoint some key strengths to build into your own tools.
The University of Wisconsin completed a recent survey with season ticket holders (STHs), and there were several positive aspects for you to review so that you can build these into your own STH research:
- Much of the analysis was based on trending (not every organization is the same, so sometimes the best analysis is against one’s self – over time)
- Start with the most important data (near the start, they highlight likelihood to purchase and retention drivers immediately in the presentation – again, trending)
- They sprinkled in sample comments to illustrate the data findings (many people understand data better if there’s a story behind it)
- It was comprehensive (covering such attributes as game day experience to parking to likelihood to renew to retention drivers and disabilities services)
- They asked about communication methods/preferences (the survey addressed information sources as well as % of respondents with smart phones, use of smart phones during games, and connectivity).
Issues? They needed more stratification so you could compare answers by customer type or by response. What do students feel v. non-students? What are retention drivers for those married v. those single? What are retention drivers for first year STHs v. those with the Badgers for 15+ years? Luckily, the data is there; they just need to analyze it more fully.
Finally, the presentation was big on overall findings, but it lacked recommendations. It’s the kind of presentation that makes you nod your head and say “interesting” throughout, but at the end you want to ask “Based on this, what are you suggesting we do?”
See this sample sports survey as a fine example of what to ask; now find ways to use the data you gather to make strategic retention and revenue decisions as well as to identify STH-specific retention tactics to employ.
Learn from this Badgers research.
Interested in improving your organization’s fan retention and revenue? See our other blog posts at: http://serviceadvice.cssamerica.com/category/sports/
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