10 Tips for Improving Your School’s Customer Service

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Most school leaders aren’t accustomed to thinking about customer service. After all, parents have traditionally enrolled children in their community public schools and “got what they got” in terms of customer service. But with school choice options more prevalent than ever, leaders of all schools must now compete to recruit and retain students and families, and more importantly than ever, treat families like customers.

Customer service is a critical component of retention. If parents feel unheard, unwelcome, or find it difficult to get their needs met, they will seek alternative educational settings for their children. The experience you create for families (from their first click on your website to the moment they walk through your doors to their students’ graduation from your school) will determine if they stay and build your brand (aka your school’s reputation) or if they leave for another school.

Woman smiling while on a phone in front of a laptop

  1. Build a website that gives you a competitive advantage. Whether a family is moving to your community, getting ready to enroll their kindergartener, or looking to transfer their child, your school’s website often provides the first impression. A clean, crisp, interactive website that provides a user-friendly experience is essential. Getting answers to questions quickly, connecting with school staff and family ambassadors, and learning about the school experience can distinguish your school from such a crowded market.

  2. Create a strong school community. Each school is like a mini village, and each member has a role to play to ensure its success. Schools that intentionally build and strengthen their school community thrive. And when parents see their children thriving, they not only stay at that school, they tell others about it.

  3. Put customers (aka families) first. What does a parent experience when they call your school or walk into the front office? Are they greeted promptly and warmly, or are they impatiently asked to wait? Consider how easy (or not) it is for parents to navigate your website, find the information they need instantly, and get in touch with their teachers or key administrators. How quickly does the staff respond to parents?

  4. Provide a self-help option. Parents are busy, and their schedules don’t always align with the school’s. Providing easily accessible and helpful information on your website in a format that parents can utilize quickly and efficiently allows them to get information when needed without taking time away from staff or waiting for a return call. Include automatic chats to answer frequently asked questions, engaging pages with information about clubs and other extracurricular options, and short video clips to answer questions.

  5. Maximize the benefits of social media. While parents don’t spend nearly as much time on social media as their kids, the truth is that parents today rely on social media to stay current about events and news at school. Many schools have social media sites used to send information to parents. That is needed, but leaving it there is leaving behind an opportunity. Encourage teachers and parents to share success stories, innovative activities, and photos of students and staff enjoying their time together. Use your social media to illustrate the strong community you built at your school. Doing so will market your school to potential families, provide information to current ones, and help everyone feel more connected.Man and woman shaking hands with young boy sitting beside the woman

  6. Personalize your service. When parents entrust a school with their children, it is intensely personal for them. Give them the same respect and personalize your service to them. Get to know your families, learn about their skills, and work together to maximize learning and positive experiences at school.

  7. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Yes, we’ve heard it many times, but it’s true. Whether parents collaborate with the school or not, knowing they are welcome and their input matters builds loyalty. Include a parent representative on committees and when planning events. Regularly seek feedback from families about their experiences and those of their children. Include their stories with prospective and current families on your website and social media. Provide tools to help families connect with one another easily.

  8. Share. Share information that families want and will find helpful. Share good news about the school, their child, or their teachers. We all know how backpacks sometimes become an abyss for papers from school. So, share online where parents can easily and quickly access articles, news, and school highlights on their own time.

  9. Give credit where credit is due. Go out of your way to acknowledge and share accomplishments, outstanding customer service, and hard work.

  10. Remember your ABCs. Your Attitude, Behavior, and Communication create a customer-friendly experience that welcomes families and students or sends them looking for another school. Take time to reflect periodically on your ABCs and consider how parents experience your school. Putting yourself in their shoes can be quite revealing.

Our educational landscape is changing personally, physically, and digitally. These changes require educational leaders to rethinK the way we interact with families. The top-down approach won’t work in the modern era. Instead, putting your customers first and maximizing your customer service will recruit and retain families and, more importantly, help students to thrive.

Chambers, L. (1998). How customer-friendly is your school? Educational Leadership, October, 33-35.

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