8 Ways to Enhance Customer Service in the Education Sector

In the past when we thought of education, our focus often landed on teachers and administrative staff—the frontline workers in this field. They played a crucial role and deserved recognition for their efforts. However, the education system is much more complex now than it seems at first glance. It's like an iceberg, where what's visible represents only a fraction of the whole picture. For teachers to excel in their roles, they rely on resources such as books, software, and various supplies. While some of these resources seem straightforward, others require dedicated support professionals to assist frontline staff with queries. It is the education system that caters to various stakeholders such as students, teachers, parents, and support staff. Customer service in the education industry revolves around the quality of experience these individuals have while engaging with educational institutions. According to a 2018 study, there are 137,432 educational institutions in the US, including private, charter, and public schools. Each strives to attract new students, understanding that a positive student experience starts with excellent customer service.   In this blog, we will answer the question of why delivering great customer service in education is important and delve deeper into strategies to improve education customer service.

Why does delivering great customer service in the education sector matter?

Customer service is the cornerstone of the education industry. It plays a huge role in how successful and enjoyable students' experiences are, as well as how parents and the community perceive the educational institution. Here are a few reasons why it matters so much:

  1. Student success: When students feel supported and valued, they tend to do better in their studies and are more likely to stay focused on their education.
  2. Parent involvement: When schools communicate well and address concerns promptly, parents feel more confident and engaged in their child's education. This creates a strong support system for students.
  3. Good reputation: A positive image of a school or college, built on a welcoming atmosphere and supportive environment. Consequently, a good reputation can attract more students and improve the community's view of the institution.
  4. Community relationships: Excellent customer service connects the school with the community, encouraging support and participation in educational activities and events.
  5. Overall experience: A caring, respectful, and responsive environment helps create a culture of learning, growth, and well-being for everyone involved in education.

Additionally, In the UK, studies have shown how crucial student experience is for their success in school. Good communication plays a big role in lowering the number of first-year students leaving, often because they misunderstand things that could have been cleared up with better communication. This isn't just important for new students but for everyone in school. It shows how vital it is for schools to provide easy-to-understand information and communicate well with students. When schools improve how they assist students, it makes students happier and more productive. This, in turn, helps schools become better ranked over time.  Great customer service isn't just about helping students succeed; it also fosters strong relationships among students, parents, the school, and the community. It's essential for creating an environment that's supportive, engaging, and conducive to learning.  

Ways to enhance Customer Service in the Education Sector

Improving customer service in education is crucial for student satisfaction. Here are some practical ways to improve overall customer service in education:

1.Customize services for diverse needs through Personalization

Traditional schools often struggled to see each student as unique. But today, thanks to technology, schools can tap into student info, craft student personas or smaller groups, and cater to their distinct needs. This way, every student's voice matters without the need for resistance or student unions. Thus, educational institutions can take a page from the business world's playbook to better cater to their students' diverse needs. Similar to how businesses target specific customer groups, schools, and colleges can adopt a similar approach. Start by identifying the unique needs of different student groups to create distinct clusters based on these characteristics. Just like a company might focus on selling products to certain demographics, schools can tailor services for Millennials, domestic and international students, low-income students, or athletes. Each group has its own requirements, and they expect quality support and services from their educational institution. Develop individual student personas and organize them into categories to begin crafting strategies that meet their specific needs. For example, first-year students might need help navigating paperwork and becoming familiar with the institution. International students might require guidance on visas, while low-income students often seek financial aid. To address these needs effectively, consider creating specific sections on your website dedicated to these categories, like an "International Studies" section. For instance, West Texas A&M tackled student support challenges by establishing a centralized student access center. This center brings together department heads and students facing issues, offering a one-stop solution for various concerns such as student loans or study abroad programs. This approach saves time by eliminating the need for inefficient back-and-forth communication in finding solutions.

2. Utilize an omnichannel approach to reach and engage with students

Today's students are highly digital-oriented, meaning they don't just prefer connecting with educational institutions digitally; they expect access to various digital platforms. These could include email, live chat, social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, or even SMS. Connecting effectively with students is key to building relationships and increasing the likelihood of them choosing to enroll. However, the challenge doesn't end there; retaining enrolled students is equally important. Student drop-out rates pose a significant problem for institutions, affecting their financial standing. According to Stanford, a departing student can cost an institution up to $40,000 in the US. To ensure prospective and current students can easily engage via their preferred channels, educational institutions should consider adopting an omnichannel customer service approach. Omnichannel customer service solutions streamline conversations from all digital channels into a single agent interface. This setup provides agents with a comprehensive view of a student's interaction history, regardless of whether the communication occurs through live chat, SMS, email, messaging apps, or social media. Implementing an omnichannel strategy offers several advantages for educational institutions:

  1. Personalized Experience: Students, alumni, and other involved individuals enjoy a more tailored experience.
  2. Insightful understanding: It helps gather valuable insights into students' concerns and enables smoother resolution of these issues.
  3. Resilience through E-Learning: Enables handling educational disruptions effectively by employing e-learning and digital solutions.
  4. Cost and time efficiency: Saves resources by streamlining marketing efforts across multiple channels, ultimately saving money and time.

Thus, enabling students to connect through their chosen platform ensures a cohesive and personalized experience, empowering agents to deliver genuine support.  

3. Increase First Response Time (FRT) to meet students and parents' expectations

In today's world, students and parents have become accustomed to high-quality service from businesses. They expect swift and effective solutions to their queries, not delays that hinder a student's progress.  Educational institutions have a responsibility to promptly and efficiently address questions, provide comprehensive information, and remain accessible whenever parents or students reach out. Just as customers can become frustrated swiftly, students can feel dissatisfied if their issues aren’t addressed promptly. Thus, for institutions offering remote education, selecting customer support tools that align with their brand identity is crucial. Fortunately, various tech tools like robust help centers, live chat, or 24/7 AI agents can be deployed to assist students anytime, anywhere. Tracking metrics like Average First Response Time (FRT) can help gauge team performance and keep staff informed about their effectiveness in providing timely responses. The time taken for the initial response can set you apart from competitors in the eyes of both students and parents. A quick response time can significantly influence their choice between educational institutions.  

4. Measure performance with key metrics

Every new initiative needs a way to gauge its effectiveness. Without proper metrics, you risk investing in methods that might not yield the desired results, leading to increased expenses. A proven and effective approach is to establish specific goals to assess the impact of your customer support program. For instance, if your aim is to boost retention rates, you can compare rates before and after implementing your strategy. To gain a comprehensive understanding of your initiative's impact, it's crucial to consider both quantitative and qualitative results. Conducting brief customer surveys and questionnaires helps gauge real-time customer satisfaction levels and the success of your strategy. Moreover, tracking your Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) can provide valuable insights for future actions. Remember, a single slip in customer service might prompt a student to choose a competitor, resulting in significant financial losses for your institution.

5. Provide 24/7 assistance

When a service commits to being available 24/7, it guarantees that you can seek and receive assistance, guidance, or support at any hour, whether it's daytime or nighttime. This level of commitment ensures that regardless of the time zone you're in or the specific hour of the day, you have uninterrupted access to the help and resources you might need. This availability isn't just about a simple promise; it's a commitment to providing a consistent and reliable support system that remains accessible round the clock. Imagine having a question or encountering an issue outside of regular working hours. In such situations, the assurance of 24/7 availability means you won't have to wait until the next business day for a solution. You can seek immediate help or find the necessary information right when you need it, without any delay. This continuous accessibility offers more than just convenience; it establishes a sense of trust and reliability. Knowing that support is consistently available fosters a sense of assurance and comfort for users, enabling them to rely on the service whenever they require assistance or information. Furthermore, a service that upholds 24/7 availability recognizes the diverse needs of its users. People operate on different schedules and time zones, and having a support system that accommodates these variations ensures inclusivity. Whether you're an early bird or a night owl, in your home country or abroad, the 24/7 availability ensures that help is just a few clicks or a call away, regardless of the time difference or geographical location.

6. Implement AI chatbots for enhanced services

Incorporating conversational AI bots across all customer service areas is a step toward providing tailored and efficient responses to inquiries. Embracing this AI trend in education can significantly improve the effectiveness of newly introduced technologies. An AI Chatbot has the capability to address a wide array of topics such as admission processes, courses, campus life, fees, sponsorships, and more. Its role in the education sector is to facilitate instant access to information and support for students, teachers, and staff, ultimately elevating their experience within the institution. Here are ways in which these bots can improve customer service:

  1. Recognizing and responding to the emotional states of students or parents.
  2. Tailoring learning experiences according to individual student needs.
  3. Allowing instructors to dedicate less time to administrative tasks by providing swift, pre-programmed responses to common student inquiries.
  4. Assisting in efficient data analysis for student assessment and progress tracking.

By embracing AI Chatbots, educational institutions can streamline communication, provide personalized assistance, and optimize operations, ultimately enhancing the overall educational experience for everyone involved.

7. Leverage Iterative feedback loops for continuous improvement

To better meet the needs of your students and parents, collect and review their thoughts about teaching quality, interactions with staff, and the learning environment. Getting feedback is a great way to enhance customer service in education. It gives you a clear view of how well your interaction plan is working. It's the best way to find out if your students and their parents are happy with their experience. If they're not, it helps identify what's causing their concerns. Establishing and nurturing regular feedback mechanisms creates a culture of open communication. Whether it's through surveys, suggestion boxes, dedicated feedback sessions, or interactive platforms, actively seeking and incorporating constructive feedback reflects a commitment to continuous improvement. Institutions that value and act upon feedback demonstrate responsiveness, adaptability, and a genuine dedication to meeting the evolving needs of their students and community.

8. Invest in employee training for empathetic customer experience

Investing in training programs designed to enhance staff members' interpersonal skills and cultivate empathy proves to be invaluable. Equipping staff with empathy enables them to better understand and address diverse student needs, contributing to the creation of a supportive and inclusive environment. Institutions that prioritize empathy in their staff training foster stronger connections with students, thereby promoting a positive and nurturing atmosphere. Moreover, employees occupying lower positions within your organizational structure often wield significant influence over both acquiring and retaining clients. These frontline employees engage with clients regularly, becoming the face of your company in the eyes of the customers. Their interactions and behaviors serve as the yardstick by which your company is measured. Investing in training programs for these employees to foster polite and attentive communication with students and parents is pivotal in providing exceptional customer service in the education sector. By equipping them with insights into navigating challenging situations and providing guidance on handling various scenarios, you empower them to handle difficult interactions effectively. This proactive approach not only enhances customer experience but also showcases your institution's commitment to addressing concerns with professionalism and care.

Final thoughts

Educational institutions can make considerable strides by improving customer service. The emphasis on personalized attention, accessibility, empowerment, and fostering a supportive environment underscores the commitment to nurturing strong relationships with students and parents. Remember, the amalgamation of small changes and consistent efforts towards improvement can yield significant dividends in enhancing the overall educational journey. If you are still worried about delivering good customer service in education then Xebo.ai, student experience platform that seamlessly connects students, educators, and administrators, revolutionizing education through cutting-edge technologies and AI. This fosters collaboration, offering a diverse array of resources and interactive learning opportunities tailored to individual student needs and learning styles. Xebo.ai aims to elevate the overall student experience, making learning dynamic, engaging, and impactful at every stage of the educational journey. Schedule a Demo today to transform your educational institute that truly cares for its students and staff.

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