Customer Perception. Does it matter in schools?
When I ask people what they think marketing looks like in a school context there is a common response usually involving a discussion around website, prospectuses and raising pupil numbers. However, a comprehensive marketing strategy covers a much wider remit than this as the NASBM Professional Standards clearly demonstrate. One area of marketing that does seem to be given the least attention is customer relationship management. A subject that often gets associated with organisations that are set out to make a profit. So is customer relationship management important in a school environment?
I personally love delighting the customer. I think there is nothing better than the feeling that you have gone the extra mile to assist someone and to know they have gone away with a positive and feel good feeling about you and the organisation you are representing. This relates to schools as much as it does any business. With many schools facing challenges around both pupil and employee recruitment and retention, ensuring the school has a positive reputation and is highly regarded is critical.
One of the best forms of marketing is ensuring that the school’s stakeholders always talk about them in a positive way. They become advocates of the school and it creates the feel-good factor that every school needs, giving staff a sense of cohesion and parents a sense of pride of the school their child attends. A highly regarded school helps everyone to flourish and the school to grow. Good customer relationship management will support this.
Culturally getting schools to understand and strengthen customer relationships can be a challenge.
Depending on where a school is with its development it can require a whole cultural shift of staff understanding that they provide a service and the quality of this really matters. Having a school customer charter can help. A customer service charter is a written policy that clearly communicates a school’s commitment to delivering its service to others. It defines the purpose, scope and standards of its commitment to customer service so that staff know how to act and stakeholders know what they can expect.
Running alongside this should be a service level agreement for each area of the school’s activities which includes everything from how quick a phone call will be answered to the number of pieces of homework that will be set each week. Assigning responsibility to someone for promoting and monitoring that service levels are met is key to its success, ensuring that standards become embedded and customer service is a natural part of a school’s culture.
All schools want to raise their profile and be seen in a positive light. Good customer relationship management is one part of the marketing strategy that will support this.
By Justine Berkeley - June 2017