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Be(come) the Customer

Most of us think that we are customer centric. We believe that we care for our customers. After all, we train our people to be polite and friendly with our customers. However, in this day and age, we contract much of our customer service to outside software vendors. We need to ask how customer friendly they are.

In schools, the application process is managed by an outside software company as is the payment process. Often so is the school parent communication function. Few of us manage student gradebooks.  Generally, we assume that these functions are consumer friendly, and I find they often are not.

When I was head of school, I would ask my people to actually use the software we required our parents to employ. I wanted them to understand how easy or frustrating the process might be. During their exploration, they would often discover glitches that made navigating the software quite frustrating. (And I would not accept the explanation our parents are more computer savvy than I am. Instead, we needed to ease the frustrations.) 

I remember a number of times when as a school we wanted to add flexibility for our parents, and I would be told the software would not allow it. My response was always the same, “the software is there to serve us; we are not here to serve the software.” That simple statement would motivate my people to find work-arounds. After all, we should make our customers’ lives easier, not the software companies’. 

A good exercise this summer might be to run through all the processes you have delegated to various software systems and determine if they are really customer friendly. You might be surprised by what you discover. 


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