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Applying Four eCommerce Best Practices to the Community College Student Experience

When it comes to delivering a superior customer experience, there is no better place to look at than leading eCommerce providers, whose immense success stems from their primary focus on customer value 

For eCommerce leaders (companies like Uber, Amazon and GrubHub) the customer is ‘king’ and everything that they buildinfrastructure and processesis designed from the ground up to serve the needs of their customers. These companies strive to provide their customers with an exceptional experience that entices them to come back over and over again. In fact, eCommerce companies are so maniacal about customer service and creating a great experience for their customers that they don’t even mind throwing in freebies and discount coupons every now and thenjust to keep them satisfied and engaged.  

Just like the eCommerce giants, community colleges are driven by the success of their customers and their community. This ties directly into the mission of community colleges nationwide 

But despite the common goal of customer success, eCommerce giants and community colleges are not on the same page when it comes to achieving their mission. eCommerce providers have been quick to realize that customers today—whether they’re serving adults or Gen Z—are looking to seamlessly blend their digital and physical worlds, and want as much control over their experience as possible 

With customers balancing so many competing priorities, eCommerce leaders have recognized the importance of entrusting their customers with more power and control to manage their own experiences. It’s essential to make it easy! This minimizes the “ask” on customers when it comes to engaging with the company: customers manage their back-end experience and the company focuses on delivering the product or service.  

This customer service mentality of eCommerce companies has led many of us to expect the same standards of service from providers elsewhere. Your community college students are no different either. In an interview with The EvoLLLution, Lisa Slavin (Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management at Massachusetts Bay Community College) said that people’s comfort working with eCommerce providers is shaping their expectations of the service community colleges deliver.  

“Students are used to the convenience of a click or swipe, and they’ve built this expectation into all aspects of how they use the internet, including for the purposes of higher education,” she said.

 Four Things Your College Can Learn From eCommerce Giants  

Against this backdrop, it’s clear that community college leaders need to find ways to deliver a customer experience to support the wider student experience—one that helps learners focus on their education rather than bureaucracy. 

Here are four best practices from the eCommerce world that you can apply at your community college and help your students succeed: 

1. Treat Your Students Like Customers 

Your students are your customers, and it’s time that you start treating them that way. Community college students have always been older and outcomes focused, but at many colleges they’re still treated like “traditional” students on a university campus. Your customers have jobs and are pressed for time. It’s critical to develop processes that value their time and make it easy for them to engage with your college, otherwise you will drive them away 

2. Establish The Right Culture

You need to create a culture that prioritizes student experience. Everyone at your college must be aware of it, internalize it, and even promote it through every action they take. What’s more, meeting student needs must to be placed at the center of every process. A cultural shift toward customer service means more than adding a sentence to the website or putting up a poster: it’s hard work that leads to significant results. 

3. Seamlessly Weave the Digital and Physical Worlds

Technology is a big enabler for efficient service. Making self-service tools available to students will free up their time so that they don’t get tied up in administrative red-tape. For example, there’s no need for students to have to line up to get a transcript or receipt, or to conduct course adds and drops. Simplify the administrative experience so they can focus on achieving their learning outcomes.

4. Take Regular Feedback

Solicit regular feedback from your students. It's critical to take their pulse and understand what’s working for them. Student feedback gives you crucial data to make informed program decisionswhether its about program relevance, process improvements or even changing the delivery mode.  

Put the Customer Experience First! 

Creating a top-notch student experience at your community college begins with developing a strong understanding of students’ needs and expectations. Then, you need to look for ways to provide your students with dynamic learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.  

Your end goal is to prepare individuals to gain economic mobility, thereby improving their personal lives and the success of the community. As such, you must do everything in your power to deliver the experience students expect. 

Read our digital eBook and learn more about this topic in detail.  This curated set of EvoLLLution articles and interviews provides fresh insights about the student experience and the actions you can take to ensure that your community college is geared to deliver one that is exceptional. 

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