Community and technical colleges have an important role to play. These colleges provide their respective communities with access to quality education that not only prepares them for jobs, but career advancement too.
While community colleges have successfully gone about achieving their mission, one thing that many argue is that they have overlooked customer service. They can’t afford to do so anymore.
Because their students have changed, and so have their expectations. Students will vote with their feet if they are unhappy with the service they receive from their education provider.
Andrew Roth, President Emeritus at Notre Dame College summarized this very well in his interview with The EvoLLLution.
“Today, students will leave institutions if they aren’t satisfied with any aspect, whether it’s academic or administrative. On the administrative side, students today are short-term conditional purchasers. There is a consumer culture—a kind of shopper’s mentality—where they will go somewhere else if they don’t get some semblance of what they’re expecting relatively quickly,” he said.
Let’s explore why modern students behave in this manner. First, let’s consider adult learners. These individuals are typically already in jobs, have a family to take care of and consider education a path to either upskill or switch occupations. These learners are pressed for time; something that you must respect.
Now consider younger students. These students are extremely comfortable with using technology, and their buying behaviour is increasingly shaped by the eCommerce experience. They don’t like to be bothered, expect control and want to do things independently at their convenience. These traits, frankly, are central to the experience adult learners look for as well.
Creating a Value-Adding Experience for your Learners
Modern learners, adult or young, compare the education you provide to the service they get from other companies. You need to appreciate their point of view and gear up to serve their needs.
If you haven’t thought about what it takes to deliver a modern customer experience to your students, here are five questions that you need to ask to be sure you're ready to serve the modern learner:
1. Are your business processes streamlined?
What you have under the hood is really important to meet the value expectations of your students. Think about all the steps–right from the time your students express interest to matriculating into a program–and map those out. This will help you identify and eliminate any unnecessary steps that make it difficult for them to engage with your college.2. Are you maniacal about customer service?
You must acknowledge that your students are time-crunched and expect your service delivery to be fast and efficient. In case you can’t match their service expectations, you run the risk of losing your students. You can take cues from eCommerce companies and give more flexibility to your students to let them manage their own tasks. Tools such as the Destiny One Student Lifecycle Management software platform make this reality.
Read our paper and learn more about customer service in higher education and how you can serve the modern learner with self-service options.3. Are you addressing their skills gap?
Since most students pursue a technical or community college course or a program for job-related reasons, it’s important that you try to address both the hard and soft skills gap. Your focus should be on teaching the skills that are sought by businesses in your region. Consider providing young students with internship or co-op opportunities that prepare them for joining the workforce.4. Do you help students succeed?
You can add value and serve students effectively by demonstrating support for their life roles and goals. It’s critical to provide relevant support services and an experience that allows students to focus their time on their learning rather than administration. Additionally, you should be able to leverage data and corporate partnerships to recommend credentials and programs that help students progress through a focused career path. Going a step further, it’s worth looking at introducing stackable credential models that allow students to simultaneously progress professionally and academically.5. Do you provide students ongoing value, even after they leave?
Think about ways of continuing your engagement with students well beyond program completion. You must try to stay in touch with your students through regular connects and surveys. Assess their professional needs and organize workshops and courses to meet those needs. Try and involve them on your college committees. Make your students feel that you are their trusted partner.
A Strong Customer Experience is the First Step
Creating an experience that meets modern learners’ value expectations demands focus and a strong customer-oriented mindset that extends way beyond the classroom. These five questions are intended to set you in the right direction of serving student expectations effectively and transforming their experience.