Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall
I had a couple of frustrating meetings in the past week. This is the time of year when college students are returning to campus. They need to get their financial aid straightened out, get registered for class, figure out all their new technology, and, by the way, acclimate to a new and different lifestyle. For many, it is a time of help desk calls, waiting in long lines, and navigating arcane business processes. Resulting from this stress will be negative social media campaigns from students; negative stories about semester start-up problems in the newspaper; issue escalations to University officials; and most tragically, students who simply walk away in frustration.
What made my meetings frustrating last week was that on three different occasions, I heard school officials defend their service delivery and explain that students need to be more persistent and “stick-to-it-ive”. It reminded me that I had written about that very issue around this time last year. A colleague of mine encouraged me to repost that blog article from August 8, 2016. Here it is.
Student Persistence: Blaming the Customer
I have been reading a fair amount about student persistence and persistence rates. While the reports are both scholarly and well-constructed, most of what I have seen is that student persistence and retention rates are actually declining since the current emphasis has increased so dramatically. In fact, in a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, student persistence rates actually dropped 1.2% from 2009-2012.
That got me thinking. Isn’t measuring student persistence (or lack thereof) smack of blaming the customer for failure? As in, “I know that our processes and systems are cumbersome and that we are not yet customer service centric, but, students who have a natural propensity to persist can navigate them and get through the process.” Seriously?
Student retention rates are a real problem. Not just for the schools that have poor retention and 6-year graduation rates, but for the students themselves. Debt-laden former students face a pretty uncertain future, as do schools who leave millions of tuition dollars on the table every year due to poor retention rates.
I wonder what education would be like if schools approached their constituents’ experience the way Apple does? At Apple, it’s all about the customer experience. Most Apple products are modern, contemporary and actually fun to use! Folks who convert to Apple, generally stay (persist) with Apple. Apple is a customer-centric company rife with innovation and loyal customers. Even when the company fails, it retains its customer’s loyalty.
Schools could learn a lot from following Apple’s lead. There is much to be learned from customer-centricity and where the responsibility for retaining customers lies. There is also a lot of financial reward and brand equity associated with it.