I recently bought tickets to a movie theater online. I hadn't done it before but was running late for the movie and wanted to ensure I got a ticket before it sold out. This service used a QR code as the digital ticket. When I arrived at the theater, I saw a long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Those who bought online, could simply walk up to the usher, scan their QR code and walk right into their movie, saving time and allowing me to not miss any of my movie. This blending of the in-person buying option and online purchasing option created a seamless user experience for people like me who either prefer to buy online or who are running late and cannot wait in line to buy tickets. It was a great example of a company meeting the needs of all of its customers and their preferred way of buying tickets.
Why can't our students have the same streamlined experience (or at least the option) that theatergoers have? If we in public education can think of our customers' needs then create procedures and protocol, the user experience will be more enjoyable and will take less convincing to get them on board. In my book Competing for Kids: 21 Customer Service Concepts Public Schools Can Use to Retain and Attract Students, I discuss the concept of "Giving Great Service Across Generations." That means thinking of the needs of older parents and grandparents (baby boomers) who may be in contact with the school as well as the needs of younger parents and even the students (Generation X, millennials, Generation Z).
One way schools can create a seamless user experience across generations is by giving parents and students options. For instance, parents can apply to your school via forms on the school's website or by filling them out in person. There could even be an app the school develops that has all the enrollment forms, field trip forms, permission slips and other important school information. Those who choose to use this technology can, but those who do not aren't left behind.
In a recent article by Shep Hyken, called "Strike the Balance Between the Digital Experience and the Human Experience," he discusses such a user-friendly approach to how customers interact with brands (or schools, as the case may be). He says: "I may call to talk to a support rep. Maybe I have a “how do I do this” type of question. The customer support rep can simply tell me and walk me through the steps, and that may take some time. So, maybe a better option is to send me an email with explicit instructions. Or, maybe send me a link to a video that shows me, step-by-step, how to accomplish what I’m having trouble with."
It's this type of critical thinking about how best to serve each specific customer that can turn a lukewarm customer into a happy, supportive and loyal one.
Another great example of how to seamlessly integrate technology with in-person interaction is with Parent Teacher Night. Normally this is a scheduled date that teachers stay late at school so parents can come in and spend some face time with their child's educators. Of course, many parents - with the best intentions of being involved in their child's academic life - cannot make these events due to working late or their distance from the school. Shep Hyken calls this a "point of friction" or an example of not serving all customers with the current policy. One way to combat this point of friction is by allowing parents to schedule video conferences with teachers. In other words, use FaceTime to get that face time they're missing. By offering FaceTime/video chat option for parents who cannot make that Parent/Teacher Day, busy parents are allowed the option of being just as involved as other parents in their children's lives and seamlessly integrates technology into such an important event.
Taking this idea a step further, the school can utilize video functions such as Facebook Live to stream school events like awards ceremonies, sporting events, theater events and other afterschool activities. How often do you think parents of your students are extremely disappointed because they have to stay late at work or get stuck in traffic and end up missing their child's recital or championship game? Utilizing the in-person and remote viewing options allows all parents and families access to school events. And those parents and families who are finally able to see their child performing the activity they are so excited about will endear them to you and your school and make them thankful that you're making the effort to include those who have difficulty making it to school events. You've just eliminated a point of friction and found a solution that works for all of your customers.
As Shep Hyken says, "Once you know the point of friction, you can strike the balance between the digital experience and the human experience, giving your customers the experience they deserve." Isn't that what we, as educators,, want most for our students, parents and families?