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  • Writer's pictureKelly E. Middleton

Utilizing Multiple Communication Channels for Customer Service

In today's technologically advanced world, timely communication is critical in order to give great customer service. Historically, the only options for reaching a company with a customer service issue have been taking hours out of your day to go to the store in person or calling a 1-800 number and waiting for a representative during business hours.

The internet changed all that and now customers expect to be able to reach a representative with customer service issues more quickly and without having to take so much time out of their days. Recently, companies began to utilize social media to communicate with customers. Facebook, Twitter and now Snapchat are huge channels for customer interaction. Even texting a company is now an option. According to USA Today, customers can text companies like The Home Depot questions like "Has my order shipped?" or "Can I get money back on kitchen cabinet knobs I bought that are now on sale?" The convenience of not having to find a quiet, private place to make a phone call allows customers more freedom to resolve issues on their own terms. Sending 5-10 texts with a customer service rep throughout the day means not having to interrupt work to wait on hold or skip a lunch break to go to the store.

Another benefit of utilizing texting in customer service is that because young people tend to prefer texting to both calling and emailing, they will be more likely to interact with the brand and ultimately be more satisfied with their experience. I've found this to be true in education as well. Millennial parents are less likely to interact with your school if you only offer in person and phone options of communication. I touch on this topic in my book, Competing for Kids, in the concept about giving great customer service to all generations. Many schools are seeing less and less parents attending open houses and parent-teacher conferences, citing that parents are just too busy. One teacher reported in Psychology Today, "In my suburban high school of twenty-two hundred students, the typical yearly Open House/Back to School Night only brings in ten percent of the parents. Students who are in academic jeopardy seem to have the parents who are less likely to attend. We made the mistake of scheduling one parent meeting during the American Idol Finals–roughly two dozen of the five hundred invitees attended."

When only 5% of your target audience is attending an event, you're not doing it right. So what can schools do? In my district, most of our staff are on social media and open to fielding questions and comments from families. Teachers are encouraged to give parents their cell phone numbers in case anything comes up with their child. In my experience, the old way of having a big event where the bulk of parent-teacher interaction happens doesn't work today. Instead, smaller, more frequent conversations are preferred.

Hearing stories like the one above, it's clear that schools need to rethink how they interact with families. When a parent can reach a representative to get a $1 back on cabinet knobs easier than reaching their student's teacher, there's a problem. Taking a page out of the books of the best companies will ensure that schools are not left behind in this busy world where kitchen cabinets overtake them for parents' precious time. By understanding how families prefer to interact and meeting the families on those terms, schools can see an increase in open communication that can lead to higher parental involvement in their student's school life.

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