Customer service lessons for K-12 leaders


Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on K12 Insight’s TrustEd blog.

By Todd Komiak

When it comes to the K-12 customer experience, it’s time to move beyond “old school” thinking.

That’s according to Dr. Shelby McIntosh, lead researcher on K12 Insight’s 2019 State of K-12 Customer Experience Report

The report’s initial findings show that while the majority of school district leaders list building trust and improved community engagement as top priorities, far fewer feel their districts have access to the training, technology, and resources needed to deliver on those priorities.

McIntosh suggests one way school leaders can improve the customer experience is by rethinking how they measure it.

“School leaders rely on what I would call ‘old school’ metrics,” says McIntosh. “We’ve essentially got an old school strategy that we’re trying to retrofit with a new, innovative approach to community engagement.”

A majority of participating school district leaders who responded to the survey (71 percent) said their primary means of measuring customer service is the administration of an annual school climate and culture survey. 

While annual climate surveys are an important tool for taking a snapshot in time, McIntosh says the dynamic nature of customer experience requires the addition of real-time data and consistent check-ins. 

‘New school’ metrics

For district leaders looking to move beyond the more traditional summative assessments, more than a dozen conversations with school leaders surfaced three evolving strategies:

1. Technology

Tools that track data can help school leaders track progress according to response time and customer feedback scores. Because this data is collected throughout the school year, school leaders are able to clearly measure their rate of progress. According to the 2019 State of K-12 Customer Experience Report, 55 percent of school leaders currently use some form of technology to help track the customer experience.

2. Family exit surveys

Perhaps the easiest way to find out where customer service is lacking in your district is to reach out to those families who have decided to leave with a single question: Why? Exit surveys and interviews offer a great opportunity to chat with families who are leaving your district–as a result of a bad experience or for other reasons–and learn how their experience could have been improved. This is particularly important for school districts that face steep enrollment declines. Just 18 percent of responding school leaders currently use this tactic.

3. Secret shopping

Another way to assess the quality of your school district’s customer experience is to look at it through the lens of a parent or other stakeholder. Research indicates that a small but growing number (5 percent) of school districts employ “secret shoppers” to evaluate the quality of their engagements when calling or visiting schools.

For more on K12 Insight’s State of K-12 Customer Experience Report, or to sign up for the First Look, visit