You will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a gallon of vinegar. ~ Proverb
Life can be pretty frustrating, for instance, when you experience issues with using online technology, difficulty reaching a human customer service representative, or realizing a new laptop needs to be sent back to the manufacturer because it no longer powers on, as recently happened to me. The first reaction is to let the person, when you finally get one, on the other end of the phone have an earful. I mean, clearly, they are responsible for the issues I am experiencing. However, for those of us who have been the person on the other end of the phone, we know that while the issue could not be prevented, we can offer assistance. This is where an organization’s training and culture play a huge role in turning around a bad customer experience into building brand loyalty.
In the past couple of weeks, this blog has focused on “evil” for-profits and why they may not be so “evil” after all. One of the arguments raised about for-profits is they tend to run their institutions as businesses, but aren’t all educational institutions a business to some degree? Every educational institution, whether for-profit, non-profit, for-profit benefit, public, or private, works to build brand loyalty to either increase enrollments or funding or both. Building this loyalty requires offering a service or product that is recognizable, relatable, and rewarding. For higher education, this brand loyalty involves providing service and a value product in the form of academic credentials.
- Recognition – “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, the higher education landscape is more like a UFC fight, winner take all, than a field of dreams. In order to survive, institutions need to focus on building their brand through advertising, networking, and consistent delivery of quality education. This also takes time, but good news travels fast. Successful institutions are those with a specific mission and student-focused curricula that meets growing marketplace demands.
- Relate – “Where everybody knows your name.” While institutions should not model themselves on Cheers, the concept is interesting. People want to be understood. When you call customer service to complain or simply complain to your friends after work, we all want to know we’re not alone. Students want that same understanding from their institution. They need to know their needs are being understood and that they have the instructional support necessary to achieve their educational goals. Successful institutions are those who take a student-focused approach to delivering instructional support services.
- Reward – “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.” This isn’t Vegas. Winning shouldn’t be based on the house losing. Instead higher education needs to assure students have every opportunity to be successful. Success should be predictable, not a gamble. Students should know prior and throughout enrollment that the result of their hard work is an academic credential that enhances their ability to meet their personal and professional goals. Successful institutions are those who remove barriers and provide a clear and student-focused path to graduation.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk from politicians and higher education about major reform programs to improve accessibility, affordability, and value for all students. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as using honey to catch flies. Significant change can result from using current resources in a new way. Successful institutions are those with a primary focus on meeting students’ needs. This driving focus builds the loyalty necessary to assure institutions' continued growth and sustainability.
What is your institution’s primary focus when building brand loyalty?