Customer Experience for the Education Industry
  • Customer Experience for the Education Industry

    Customer experience is an essential tool for resolving the unique challenges of the education industry. For maximum impact, experience investments must be made across departments to break down silos, open access to information, and support students along their journeys to graduation and beyond.

    Customer experience solutions start with training faculty, staff, and administration. Additionally, investments in customer experience for the education sector include designing and deploying student-centered technology for on-campus, remote, and hybrid environments. Today’s student expects intuitively designed, accessible, and technology-enabled instructional and social spaces. Finally, consistent, reliable communication wraps a band around the overall experience, and sets up the student – and the institution – for success.

    Why is CX Important for the Education Industry

    The education industry is rooted in trust. This makes customer experience in the education industry paramount. In fact, good experiences are the foundation of the supportive learning environments that students, parents, and instructors rely on to thrive.

    To design and deliver experiences that build trust, focus on seamless, guided journeys, supported by transparent communication. In the last two plus years, the education sector has been forced into a period of accelerated development on the technology and experience sides. Meaningful investments in student experiences propel higher education institutions, as well as K12 schools, to meet the changing needs of students, and secure their positions in competitive, demanding markets.

    What is good Customer Experience in the Education Industry

    The path to a confident, satisfied student population is marked by multiple milestones, with meaningful experiences woven through every touchpoint of their journey.

    This starts by giving students seamless access both to their own records (financial and academic), and to the administration. A seamless student experience enables a student to easily add and drop classes within deadlines.

    Bursars and financial aid offices play an important role in preserving positive student experiences. That starts with transparent communication about tuition and fees. It is supported by hospitality training for staff that empowers them to deliver good customer experience to students and their families. Hospitality training helps financial aid officers engage in respectful, clear, and supportive conversations with students and parents. And, importantly, it connects the payment experience to the academic and social experiences in which both the institution and the students and parents have invested so much.

    Another mark of good customer experience in the education setting is easy access to instructors and advisors. Ease of access, though, is not enough. Good student experiences rest on the quality of those interactions. In a student-centered environment, administrators, faculty, and support staff guide and support the student journey. Customer experience strategy, programming, and training create that environment.

    However, student experience does not reside exclusively in classrooms and administrative offices. Even in hybrid and remote environments, community is at the core of student experience. This includes extracurricular activities and opportunities to build non-academic skills collaboratively. Social events, volunteer opportunities, job and interview skill development, and purpose-led activities all foster an environment that students are proud to claim as their own.

    Top 5 Things that Drive Bad Customer Experience in Education

    Lack of Resources

    Across the education sector. Lack of resources is the most common driver of bad customer experience. Insufficient budget to engage internal teams, low salaries, and understaffing IT are some of the most significant problems.


    Because good customer experience starts from inside the organization and touches all levels and departments, underfunding training, and underpaying employees drives bad customer experience. Low salaries erode motivation, ultimately making it impossible to ask employees to do more on behalf of students. This means that, even if an educational institution makes initial investments in culture and experience, those programs will be impossible to maintain.

    Bad Institutional Culture

    A weak, or negative institutional culture undermines student success and employee satisfaction. Bad internal culture makes it impossible to pivot and problem solve, to co-create collaboratively, and to build the trusting, transparent relationships good student experience requires.

    Negativity and mistrust among teachers, departments, and administration pervade bad institutional cultures. Mission drift is a threat to the strong cultures K12 and higher education environments need to deliver good customer experience. Mission drift occurs in the absence of training, rituals, and rewards that support purpose-driven behaviors. Intentional investments in culture, and culture-driven hiring prevent mission drift and sustain a culture in which students and employees can thrive.

    Failure to Design for the Future

    Failure to design for the future is not limited to insufficient space for existing and emerging technologies. Design that does not account for building a successful future for students beyond graduation is an important (and not often recognized) driver of bad experiences. For instance, it is important to design physical and digital spaces for networking and social connection.

    These spaces help students create relationships with peers and mentors. Those relationships connect students more deeply to the school community and culture. And they generate opportunities for future academic and professional success. Bear in mind, every student is an ambassador of their institution (for good or bad). Their post-graduation success not only amplifies student and family happiness. It also increases positive word of mouth for the institution.

    Lack of Access

    If it is difficult to access the individuals delivering their education, a student will have a bad experience. It is impossible for a student to succeed when there are barriers to connect with professors, instructors, administrators, or financial office employees. No matter how many investments go into the physical space.

    In the customer experience context, strategy, programming, design, training, and communication need to open pathways to connect employees to students and to each other.

    Siloed Departments

    In higher education and K12 institutions, departmental silos break down communication, create access barriers, and cause confusion and ill will among both students and faculty. Siloed environments mean there is no team taking care of a student. Redundancies, inconsistencies, and information gaps undermine student experience and weaken institutional culture.

    When there is no team taking care of a student, rivalry for ownership of the student experience translates to poor student experience. Ultimately, a lack of ownership of the holistic student experience results in attrition, poor academic performance, and lower graduation rates.

    How to Measure Customer Experience in the Education Industry

    Retention Rate

    Educational institutions rely on retention rates for funding, financial modeling, and marketing. Retention rates indicate whether a school is succeeding or failing on student experience.


    College Acceptance Rates

    In secondary schools, the college acceptance rate is a useful gauge of the quality of the academic experience. Acceptance rates are also helpful in determining the quality of the student experience.


    Graduation Rates

    Graduation rates indicate how well an institution moved a student along the entire education journey. They are a barometer for student success and the quality of customer experience in education.


    Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures if a customer, or in this case, a student/family, will recommend a brand to a friend, and return to your space. It is a key customer experience metric. NPS is important in the education setting, not just the consumer setting, where competition is high and investment per student is considerable.

    Maximize NPS measurement by tracking customers who say they will return. From there build a customer loyalty model by determining what customers do come back, and why.

    How to Build Upon and Improve CX in the Education Industry

    Design Student-Centric Experiences

    Create a culture of student centricity by putting the student’s interest and well being at the center of physical and technology design, as well as experience programming and institutional standards and behaviors.


    Use Language Intentionally

    Infuse institutional language with student-centricity. This includes rethinking department names and role titles to make sense for the student. Do not name programs, departments, or job titles exclusively through the lens of funding. Recenter, and consider who that funding is ultimately for, and use language that resonates with student needs.


    Use Technology to Unify

    At minimum, every educational institution needs a good CRM. It enables every department to pull student records seamlessly, so every individual serving a student knows what has led the student to that moment. This furthers trust, saves time, and moves the student from problem to solution smoothly and successfully.

    Focus on Advisory

    To keep the student at the center of their experience, think though and design the role of the advisor. The advisor-student relationship should create a strong bond of trust. Within that space, the advisor becomes a centralized source of truth and support for the student along the journey.

    How to Create World Class Education Experience with The Petrova Experience

    There are four key steps to creating a world class student experience. First, revisit the institution’s mission and connect its promises directly to student experience. Next, journey map all the internal departments from the student’s point of view to identify gaps and redundancies. Then, create a future state for student experience. This is the desired, student-centered state that drives the customer experience educational institutions want. Finally, document what must be done to close the gaps.

    In pursuit of customer happiness and standard setting student experiences, The Petrova Experience deploys the following solutions:

    Student Experience Diagnostic

    Student Experience Program Design & Support

    Technology Design and Implementation

    Hospitality & Culture Training

    Student-Centric Communication

    Customer Experience Measurement


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