Voice of the Parent: How the education sector is using feedback to improve CX
Today’s customers come in all guises, and organisations beyond the consumer heartland of customer experience are beginning to realise this. One - perhaps surprising - new avenue of CX is the education sector, where customer success is defined by educational results, and customer loyalty is measured in terms of the years spent at a particular school and the success of every student.
One innovator of this approach is Cognita, a worldwide group of more than 65 private schools in Europe, Latin America and South-East Asia. The group employs some 5,000 teaching and support staff for the education and care of more than 30,000 pupils. Over the past three years, Cognita has undertaken an ambitious, global ‘Voice of the Parent’ programme with the ongoing feedback received from parents directly inputting into the continuous improvement of its schools.
Similar to the approach that consumer-facing organisations take when measuring and improving customer experience, Cognita identified four key areas of focus for its programme: student retention, student acquisition, staff retention and development, and cost optimisation.
Stephan Hogenbirk at Cognita, explains: “Of course, in the world of education these metrics are defined a little differently. For example, we measure the success of individual students, as well as the longevity of their school tenure. But the principle remains the same: encouraging growth through positive exposure and experiences.”
Parallels to established CX also exist in the way that Cognita needed to assess the potential barriers to success for its Voice of the Parent programme. Just as CX practitioners need to define the way in which they engage respondents through feedback, so Cognita needed to understand not only who it was addressing but how to reach them.
This was perhaps one of the biggest challenges since the engagement environment was complex, covering a diverse range of stakeholders. Parent groups, teaching staff and support staff all needed to be heard, meaning the programme had to cater for the nuances and interests of each group, while being able to provide consistent and accurate feedback.
The design of the programme itself was able to answer this, following the tried and test principles – as well as dealing with the complexities - of many global CX projects. As well as catering for multiple languages, survey questions and approaches had to be sympathetic to the disparate and often vastly contrasting parent and student cultures around the world. Programme design was therefore closely tailored at a country level in order to deliver a localised yet consistent experience.
In the world of education, metrics are defined a little differently.
Measurement metrics, too, followed the same principles as established CX programmes, with the leadership team at Cognita tracking global KPIs including Net Promoter Score, net-ease and satisfaction.
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Stephan continues: “With all of the foundations in place, we were able to work with Confirmit to deploy our programme across Asia, Europe and South America, covering multiple school-parent interactions. While the majority of the programme is highly automated and standardised – just as large-scale CX programmes are – it is also tailored to our local requirements to ensure relevance and therefore encourage engagement.”
Pockets of excellence
So, do all these parallels mean that any sector can emulate the now well-established practice of CX programmes to measure success? Certainly in the world of education Cognita is proving they can – albeit taking into consideration the specific needs of the audience in question.
But as with any programme, the true measure of success is not simply in capturing the voices of whichever audience you are talking to – it is in the insight that is gathered and the action that is taken as a direct result.
The Voice of the Parent programme does exactly this. As well as understanding what parents actually experience at key stages of their admissions journey, Cognita uses the feedback it gathers to follow-up with parents in a timely manner. More strategically, too, it aggregates parent feedback to analyse which aspects of each school’s provision can be improved upon for the benefit of students. Critically, it also measures movement in customer (parent) advocacy and key drivers of satisfaction over time.
And, as with many CX programmes, action and change has gone beyond the customer-facing aspects of the organisation. The detailed analysis and reporting fed back from the programme has helped to drive positive culture change across Cognita.
As Stephan explains: “There are always pockets of excellence in any organisation. We have been able to capture these through our VoP programme and replicate them across schools, helping us to achieve greater consistency of standards which obviously has major, long-term benefits for staff, parents and students alike.”
Every CX programme must be designed with the specific requirements of its particular audience in mind.
Of course, culture change takes time to achieve, but as Cognita’s VoP programme becomes more widely embedded across all its locations, and with many entering their second or third year of measurement, the organisation is now really reaping the benefits both internally and externally.
Such is its success, in fact, that the organisation is now deploying a Voice of the Employee programme across all schools and regional offices, closely followed by a pilot Voice of the Student (VoS) programme that is purely focused on gathering pupil feedback regarding wellbeing and teaching.
As one of the first global schools groups to deploy a multi-region, multi-language feedback programme across the end-to-end-parent-journey, Cognita could be considered something of a pioneer.
Even though aspects of Cognita’s specific programme are unique, many of the founding principles of proven CX have been applied. And while parents and teaching staff are entirely different to retail consumers, for example, every CX programme must be designed with the specific requirements of its particular audience in mind.
It follows that similar forward-thinking organisations across other sectors can also reap previously untapped rewards by taking a tailored approach to measuring customer experience – whoever their customers may be.
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Claire Sporton has specialised in customer feedback for over 15 years, and has run programmes in the Financial Services sector, and more recently with technology and consulting providers to improve their customer experience. Claire’s focus at Confirmit is on ensuring Confirmit customers can deliver feedback to the people who can make a...