Imagine buying a new mid-range car. As a customer you have many choices to make; from the type and model to how the car will be financed and any optional extras you may want. The range of cars now available is extensive and every car manufacturer within your price range will be vying for that sale.
In general, the research you conduct to determine your purchase correlates with the level of investment you make. So, for a mid-range car in the £30k to £40k selection, the amount of research you would do upfront would be substantial.
And what if, after your purchase, you were not happy with the car? A good car dealership would not see the point of sale as the end of the customer journey, as a happy customer would recommend the car to others and potentially purchase another one later down the line. Good aftersales support is a key differentiator and helps you ‘retain’ the customer. If both the car and the after sales support was bad, then, it is not uncommon for the customer to cut their losses, get rid of the car, and find one that matches their expectations.
It’s not hard therefore, to draw parallels with another investment in that price range. A University degree. The student as a customer concept is of course nothing new, although many within the industry may be reluctant to entertain this point of view, applying the ‘student is a customer’ approach has its benefits.
This is not to say that the relationship between student and education provider is as simple as that. Unlike the distinction between customer and service provider, the responsibility for a successful outcome requires the student to be an active and willing participant. Nonetheless, the “service” by the provider should tick all the “boxes” in a way that maximises the chance of success in achieving the desired outcome. Think of how SaaS (Software as a Solution) companies are set up to obtain revenue through a recurrence model and it becomes apparent why they deploy a customer success programme to ensure that customers remain happy, satisfied and engaged in using the software. Could the same approach not be applied to students and educators?
Irrespective of label; student, customer, participant, educator, there is a common shared goal with all parties, which is for the student to complete their University degree. This means maintaining good engagement by creating the right environment for them to learn and grow and intervening when engagement drops. Universities that focus on achieving the right outcomes will not get hung up on arbitrary labels but will treat every student as an individual with the ambition to succeed.
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