The Parent Customer Service Experience in Catholic Schools

9 Ideas to Improve the Parent Customer Service Experience

parentAt Bursari, we are blessed to partner with Catholic schools across the country and work with some extraordinary school leaders and teachers who are part of the Bursari family. We asked some of them: “What customer core service values have you adopted to be sure parents experience firsthand the value proposition of Catholic schools?” We are happy to share of some the best ideas we received.

  1. Streamline. Millennial parents expect digital parity. That is, they expect schools to be efficient, streamlined, user friendly and the best of what they, as customers, have experienced online in every other part of their lives. Millennial parents expect self-service options, they don’t expect to repeatedly fill out forms with information they’ve already provided elsewhere, and they actively rebel against siloing. (“I don’t handle that; you’ll have to go down the hall.”)
  2. Try it yourself. Are you easy to use? You won’t know until you try. Try your own website without your auto-log in. Is it easy? Come in the front door of your building (rather than entering from the employee parking area) and see if the front door swings open easily or whacks you on the shoulder. Look for the signs and symbols throughout the building that say we are a Catholic school. Try a little secret shopping – fill out a “request information” form online and see if anyone responds. You may be shocked at what you find.
  3. If it can be done today, it must be done today. Perfect customer service, delivered late, feels wrong. And the timeline in this digital age for what parents as the consumer consider a delayed response is continually getting shorter. You are not being judged based on what has always been “fast enough for education”; you are being judged, implicitly and unconsciously, based on the speed of Amazon and other online companies.
  4. Benchmark outside of education. Look outside of education to great companies and organizations regardless of industry. Look to them for inspiration that will improve your user experience.
  5. Learn to apologize. Things will go wrong. Prepare for this emotionally as well as operationally. Note that sometimes you are simply apologizing for the situation, not for something you did wrong. It does not matter; an apology is still of value. If handled politely, with dignity and humility, parents are generally willing to recognize we are all perfectly imperfect.
  6. Do not make parents ask simple questions that they should have been able to find online. Parents do not like to be burdened to contact you for items that could easily be provided for them on a self-service basis. The lunch menu and photo day requirements are good examples here.
  7. Get the “welcome” to your school right, even before you greet the parent. Welcomes are first impressions and are a key moment in customer service. If parking is hard to find, if disabled access is poor or confusing, if signage is nonexistent, or if office hours are posted incorrectly online, then you’re making a poor impression before the parent or prospective parent gets to consider all the wonder you can do to prepare their child for college and heaven.
  8. Build a culture of yes. A hallmark of a great school is an attitude by every teacher and staff member, that the “The answer is yes—now what was your question?” There’s great power in getting everyone in your school to share a goal of getting to a “yes” for every consumer, rather than figuring out ways to say “no,” “not my department,” “it doesn’t work that way around here,” “sadly, we cannot accommodate that request,” or “if you call back in the morning, perhaps we’ll be able to help you.” Well-meaning teachers and staff can still find a dozen ways to say no to their parent consumers. You accomplish this by modeling a spirit of yes, hiring for a spirit of yes, rewarding a spirit of yes. (And there is one more thing: Sometimes in education, achieving a culture of “yes” requires rooting out or/and reforming “situational tyrants.”) Schools can sometimes become a breeding ground for people who have the power to say “no” within their tiny little fiefdom, and who exercise that power every chance they get. It is incredibly important to get these people to come over to your program of having “yes” as the goal: “Yes, we can assist you with this and would be happy to do so.”
  9. Work with all staff members to adopt customer service core values such as:
    • Make it Happen
    • No Drama
    • Absolute Persistence
    • Relentless Support
    • Passion in All Things
    • Get Your Hands Dirty

We wish you, your staff, parents, and young scholars a summer filled with opportunities to make family memories. And in the meantime, if you have some best practices you utilize with your families to help enrich the parent customer experience email them to We would love to recognize you, your school, and teachers as we share them with other school leaders. We are all in this together.

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