Thursday, August 11, 2011
“Why aren’t families dying to get into my schools?” asked the superintendent of public schools in one Rhode Island school district. According to a recent article in the Providence Journal, enrollment in public schools has dropped by 26.4% over the last decade, a precipitous drop. This gap equates to a $3M funding cut this year. The biggest cause? An exodus from public schools to charter schools. Charter schools are free from some of the bureaucracy of traditional public schools and by involving parents in the education of their children are better serving their customers. Parents are voting with their feet.
The public school system is a classic example of an organization in need of a chief customer officer (CCO). While the stated goal of providing children with a solid education is certainly appealing, the practical reality is that the organization is fundamentally flawed: the school systems are not interested in their real customers-the children and their parents. If you examine every initiative proposed by teacher’s unions, they are all about the teachers, and never about the customers. Unions, with rare exception, never work concordantly with the education administration and with the customer. Instead, they are constantly fighting for shorter hours, fewer extracurricular activities, increased pay and benefits. Picture an organization like this where you have miserably unhappy employees. How can you possibly have happy customers? The kids always suffer.
Just like the superintendent passionately defended her schools and teachers, companies can claim they are customer-centric in every board meeting, press release, or marketing campaign. But what happens on the outside is merely a reflection of what is going on inside. Miserable employees and happy customers simply cannot coexist! Unless you have a monopoly in a market or on a product, if customers are dissatisfied you run the risk of losing your customers to the business equivalent of charter schools: more nimble competition that is gleefully stealing away your customers.
Task someone with championing the customer cause, maintaining your customer focus and managing the well-being and progress of customers. Learn why customers are defecting, and what it takes to get them to buy or pay more. Or better yet, hire a CCO so this important job doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of an overburdened day job. Whatever you do, don’t let your business fall prey to charter schools.