“A1, Second to None” customer service is expected by both external and internal lifelong learning program customers. Without the highest-level customer service, many of the other lifelong learning course programming, marketing, contract sales, and operations best practices are not as impactful.
The Operations Team is where customer service or frontline staff is housed; thus, the Operations Team is the primary lifelong learning program team accountable for ensuring outstanding customer service.
During a gathering of Operations Team staff at a LERN training, the following eight internal and external customer service standards were agreed upon. Consider these standards in evaluating your Operations Team’s customer service performance.
- Sunset Rule. Any request, question, problem, or so on, from a customer should be handled by sunset or within 24 hours at the longest. If an issue is not resolved by sunset, it is best to provide the customer a status update. The more educated the Operations Team staff is about the lifelong learning program’s products, services, policies, procedures, and so on, the better job that staff can do in handling issues. The Operations Team should track the time it takes to solve issues, as well as tracking complaints and how the complaints were resolved.
- Do Not Pass on Calls/Emails. The fewer calls, emails, and other requests made by customers that have to be passed on to revenue generators – course programmers and salespeople – the better. Ideally, the Operations Team staff should be able to handle 90 percent of requests and, if the answer is not known, is able to get the answer and respond to the customer. The Information Specialist position – having a solid history with the program and empowered to answer questions and handle requests, like refunds – is a key Operations Team.
- Customer Service Rating. At least once a year, a lifelong learning program should randomly select 250-500 names from their last twelve-month database of registrations and ask the customers to rate the level of customer service provided 1(Poor) – 5(Excellent). Once tabulated, the average score should be 4 or higher. As part of the same survey, it would be good to ask responders to provide the same feedback on the quality of course programming. Evaluations forms are not the best way to get overall rating scores.
- Manage Data. To ensure data is clean; thus, reports reliable, the Operations Team staff should be accountable for adding data to the lifelong learning programs’ software system. The less people adding and/or updating data in the software system, the better. Ideally, the Operations Team staff should be making data-driven decisions, such as go/no-go regarding classes. If the course programming staff has set a minimum go number, then the Operations Team staff should be able to determine whether most classes are a go without having to consult course programmers.
- Increase Repeat Rate & Lifetime Value. The Operations Team staff plays an important role in increasing a lifelong learning program’s repeat rate (the number of people repeating from one period of time to another period of time, as a percentage of the first period of time) and thus, lifetime value (1/(1-repeat rate) X average fee). Great customer service, advising, encouragement to register for the next class, and so on all impact the repeat rate and lifetime value. The higher both, normally the better the lifelong learning program performs financially.
- Be the Hub of Information. A lifelong learning program should agree on the data to collect, analyze, and the reports to generate. The reports should be scheduled and generated by the Operations Team. When multiple teams generate reports, consistency and comparisons become problematic. Most likely, an Operations Team will be asked to generate weekly and quarterly scorecards, including the score and the preset benchmark. Also, the Operations Team should be available to provide information for other Teams as needed.
- Help Revenue Generators Generate Revenue. Staff responsible for revenue generation – course programmers and salespeople – should not take on tasks stopping them from generating new revenue – finding instructors, getting curriculum built, selling contracts. The Operations Team services revenue generators by taking on tasks that deter revenue generators from focusing on their primary responsibility. The goal is to pull tasks from revenue generators and develop efficient procedures for ensuring satisfactory completion.
- Be the Brand. A lifelong learning program’s Operations Team and instructors are the primary people interfacing with customers. Both are the face of the lifelong learning program, so they need to work hard providing great customer service, but also, being able to live the brand of the lifelong learning program. Knowing the lifelong learning programs core values, uniquenesses, target markets, and so on, helps the Operations Team staff market the lifelong learning program. A responsibility of the Operations Team staff is filling seats with repeat and new customers.
If your lifelong learning program’s Operations Team is fulfilling the above customer service standards; most likely, both your external and internal staff will trust you and provide very positive testimonials.