Students are happy when they are wowed i.e. astonished, impressed or excited. Sadly most schools, even if full (and let’s face it there is a real shortage of schools as the population continues to grow at compound rates) , fall short. However, what if schools started thinking of their students as customers and WOWing them?

In Chip Conley’s book Peak, inspired by Maslow Heirarchy of Needs, he correctly points out that meeting a customer’s “expectation” is their lowest need not meriting a ‘wow’. A school that provides a safe environment, rated curriculum, trained teachers, opportunities for social student interactions and an environment of learning is just only satisfying an expectation. Surprised?

Wowing a customer actually means satisfying their unrecognized needs and delighting them. It could be as simple as carpeting the school library, making it shoeless, adding bean bags all around and having ipads available with edutainment content for students. It could also mean classroom walls that are now touchable screens where refugee students from anywhere in the world could learn alongside you. Or maybe it may mean having a “Home-school” day where students can choose to stay at home and log into an online class of their choice with an academic coach and have a school day in a monitored comfortable home environment.

Is there some easy framework to begin Wowing students?
Yes. Here goes….

1. Divide all student touch-points into three distinct parts and wow at each point i.e. the before, during and the end. Tackle each separately in terms of wow power. We tend to focus on the “before” part to attract a student to a school and then we often stop wowing. Huge mistake. You have to ensure throughout the experience with your school your students are being delighted and saying things like “Wow, that was cool, that was so easy, that was fast, that was fun and/or I was totally not expecting that!

2. Identify your true Ideal Student Avatar (ISA) and what are their needs and then wow them specifically. Most of us are scared to limit ourselves to a particular type of student thinking we will limit our school’s success. However, when we are everything to everyone, we are truly nothing to anyone. So figure out who is really your ideal student i.e. students interested in IT or art or athletes etc. and get really specific about Wowing this one group of ISAs. You will be surprised the attention it gets you from everyone wondering what this group of ISA are all wowing about. Becoming known as the “go to school” for a specific ISA is not a bad thing…. just ask the leadership behind Julliard, IIT Colleges of India etc. 

3. Hire the right people to deal with your students. Everyone learns differently, Not everyone is a good listener, knows what questions to ask intuitively, is empathetic and naturally gives comfort to others. Take the time and interview your teachers and staff well when hiring for roles that involve dealing with students. Focusing on their qualifications but more importantly their responses, the questions they ask and the analysis process they use to come up with unique solutions to hypothetical student problems is key to selecting the right people oriented towards student of the 21st century. The best people you will notice recognizes immediately one size does not fit all for all student needs and it shows in their answers.
You are probably now wondering how can you possibly predict the future needs of your student. Maybe just ask them? While helpful, something this is not a great indicator.

As the Ford motor company will tell you, listening to your customer is sometimes overrated. They can only tell you what they think they need based on their limited imagination and experiences. It is how you meet their wildest unexpressed needs that makes all the difference. What your customers don’t say is often more important than what they do say.

Steve Jobs concurred saying, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” That’s absolutely right. It is yours.

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