The Changing Expectations Of Students: If They Are Behaving More Like Consumers, Shouldn’t They Be Treated As Such?

By 14th March 2018News & Insights

The likes of Apple and Amazon have set the bar high with regard to standards of quality and service. Consequently, it’s probably fair to say that students nowadays expect this same high standard from all service providers. Is it fair to say that their higher education “provider” should be making the same efforts to secure their satisfaction and loyalty?

Student Experience

Faced with a minimum investment of at least £27,000, today’s students are understandably, and of necessity, more discerning, price-conscious and outcome-orientated than ever before. Universities and other places of higher education all compete fiercely with each other for their custom, employing similar marketing tactics to those used by regular customer-facing businesses to entice students to their respective institutions. Promises of “transformational experiences” and “dream career opportunities” are made to students in exchange for qualifications – or at least the opportunity to achieve them…Therefore is it any surprise that they are behaving more like traditional customers than ever before?

Put crudely: No students…no universities.

It seems obvious, therefore, that students should be treated like the valued customers they so clearly are.

In the higher education context, it shouldn’t surprise that student satisfaction alongside the educational experience has now become a priority in the management agenda. Institutions with low student satisfaction struggle to compete with those that are able to deliver satisfaction. It is important that not to confuse satisfaction with easy marking, or ‘degree mills’, however.

Whilst it is true that students are now more outcome-based, the reality is that nobody benefits from universities becoming degree mills; as degrees become increasingly commonplace their perceived value as a means of differentiation decreases.  The PM recently alluded to this issue in a recent speech on the saturation of unemployed or overqualified graduates.

Delivering higher student satisfaction does not equate to a shift in the purpose of  providing the best possible education – educational standards will remain uncompromised – it just means delivering on a clear set of  promises made to their students and living up to expectations.

To do this, however, requires a deep, empathetic understanding of their needs, feelings and expectations at each point in their educational journey. To effectively do this, universities must map the entire student journey from their students’ first interaction with the university to their last, identifying each specific journey step and ‘moment of truth’ (“I feel interested and challenged by the curriculum” for example) and determining student expectation and the university’s current delivery for each of these points. This is common practise in customer experience transformation. A good customer experience makes for satisfied customers.

The Heartbeat customer journey mapping methodology CGA uses in such projects takes this even further, prioritising customer needs and ‘painpoints’ by empirically analysing the gap between customer expectation and the reality of the service provided, all simply illustrated in a clear and visually engaging format showing exactly where intervention will offer greatest value. Armed with this knowledge, higher education institutions can specifically target efforts to where they know will have the most impact on student satisfaction.

Satisfied customers are valued customers. Companies in all sectors are now awake to this reality so isn’t it time universities caught up? Isn’t it time that they recognized that the key to their future survival lies in satisfied students – or more accurately, satisfied, valued customers.

We will be discussing in more detail everything covered in this article as well as examples of how we have helped companies satisfy their customers in our next webinar. You can sign up early using the following link.

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