Yesterday I posed a question: who is the customer of our schools? Many of us believe the future of schools, both public and private, will depend on increasing the value proposition of a school; lacking this, “school” as we know it may be an endangered species.
Here is the logic; if the logic is not sound, then neither is the question:
- In an environment of increasing competition and alternatives for learning, value is critical.
- Value is defined through the viewpoint of the customer.
- Students, parents, and anyone else who might be viewed as a customer of the school have different viewpoints.
- Therefore we can’t default to “our customers are students, parents, and maybe others” unless we are prepared to create value pathways for each.
- In order to enhance value, an organization must know their value, and have a shared vision for enhancing it.
Last night and today I got feedback from a range of educators, all very thoughtful and successful school leaders. Here is the summary spread of their answers:
- Kids, because that is why schools exist.
- Not kids because “customer is always right and not ready for kids to always be right”
- Parents because they pay tuition.
- We are servants to the mission.
- Parents and students.
- Parents, students and others.
- It’s not about who is the customer but about how we move the customer.
- We are all customers and all salesmen.
- Most assume it is students and parents. What about board, faculty, other administrators?
- Future employers of our students.
- “Can we really serve two sets of customers with often diverging viewpoints? You better believe it – if we can’t, someone else will. That much is certain.”
The 10th grade student of one educator said our customer is the government via the US DOE!
I don’t have the answer to this very tough question. The fact that I got this many different responses from a group of bright, experienced, successful school leaders suggests this is a discussion we REALLY need to have. It sounds like an easy question, but as soon as you understand the implications of one answer or the other…it starts getting tough!