The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What do our customers think?

Saw this on a marketing site recently:

A study by Bain & Company found that 80 percent of companies surveyed believed that they delivered a "superior experience" to their customers. But, when customers were asked to indicate their perceptions of the experiences they have in dealing with companies, they rated only 8 percent of companies as truly delivering a superior experience (James Allen, Frederick F. Reichheld and Barney Hamilton, The Three "Ds" of Customer Experience, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, accessed Nov. 7, 2005). Do you sense just a little bit of disconnect?

(Click here for the full article on customer experience.)

It seems that too often, service providers rate their quality of service based on how hard they worked, or on how nice the final deliverable looked. But as Harry Beckwith can tell you, it's the experience that counts. How we were treated. Whether we were heard. Whether we felt the service provider was working for us, or working for themselves. Whether they met our needs, stated and unstated. Whether we saw the personal value in the recommended outcome.

So what results would you see if you administered this same survey to teachers and students? I haven't seen any self-reporting on the part of teachers, but Indiana University's annual student survey, "High School Survey of Student Engagement," provides some insight as to how students - our customers - feel about their educational experience.

Results from the 2005 HSSSE survey include:
  • 50% of high school students devote four hours or less per week to homework, reading, rehearsing, etc.
  • 57% said they frequently contributed to class discussions.
  • Only 39% frequently discussed ideas from their classes with others, such as family members or friends (45% of females compared to 32% of males).
  • 53% stated that they care about their current school.
  • 31% think that school rules are fair.
  • Only 47% would select the same high school again if given the opportunity.
  • 55% feel safe at school.
  • Respondents were more likely to say that their school places substantial emphasis on athletic achievement (72%) than on academic achievement (63%).
  • 49% indicated that they have a voice in making classroom decisions.
  • Only 53% of all respondents agreed that what they learn at school is useful.
  • 88% of respondents agreed they have the skills necessary to complete their school work, but only 38% agreed that the support they get at school encourages them to learn more, and only 35% are excited about their classes.
  • 53% stated that they put forth a great deal of effort in their school work.
  • 51% agreed they are challenged to do their best work at school, and less than half (47%) said that their school work makes them curious to learn about other things.
(download the complete report here)

It goes without saying, but I'll say it: obviously, a large percentage of our customers are not engaged in the education experience.

Now, one could certainly put forth an argument that this isn't the fault of our schools. After all, students are afflicted with an entitlement mentality, right? They don't know what it means to "earn" something, or the sense of achievement and accomplishment that comes with gaining something through hard work. And besides, school isn't supposed to be fun: you pay your dues and then you get out.

But it hurts everyone - them and us - if we don't find the reasons for this disengagement, address them, and make school a place of excitement, engagement, and achievement. We're creating kids who don't see the value in the education we're giving them, and who are certainly not becoming the lifelong learners and critical thinkers we need going forward.

Yeats talked about education as not filling a pail, but lighting a fire; this survey makes it clear that we're not doing either for a large percentage of our kids.

It's time to change that.

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