Byron's Babbles

Don’t Overlook The Brilliance Of Our Students

I’m still getting caught up on my reflection of the lessons from Kevin Eikenberry’s Virtual LeaderCon last week. This post is about Chip Bell’s response to my question about where education and the students we serve fall into the realm of the work he has put together in his latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets For Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions. The first thing he said was, “We must treat students like customers, not consumers.” There is brilliance in our students that so many times gets overlooked.

I asked Chip to go into a little more detail about treating students like customers and not consumers. To this he stated that we have board meetings and where are the students (I’m excited that many states have put students on their state boards of education – I’m still working on Indiana)? But, local school boards should think about student members in some capacity, too. He also asked us to think about where the student was when we were having planning meetings. Chip explained that everything we do should “have our customer’s fingerprints all over it.” He used the example of when we coach little league baseball we tell the kids to “be the ball.” We need to be telling our students to “be the customer.” And, then letting them be the customer. Chip believes our students should be partners along with our students’ families. He promotes student-staff partnership initiatives.

Chip Bell reminds us that customers can give us our best next idea. We should be asking the question, “What is something no-one else has ever thought of?” This discussion reminded me that the words “customer” and “consumers” are often interchangeably used and are easily confused with one another. While students are consumers and the ultimate user of the product, we need to treat them like customers – the person buying the product. We need to think of our students as a final customer– these are the customers who buy the product for their own need or desire. This kind of thinking will help us to better individualize education for every student.

We must innovate. Listening to our students will help us to do this. We can’t keep offering the same thing over and over and over again. We owe it to our students to be authentic. As Chip told us during Virtual LeaderCon, “Authenticity wins every time.”


Opportunities To Personalize

Posted in customer service, Leadership, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 19, 2019


Dale Presenting Me With M&Ms!

Last spring while attending the 2019 National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Legislative Conference I had an experience involving M&Ms. I chronicled the experience in Leading With No Brown M&Ms. Then, when I arrived at NASBE’s 2019 Annual Conference, I got my normal text from the Hilton Omaha welcoming me and asking me how my room was. I replied it was great and could use a bowl of M&Ms. I shortly got a text back that they did not have any M&Ms. This really by bummed me out. After my experience at The Madison Hotel (also a Hilton Hotel) where I got M&Ms with the brown ones sorted out. I thought the Hilton Omaha should too.

The next morning I was telling the above story in the breakfast buffet line before our board of directors meeting. Never underestimate the power of someone overhearing your conversation. Dale, of the Hilton Omaha catering staff, had overheard the conversation and took it upon himself to get some M&Ms and proceeded to bring me a bowl of M&Ms into our board meeting. I loved every minute of it. Needless to say everyone else was jealous of this personalized treatment I had received. The big story here is the customer service that Dale had provided. He heard my disappointment and made my experience memorable.

IMG_7076Dale’s level of excellence did not stop there, however. He proceeded to have a bowl of M&Ms delivered to every session I was in. I became the hit of whatever sessions I was in as everyone knew I would have M&Ms at every session. Customers have now come to expect remarkable service from every support organization they engage with. And, with that standard set, it becomes even more imperative for your service team to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations. This kind of above-and-beyond service will build great relationships and generate very positive word-of-mouth among your customers. Ultimately, this differentiates us from our competitors.

While it is great for support teams to be able to meet our initial needs, surpassing our expectations is a great way for our organizations to stand out and create a memorable experience. In other words, go above and beyond when it is not expected. Customers who are surprised with expected moments of delight are more likely to be loyal to your brand over time.

IMG_7138Unfortunately, every day won’t present the opportunity to create a customer service story that goes viral, but there is always the opportunity to personalize an experience for a customer. Dale took advantage of this opportunity by going and getting a party size bag of M&Ms and making sure I always had M&Ms available. He even put the bag of the remaining M&Ms in my room this morning. The goal should be for us to create a customer service experience that is valuable to the customer beyond the just the product.