I recently ran across a great article from Smashing Magazine in 2011 about moving customers from like to love. In it were two really key parts that I wanted to bring up here:
We have reached the point where the service part of SaaS is most relevant, the point where the experience your customers have with your company will determine whether they stick or switch. Say you’ve been paying $50 a month for your time-tracker for the last three years. Have you enjoyed the service? Have you ever been personally thanked for your loyalty? Do you feel that the provider values your $1,800?
Thinking about this from an educational perspective, I can’t remember a single time where I, as a student, was thanked for what I brought to my own education and to the educational environment at large.
I considered dropping out several times as a student, and even today I wouldn’t say I’m the most attendant Chinese language student. It’s taken a long time for it to occur to me that this was likely because at no time did I have any emotional incentive to push forward — I was experiencing a crisis of whether to “stick or switch.”
In private education, especially in my experiences in English language education in China, this something that comes up frequently. The drop-off curve is usually attributed to a students’ satisfaction with what we offered, meaning that we assume they must no longer want it. But it’s very seldom that we take ourselves to task and enter our own preoccupations or distractions from emotionally incentivizing a student a a reason for drop-off or drop-out. Again, from the article:
The Rockefeller Corporation studied why customers leave one company for a competitor and found the following:
Look at what’s not here. No mention of price or quality. How you make customers feel is what drives their loyalty, and it’s here where website owners are in trouble. Website owners are disconnected from their customers, save for a conference party or survey each year. If you asked them to introduce you to 10 of their customers, most would struggle, grimace and then get a developer to break out the SQL. Imagine trying to run a bar, convenience store, hair salon — heck, any service — with that level of apathy towards the folks who pay your wages. It shouldn’t be surprising that your customers are willing to jump ship the second a competitor launches a sexy iPhone app. If you’ve never cared about your customers, why would they care about you?
…Low prices can always be beaten. Stunning design ages quickly and can easily be copied. Impeccable uptime can be matched, and your features copied. However, a good customer relationship is unique, and loyal customers are hard to steal.
It’s true: we can measure quality and price all day and we’ll probably wind up thinking that if a customer or student leaves they must be unhappy with the quality or the costs. But if that Rockafella research and what I assume is the experience of many students like myself are correct, it’s actually just about feeling cared about; feeling like an included and valuable participant.
Ideally I’ll be able to repeatedly return to this question with the work we’re doing at EF. I think one of the most important answers is that we need to be more considerate of the individual journeys our students’ are on. By making the time touch points within the classroom (and noticing or discovering the opportunities we could call meta-touch points outside the classroom) we can capitalize on opportunities for joy, excellence, surprise that allow students to act as hollistic participants in their own education, not just passive receivers in tightly structured environments.
The desire that we have to do something that’s never been done before means that the people who are around you generally will not encourage you to do it…if they were encouraging you to do it, then other people would be doing it already and it wouldn’t be unique.
Forrester maintains that in order to succeed in today’s digital environment, firms must deliver smarter, more customer-centric interactions that feel like they are tailored for each user. How? Through contextualization: tailored, adaptive, and sometimes predictable digital experiences.
In a recent UXMag article, Ron Rogowski and Stephen Powers argue in favor of the value of contextualization, especially when it comes to mobile devices. I would argue that you could remove the word “digital” from that quote and apply it to education. This is a huge part of what I see this idea of Educational User Experience being about.
In order to really reach in and pull out all of the potential satisfaction of learning in an EFL environment, classes and feedback need to be seen more as student/participant-centric “interactions” that have been tailored (ex: culturally), are adaptive (ex: to the participants’ current mindset or particular life situation) and sometimes predictable (not always surprises and curveballs).
The application of contextualization in education, like with online, relies on data. UXMag suggests three types of data to help “master contextualization:”
- Demographic data: who the customer is.
- Historical data: what the customer did in the past.
- Situational data: what’s happening with the customer now.
Again, I would argue that you could take the word “customer” away and replace it with “student” (or better yet: “participant”) and have this be equally applicable, critical and valuable.
At the end of the day, students need to feel they had a positive experience in order to keep going in their studies. An increasingly large part of what makes a positive experience is understanding who that student is, how they feel and finding out how to engage with them on the most meaningful, personal and valuable level possible.
It really is. 104 F every single day! ForeignPolicy recently had a run of great pictures depicting how people (and animals) in China are dealing with the heat — here are a few good ones:
I recently read Stephanie Troeth’s “Designing for the Multifaceted User” on the SmashingMagazine blog [opens in a new window] and it really got me thinking: the current educational system largely ignores the actual needs of students as it does not consider them to be a collection of individuals with individual realities; with individual needs, requirements and tasks to complete. To quote Troeth:
…our deliverables right now are probably too prescriptive in their details about who the user is. We would probably do better to work towards a clearer understanding of the user’s varying contexts — contexts that would yield different behaviors and decisions.
I love this idea. There has been loads of research and study into who the student is, but largely it ignores the fact that the student changes. It takes into consideration maturation and growth as a result of study, but does not take into consideration the value or impact that anything outside of study has on study.
The reason we err against this is because traditionally teachers have been the ones benefiting from the learning system. The educational model commonly used around the world benefits teachers by being largely standardized, with a dependence on the teacher being manufactured to ensure scores which equates to value to the teacher through reputation, praise, bonuses and tenure. In this model, the student is the service – something used to complete the teachers’ set of necessary tasks. Progress is ensured as the teacher moves through a set of checked boxes, delivering information. Nothing in this model has considered the humanity of the student as this model assumes that one person having the answer (the teacher) and a single other person having and reciting the answer (the student) means that the entire group now has the answer and that the group can now move forward.
To rephrase Troeth, I believe education is too prescriptive in who/what a student is/should be, with little understanding of the students’ varying contexts and the behaviors that those contexts would yield. We should focus our service on the person, rather than on ourselves predicting the needs and behaviors of the person.
For those of you who don’t know who this is, meet Haibao, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo mascot. Haibao was put all around the city to let people know about the Expo and celebrate it coming. Today, rumor has it that there’s a Haibao graveyard somewhere in the city… Woe unto our jewel of the sea!