Putting Customers First

There is an adage that I often have heard attributed to Disney: "We take care of our employees, our employees take care of our customers, and our customers take care of our profits." It's catchy, but more importantly, it has serious merit. For any organization that strives to be relevant today, the importance of placing value on individuals that champion the brand should be at the center of all communications internally. To everyone outside of the organization, each member of your team IS the company and the brand.

At Disney, the culture that is instilled from the beginning in each member of the organization promotes its value and messaging. There is a magic that exists when each employee is focused on making its customers feel the same enjoyment that they feel when representing that brand.

For anyone that has visited one of Disney's theme parks, its pretty clear that customer service is at the forefront of every interaction. Disney has made customer service a priority for the entire company and empowered its employees to act in good faith on behalf of the rest of the business. This is not by accident, but rather by requiring each employee to take part in an internal leadership program that reinforces the culture that has been established over time. This reinforces the psychological contract and encourages each person to champion the values of the organization as their own.

As institutions whose mission is to education and empower future generations, why shouldn't we begin with empowering our employees? There are too many tales of students receiving the runaround on campus when trying to obtain an answer or help to a specific issue. Whether it's a student trying to obtain a new student ID, purchase a meal plan, obtain a transcript, register for a class, or get help with their laptop, these pain points are real and negatively impact the student experience.

Higher education should strive to do whatever it takes to be "easy to do business with." We need to be better at understanding and responding to students' expectations and encourage problem solving on the front lines. Institutions should celebrate great service by promoting the stories of exceptional delivery throughout the organization. 

From a student and parent perspective, each member of the institution IS the institution. As leaders in higher education, we have an opportunity to create meaningful cultures that encourage our teams to own the students' experience. If we fail to meet those expectations, however, someone else at another institution will.