The Two Sides of Academic Institutions
Side 1: The Client
The parents and students looking for a school. For instance, a family with three kids. One starting in preschool, the other one will be moving up the first grade, and the other starting with the middle school. They searched the Internet and compared the facilities that appear on the different schools’ websites and social network pages. They contacted each of them and requested for relevant information on enrollment as well as the costs. They also checked online if there were some reviews and other relevant information that may help in their decision-making. They whitelisted a few that they decided to visit. As they entered one of the schools in their list, they were impressed by what they saw. They immediately admired the stunning physical appearance along with its facilities. They met with the administrative and registration officers, and were given a tour around the school. They were even more impressed on what they were seeing and considered this school at the top of the list of their options.
Then they started to ask questions beyond the obvious. What about the school’s system, the curriculum, teachers, accreditation, affiliations as well as other relevant information on its academic credibility and the actual learning inside the classroom? The officer provided all the information they wanted to know, and they were satisfied with the answer to their queries. However, they still did not forget that they had other schools in their list that they needed to visit as well. So they thanked the officers and left to see the other schools. At the end after considering the cost, the safety, convenience and other factors, they decided to go back to the first school they visited. They enrolled their three kids in that school.
They were so excited and purchased other necessary items that their kids needed, including uniforms, books, electronic devices required by the school along with other relevant materials and resources. They also paid the required fees and visited the school once again for a final orientation a few days before the start of the school year.
Side 2: The School
A new family visited the school. After completing the necessary evaluation and weighing the different factors, they were finally excited to enroll three of their kids. As they were stunned with the facilities, they were also satisfied with the officers’ answers to their queries. They completed all necessary paper works and paid the deposit.
At the first day of school year, the parents were excited to drop their kids at the school. The kids too were excited to wear their new uniforms and to be identified with the school. As all their doubts were cleared by the answers to their queries, they were all ready to start the year at, and, with their new school. As days went on, the excitement seemed to be fading from the students’ faces. The office phones started ringing and emails received. The parents were calling asking for clarifications as they had noticed, and their kids reported, that although the facilities were good, the academic side was not and most of those that were mentioned to them during their first visit as well as prior to the enrollment were non-existent. The administrator who was always present to welcome the parents at the outset is no longer available to answer their questions. Eventually, they had no options than to go to the school to personally speak with the concerned officers. Still the said officers were not around and teachers were the ones assigned to attend to the needs of the parents and students and to answer their questions.
A few weeks before the end of the semester, the oldest of the three kids informed the office that he was no longer coming back next semester. Only the two younger siblings will remain. Before the end of the second semester, the parents sent an email that the second child was no longer coming back the following year and only the third will stay. The third child completed two years and also moved to another school. No reasons were given and the school administrators did not bother to ask the family.
Why did this happen? The other scenario below can give light to this.
The Restaurant Analogy in Education
The above scenario can be explained by a situation that leads to a similar outcome. A family just arrived to live for the father’s long-term job contract at an area and was looking for a restaurant to enjoy their dinner and to help them decide on which to patronize eventually. They searched the Internet and found a few places. They checked the facilities through the photos on the establishments’ websites, the menus and the different presentations of the food.
They decided to try a few of them on the first week to see where they will go the next and try to establish friendship with. They went for a dinner at one of them on Monday and the following six days to six different restaurants during the week. The managers had different ways of welcoming their new guests and the family started to compare all seven of them. The food, the presentation, the treatment of the whole staff as well as the environment had differences which the family immediately started to feel.
They did the same thing the following week and started to notice that the differences are becoming noticeable and they had now come up with their theory as to which one was the best down to the worst. The process was repeated on the third week and the consistency between each shop’s website as well as what they were told at their first visits by the managers and the reality had become obvious. They repeated the process one more week to establish their conclusion and at the end, they were able to make a wise decision as to which of the seven they will patronize more.
Academic institutions, just like restaurants, serve what people need, and want. In some cases though the parents and students are not really aware or have no idea of what they exactly need. When prospective clients visit a school they expect the best from that institution. Although some of the parents and students may have little idea on what academic excellence means, everyone regardless of cultural background and social status in life have basic and common needs as far as education is concerned.
The institution therefore has the responsibility to help their clients understand what they need and to steer them to the right direction. Because restaurant customers have different tastes and likes, the establishment cannot also satisfy everyone’s want. But customers are always willing to go into a compromise especially where they have no choice, or when they realize it is not worth fighting over a small difference. As long as the discrepancies or inconsistencies are minor or are well-explained, a reasonable customer can understand and is willing to overlook them.
When a restaurant displays a brief description of its menu such as Asian, American, Indian or Mediterranean Cuisine, the customers have an idea on what to expect. An academic institution’s menu is its curriculum and usually described as British, American, IB and so forth, which immediately give the prospective client a rough idea of what to expect. When students enroll, they expect to see and hear what is described in the school’s curriculum or menu. There are of course some variations on how these are delivered. Just like the food and ambience in a restaurant, the consistency between what the menu says and what the customers actually taste and experience determines whether the establishment or institution be able to keep its clients, or lose them.
In the school scenario above, the clients initially believed what was explained to them and what they saw seemed to reinforce what they initially heard and felt. But when they had the actual taste and experience of being inside and part of that institution, they saw the inconsistency and failure of the school and its administrators to live by what they claim they are, both on their website and other digital as well as verbal presentations they had, as against what the reality was. The worse is that no one was there to entertain questions and needed clarifications when the parents personally visited the school after failure in their attempt to communicate through email and telephone which was not the case at the beginning. Just like the restaurants that lost their customers, the school also lost its client.
The above can be compared to another situation that you may find interesting on this link:
The Cruise Ship Analogy in Education
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