How to scale great CX, tips for improving experiences across multiple services
Today’s topic is all about scaling CX, how to navigate the challenges of creating consistently great experiences when you have multiple centres. While a lot of the content is applicable to leaders in larger early education businesses, there are also takeaways for anyone interested in improving their CX and also those involved at just one centre but are part of a larger group.
As I mentioned in a previous video, I like to look for inspiration outside of the sector to get ideas and learn lessons. If you think about some brands that have lots of locations but provide consistently good experiences, experiences that make you want to go back, then these brands can serve as good examples for today’s topic. If you can think of an example for yourself……go on have a little think….., then they are probably delivering on their brand promise where you get what you expect no matter where they are located. To be fair, this is where experience management has been hard at work for many years as larger businesses have realised the importance of it and have invested heavily in creating CX departments to help drive success.
I started my career in hotels and worked for 5-star chains that would pride themselves on a consistent and exceptional level of service no matter where they were located. This process started with recruitment, then moved into training, staff presentation, standards, measurements, recognition and accountability. There is no one thing that made it work, it was a holistic business approach that drove success. I think I am pretty good at making an informative video, but in the short time I have got, I can’t unpack all of the steps that make up an organisational CX program work, however, I can certainly provide a few tips to help you along the way.
Although there are a lot of unique aspects to the ECE sector, there are also a lot of principles in common with other sectors. In 2020 we collated some research from over 10,000 families to discover that 1 in 10 families are actively unhappy with something at their centre. These families are at risk of leaving the service and are often damaging the reputation of the centre with others. Most issues were staff and communication related which are not unique to the sector.
Let’s get started and look at some CX tips to help improve experiences starting with something tangible – measurement.
In this day and age, we have an abundance of data. If you are involved in a business with multiple services then I am confident that you have lots of measurements that are used to gauge your performance. In most cases, this data is what we call ‘O’ data, standing for operational data. It is historic information and tells you about what has been happening in the business (occupancy, enquiries, debtors, wage costs etc). As these stats are reporting on the past, they are lagging measures.
In experience management, we are driven to provide X data or experience data. These measurements are predictive and tell you what is likely to happen in the future. These are leading measures as they can tell you what is going to happen in the future. If your X data measurements are getting worse, then your O data measurements are going to follow that trend down the track. So, when used in combination with O data, you have a full set of instruments in which to now the business, you can look into the rear vision mirror and look forward at the same time!
Best practice to generate X data is to run a continuous survey program where you have a steady flow of feedback from families so you have ongoing measures as well as continuous opportunities to uncover and address issues and recognise and reward good work. This is what those leading brands we spoke about do. A continuous program is a significant undertaking so a step back from that is a periodic assessment – quarterly, six-monthly or annually. This will give you a line in the sand, a starting point to work with. And then track how you are ‘moving the needle’ over time.
Another highly valuable data set is available via the reports in Storypark’s ‘network dashboard’. Organisations running multiple ECE services can customise set-up, communicate with families and their team, administer their centres Storypark accounts and observe activity – namely practice by their educators (including curriculum use) and levels of family engagement at each centre. This is all real-time data.
By analysing timeframes within your network reports you can see if family engagement is increasing or decreasing at particular centres. You can ensure centres are creating the experience you want – e.g. a balance of individual and group stories (parents get much less value from group stories), holistic use of curriculum, appropriate frequency of documentation.
I have touched on what to measure slightly in the 2nd video/blog, but it is a pretty comprehensive topic. This free video series that expands on this if you are interested to learn more.
A saying that has been drilled into me since starting to work in CX 15 years ago is ‘measure what matters and what matters gets done’! Just think about that for a minute. Things that are important are measured for a reason. By having a measurement then you can set goals and measure progress. There is a fantastic book by John Doerr called Measure what Matters which talks about a simple framework that drives success which was key to businesses like Google’s success. It is driven around OKR’s – Objectives and Key Results. In CX, it is about deciding to improve and having X data in place to provide those key results as a measurement of progress, without them you really
So if you are serious about improving your CX at scale, then you need the right measurements in place which are represented in the right dashboard. Ideally, a balanced scorecard that can display the key measurements in one place.
Next, you need to think about what you are measuring, well a step before that actually. Things are quite easy to stay on top of if you have one centre, you can be closely involved with the team, the families and the operation and go to bed at night with a good handle on things. The bigger you are, the harder this is. As businesses grow, customer experience usually diminishes. This is why it is essential to create standards and then measure either against those standards or measure the impact of those standards on customers.
You’ve probably heard of ‘design thinking’, which is the foundation of designing service standards that are tailored to generate the right type of emotional responses in customers. Those brands that you thought of at the beginning of this video/blog, or the five-star hotel chains I worked for had very clear and deliberate standards to follow. When I checked someone in, or showed them to the room, I was thoroughly clear on the process to follow as it was designed to create the best of impressions. It was drummed into us to use guests’ names as often as possible, to personalise the experience.
Creating clear standards throughout the operation, especially the ones that are touch points with families are a foundation of delivering consistent quality in your customer experiences. These could start with simple things like, how to answer the phone, to personalise interactions with families and use their name or even the use of Storypark. If you think about how to best utilise Storypark then it should be clearly documented for all of your services to know what is expected of them.
By defining your own indicators of quality in terms of the day to day use of Storypark, you can use the analytics in their network dashboard reports as leading indicators to support your centres’ practice and family experience.
Essentially you are talking about service standards, how to serve your customers, your families. Step one is to document your standards and step two is to effectively roll them out. The challenge is that in most of these instances you are talking about impacting educator’s behaviours, influencing their discretionary effort. There is some significant effort in taking people on this journey with you. Then there are new members joining the team that need to have these standards explained and understood. It is not a simple set and forget process, you need an effective training process to ensure expectations are made clear and the team understands how to deliver on these service standards. If the measurement process is effective, you will have metrics that track the implementation of these standards. These measurements are essential to driving accountability and recognition. For example, in our training program, we start with a simple focus on personalisation, using parent’s names. Then we measure down to a room level the results from our surveys where we ask families if they are greeted by name when they enter the room. Clear training, supported by clear accountability.
Back to the hotel example, a survey process has long been in place to measure the key steps in the customer journey, arrival, room cleanliness etc. which allows them to drill down and measure each area of responsibility. If you decided to focus on a pick up summary for example, then a survey question asking specifics about this would allow you to measure how each centre is performing over time.
I like to think of CX as a series of building blocks. We have talked about standards and processes that form building one block, but underneath that is the foundation building block of culture. Experiences are essentially created by interpersonal interactions by your team so this is where culture shines through. Again, this is a dynamic and complex topic, however, those brands that deliver consistently great experiences have a strong recognition process that celebrates successes and delivery of high standards. The CX measurement process allows for visibility of achievement as well as the opportunity of a leader board to drive what is called social accountability, or in other words competition. There is significant pride developed when a manager can see that they have achieved improved or exceptional results among their peers and also that they are recognised for it.
The relationship between employee experience and customer experience is well documented, so as mentioned in previous videos/blogs having a program to measure employee engagement and then do something with it will help fuel the right culture. If employees are feeling supported, recognised and engaged then this will flow into their interactions with families. Leading CX brands measure EX regularly and use it with the same level of focus to improve as their CX measurements.
Storypark’s new educator capability tools are being adopted by multi-site operators across Australasia to encourage quality practice, collaboration and professional development within day-to-day workflows.
Educator portfolios enable evidence, reflections and other professional/personal documentation to be created quickly and in a familiar way. Educators can create professional development plans and link evidence to these plans. Over time these can be used to paint a career path for staff members, motivating, supporting and retaining them over time.
Private ‘Communities of Practice’ can be set up in Storypark to enable innovation and resources to be shared between centres within a group. This is great for peer-peer connection and learning, helping educators ‘feel like they’re part of something bigger’ even more. Centres can also create quality improvement plans and other goals for collaboration on an individual basis with their team.
Educator engagement starts at induction and lasts a career. That’s why Storypark’s educator capability tools help, induction, leadership development and professional growth, and provide analytics on trends in activity, training impact and gaps, the support individual teachers require, and who your rising stars are.
I realise that a lot of these strategies can only effectively be deployed from leadership positions in a business. So what if you are not in one of those roles, what if you are working in a centre that is part of a group? The good thing is that you have a lot of control of what happens within the walls of your centre, or if you are a room leader then the same can be said for within the walls of your room. Just scale down the scope of this advice and apply it to what you can, to what is under your control.
You can measure feedback somehow, you can set standards, you can train your team, you can recognise effort and success, you can coach and improve your team. You can make your area excel and what often happens is that you get noticed. Many CX efforts start in passionate hotspots within a business and then gain momentum from there. What you have on your side is that any CX effort is purposeful, people do not push against it, they rally around it. It makes a difference to others and in doing so makes a difference to those creating greater experiences. It is a just cause! Most importantly, it makes a difference to the families in your centre community, that difference is made by you and your team and often that is rewarding enough in itself.
Improving CX, like many purposeful objectives is a journey and not a destination. Systems, objectives and measurements will all help, however it is people and culture that will ensure the real success. We have designed programs to help centres navigate this journey with tools and support the climb up the CX maturity curve where better results are achieved. If you would like to learn more, then please take a look at our brand new and first in the sector offering, etc. And if you would just like to learn more about CX in ECE, then check out our free 5 part introductory series.
If you’d like to learn more about Storypark’s network dashboard, educator capability tools or other resources please emaIl firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog post is the third in a series of family experience/customer experience resources designed to help you deliver the best possible experience and outcomes for families at your centre(s). These resources are produced in partnership with Sky Blue Customer Experience Services and supported by videos from Sky Blue CEO Tom Scantlebury.