Language centres should "under-promise and over-deliver" on customer satisfaction, the English UK Student Experience conference will be told.
Terry Phillips, an ELT trainer and former language school owner, says that social media means it is more vital than ever before that centres pre-empt problems and have good systems for dealing with complaints. Pre-social media statistics suggest 93 per cent of people with a complaint about a service don't complain, but most won't use the service again, and will tell others about their problem.
"These days a student could tell all of their Facebook friends and before you know it a tiny issue could have gone around the world," says Mr Phillips. "In the past you could probably afford a small amount of service failure but I don't think you can now. So you've either got to pre-empt the chances of it happening or constantly monitoring where it might or has happened, and have a systematic method of dealing with complaints which leave your customer happy."
This presentation is one of a number during the conference on Wednesday 30 November, which focuses on different ways in which ELT centres can improve the student experience outside the classroom. Aimed at staff specialising in welfare, accommodation and other student contact roles, presentations include dealing with difficult people, visa problems, making homestays as good as possible and making safeguarding even better.
During his customer service presentation, Mr Phillips will point out that the vast majority of people who complain simply want their complaint to be heard. Only 10 or 15 per cent want a serious effort made to solve it, which suggests it is important for centres to have a system for dealing with complaints.
"Schools are not on top of this: I deal with issues relating to communications within organisations and one of the things that comes up consistently is that most schools don't systematically collect student feedback. And where they do, it doesn't relate to things that are of most important to students. So the schools don't don't understand the kind of things students might complain about but never voice to administrators," says Mr Phillips, saying such issues are often not uppermost in the minds of academic staff ,but in an increasingly competitive sector it is important for schools to get them right.
"When I had my own language school we did a performance survey which showed the thing we were doing most badly was the coffee shop. It was the most important thing for the students - it was crowded, there weren't enough spoons. There was nothing about the quality of teaching. Students often don't tend to notice that, but they notice things they can easily measure like 'is the coffee shop busy?'"
The English UK Student Experience Conference is at Anglo Continental in Bournemouth on Wednesday 30 November.
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