A critical component of Lean Six Sigma is understanding the Voice of the Customer. This concept is essential to identifying activities that are value-added and non-value added or wasteful.
In education it may be agreed that the student is the customer as they are the recipients of the outcomes of the institution. Some disagree with this concept thinking that we are unable to satisfy the customer. At one of my presentations someone in the audience indicated that satisfying the customer in education “the student” means giving them all “As” and that was impossible. Of course this is not correct – this is not what customer satisfaction is about.
In the education space the concept of the “Voice of the Customer” has a different meaning than it does in the broad world of consumerism. We tend to think that customer satisfaction rests only on the fact that there is a financial exchange between the customer and the person delivering the goods and that the customer finds value in the purchase.
We need to satisfy the needs of the customer – the student, but what does that mean? It means we need to deliver what is considered as a quality education -one that is delivered so that the student is functional in the wider society. If individuals are able to graduate but cannot either get a job or function at their required capacity, then regardless of what was learned and the grades earned then a quality education was not delivered.
Customer satisfaction therefore is not a passive interaction. For the student to be satisfied, it requires the student to collaborate with the instructor and several different individuals within the institution. The student’s success requires a partnership with the institution which should be promoted and nurtured.
Understanding the Voice of the Customer is a process, a mind-set, a shift in thinking, a culture that needs to be embraced by the entire institution.
Apart from the student, there are several customers who are vested in the education outcome:
- The parents of the students who might bare some financial responsibility regarding payment of fees and physical and emotional support of the student
- The loan institutions who might provide assistance to the students
- All the areas of the institution (business office, book store, advisors, job placement office and other areas) which support or interact with the students directly or indirectly
- The potential employers who expect a certain level of performance of the students after graduation
- The institution itself who expects that the performance of students and their ability to be received in the wider society will build the reputation for the school
Well this is my opinion.
To read more on this topic, see the New York Times January 3, 2010 article below:
In this article “Are They Students or Customers” five professors from different business schools weigh in on the debate.
“Students are investing time and money with a purpose in mind. The school that does not serve that purpose will not survive.” Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and professor of public services at the George Washington University.
This blog is dedicated to the team at Alber Enterprise Center of The Ohio State University.
Norma Simons is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, president of Performance Innovation LLC, and an AEC Solution Partner. Norma heads a team of qualified professionals in the areas of Lean and Six Sigma. Her success is attributed to her unique integration of performance improvement systems such as Lean, Six Sigma, Design for Six Sigma, quality management systems, business operating systems, and balanced scorecards that have enabled the effective execution of organizational strategy and, ultimately, bottom-line results.
One thought on “Understanding the Voice of the Customer in Education”
I find it interesting that the components of Lean Six Sigma are applicable across a variety of organizations and industries. Typically, people think of Lean Six Sigma in relation to manufacturing, and while it’s true that many manufacturing companies practice lean processes, the LSS strategies and methods are useful for any group looking to continuously improve and become more efficient. Thanks, Norma!