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Creating a Meaningful Experience with Customer Service

Jessica Gallagher

So, picture it: Charles de Gaulle Airport, 2016. It was my worst nightmare. My flight was delayed by several hours, and I knew that I was going to miss my connection to get back home. I was flying Icelandair for the first time, and they didn’t have very many flights on a daily basis. When the plane finally arrived, around 150 angry and confused passengers boarded and accepted the fact that we’d all be spending the night in Iceland. Great.

Except — it was just that! Great! As soon as I sat down, a flight attendant offered me a complimentary drink. Just that meant more to me than the excessive and generic “I’m sorries.” But — it just kept getting better. Once we’d taken off, everyone on the plane was offered whatever and however much they wanted to eat and drink for free. At that time, Icelandair charged for pretty much everything other than water. While that definitely was an “above and beyond” experience, I still had that nagging feeling in my gut of, “Wow, it’s going to be nuts when I get off this plane and have to figure out how I’m actually going to get home and book a hotel in Iceland.”

I made my way to the Icelandair desk after landing, along with the rest of the passengers. I psyched myself up to stand in a long line for a long time. Wrong, again! While there was definitely a long line, it was moving at the speed of lightning! Within a few seconds, it was my turn. The Icelandair representative handed me my suitcase, my new ticket home, taxi vouchers, dinner and breakfast vouchers, and the address to the hotel they’d booked. I was beyond impressed. The cherry on top was pulling up to my hotel and realizing that they’d put me in one of the most luxurious hotels in Iceland.

I made it home the next day. Even though things didn’t exactly work out according to plan, I realized that I wasn’t mad. I wanted to tell everyone what happened to me, because I wanted everyone to know that Icelandair gets itthey care. I wanted to tell everyone to fly Icelandair. They made me feel special and unique amongst 149 other passengers.

When thinking about the prospective students visiting your campus, is customer service missing? It sounds silly to think of customer service in admissions, but at the same time — aren’t prospective students your “customers?” You’re selling them the next 4+ years of their lives. Just like my Icelandair experience, do these students want to tell everyone about their experience? Do these students feel special, unique, and welcomed? Did you leave a true, lasting impression on these students so that they’ll still be passionate about your institution months later when it comes time to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives?

It’s not as tedious as you think, and a little goes a long way. You’re probably already doing some of these things — but, are you doing them in a meaningful way?

  • What if a student has questions about financial aid? Did they attend a session with 10 other students? Or — did they sit down with a counselor to go over their financial aid letter?
  • What if a student is interested in majoring in accounting, but minoring in dance? Did they only tour your Business School? Or — did you offer them an additional walkthrough of your Performing Arts School, too?
  • What if a student signed up for a visit led by one of your Student Ambassadors? Did that ambassador quickly “check off the boxes” for that student’s visit? Or — did that ambassador connect with the student as the student’s peer, making them feel truly welcomed — perhaps by mentioning their favorite cafeteria meal, most convenient parking lot, or favorite professor?
  • What if a student is considering attending your institution to play a sport? Did they meet with a coach? Or — were they offered the opportunity to attend a game or chat with a current team player?

What experiences are you giving these students that are actually impactful? What sets your institution apart from others, and did you weave that into the student’s experience in a meaningful way?

These students aren’t just names on a list, in a CRM, or in a funnel. These students are your next incoming class. Give them a reason to be part of that class. Let them leave your campus excited because you created a unique, personalized experience that made them feel less like they were part of a group on a visit and more like they were the only ones there — because they were treated with white-glove customer service.

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