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Friday, December 9, 2011

Service Orientation In Education

Our school district will soon begin preparations for an operating budget for the 2012/13 school year. Investments will be analyzed and revenue will be examined. The resulting figures will seek a balance between the needs of learners and the financial capacity of taxpayers. The community will consider the merits and value of the subsequent funding strategy at the annual budget vote in May.

We actually work at promoting the budget each and every day of school. It's ultimately about perceptions and beliefs constructed around the ongoing dynamics of interactions between and among members of the school staff and learners, as viewed by voters. People may vote on numbers as a product but budgets pass on relationships as a service. Few people are inspired by graphs and charts. It's the stream of narratives that reflect care, compassion, commitment and constancy of purpose which prompt feelings that really matter.

Think of education and consider how Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible, points out the significant differences between selling a product and selling a service. At Green Island we focus on selling the service.

Beckwith states:"A product is tangible. You can see it and touch it. A service, by contrast, is intangible. In fact, a service does not even exist when you buy one. A service is a promise. You’re selling the promise that you will do something at a future date. This means that what you are really selling is your honesty.

The products we buy are built miles away by people we have never met. So we rarely take product failures personally. The services we use, by contrast, are usually provided by people we have met or at least spoken to. When that person fails to do what he/she promised, we often take it personally.

In most professional services you are not really selling expertise – because your expertise is assumed, and because your prospects cannot intelligently evaluate your expertise anyway. Instead, you are selling a relationship. And, in most cases, that is where you need the most work. Doctors too often believe that they are selling technical proficiency as the measure of their worth, but patients more often view the relationship side as more critical. How many times have you heard someone describe a doctor with reference to his/her bedside manner as opposed to their perceived technical proficiency?
When many prospects choose a service firm, they are not buying the firm’s credentials. These prospects buy the firms personality. Most people describe their experience of interaction with a service firm on the basis of feelings. Service businesses are about relationships. Relationships are about feelings. In service marketing and selling, the logical reasons you should win the business – your competence, your excellence, your talent, - just pay the entry fees. Winning is a matter of feelings, and feelings are about personalities."
"Above all," Beckwith concludes, "sell hope."

We are presenting a case at the Heatly School that our staff can work cooperatively to advance opportunities for learners and craft the conditions and means for them to pursue their dreams, whatever direction they take. Isn't that what our stakeholders invest in? Not the achievement levels, but what these achievement levels can do. It's not what education "is," it's what education "does." In the end, education is a service, not a product.

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