16 July 2015

Guest blog by Karl King: Where is the Customer in a Vocational and Educational Industry?

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At a time when the VET sector is a buzz with discussion of quality and reform the Director of Sales and Customer Experience at TAFE Northern Sydney Institute, Karl King, asks an important question:

Where is the Customer in a Vocational and Educational Industry?

The Australian vocational education landscape is changing. There is a big push towards increasing productivity and skills resulting in both positive and negative effects for the customer.

The positive: the customer is given more choices than they would have had in previous years.

Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are becoming more flexible and adopting sales strategies to deliver what today’s online consumer demands; courses that can be accessed easier and completed faster - all at competitive prices.

Face to face delivery is inarguably advantageous to most students however self-paced learning in today’s online environment via mobile phone and computer is fast becoming the mode of choice.  RTOs are listening to their customers and aligning them to an educational journey of their choosing - courses are easier to access and qualifications are easier to achieve.

To boost course registrations, some RTOs entice prospective students with the offer of free laptops, textbooks or faster course completion time.

It’s what the customer wants; however are RTOs delivering what the customer, and industry, actually needs - a quality educational journey?

The negative: the main driver for RTOs becomes revenue not quality education.

We all agree that businesses have to be sustainable and operate in a commercial, competitive environment however we have seen in recent times the practice of selling educational products without the proper assessment of a customer’s current competency level, drive and goals. Often customer literacy, prerequisite and pre-qualifying assessments (to ensure they can actually learn at a particular level) are overlooked in the event of signing them onto a course.

This results in graduates who are entering the workforce with minimal skill and knowledge. In order to achieve completion rates, the RTO has awarded them with a questionable level of competency.

Is this the demise of vocational education and training?

It is vital that RTOs maintain quality standards in educational delivery to ensure customers gain the skills they need for entry to the workforce and increase their value in competitive employment.

The questions is, is it possible to promote quality education over the attractiveness of a quick sign up and a quick qualification?

Does the answer lie in customer experience increasing customer value – word of mouth?

What has your experience been? How have you done this?

Karl King will be speaking at Akolade's upcoming Enhancing VET Business Models Conference next week to will discuss using customer experience to increase customer value.

As current Director of Sales and Customer Experience at the Northern Sydney Institute Karl is instrumental in driving the Institute’s marketing and sales initiatives while leading, coaching and inspiring his team to maximise opportunities and enhance the customer experience. Karl is passionate about increasing performance and productivity to achieve business objectives and exceed customer expectations. Karl also believes in the importance of staff development and building cohesive and motivated teams working towards the same business goals.

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