The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board updated on customer service system
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 was updated on the district’s new customer service system called Let’s Talk at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 1.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said that selecting a new customer service system was part of his contract goals and in June 2017 the board approved of a three-year contract with K12 Insight for the Let’s Talk system at a cost of $80,000 annually, $240,000 total.
Brian Lindholm, information services project manager, said that just prior to Christmas last year the system was launched with seven or eight departments setup in the system as topics that citizens can submit questions or dialogues to. By the end of 2017-18 school year, all departments and programs were setup and the goal is to have all U-46 schools setup by December of this year.
Lindholm said the system allows the district “to monitor the experiences of parents, community members and employees who contact U-46.” Sanders later said the system can allow the district to monitor social media.
“It will actually monitor social media for you as well and tell you if you have a hot topic,” Sanders said but added “let’s mature a little bit with it first.”
Lindholm said the plan was for a two-year rollout with full implementation of the system by 2019. He said the system is setup in both English and Spanish, there’s a mobile app available and all dialogues submitted are forwarded to staff.
“The good news is I think that people are finding it very accessible,” Lindholm said. “We’ve had over 1,000 unique visitors who have submitted dialogues in Let’s Talk, so I think we’re doing a pretty good job of getting the word out and letting people know about this new channel to contact us.”
Lindholm later added: “The first year of the implementation I feel has gone fairly smoothly. The good news is at the beginning I was answering a lot of these dialogues myself or I was sort of following up with people individually making sure they were getting closed, and now it kind of runs itself and there’s people in every department who are watching these every single day.”
Customer service workshops have been held for school secretaries, and further will be held with school administrators, to prepare for schools being setup as topics in the system according to Lindholm who said the workshops focused on “soft skills” or “how do we make sure that when we are getting back to people that we are polite, professional, consistent.”
Lindholm said that 1,358 dialogues have been submitted since the launch of the system, and the district has responded on average within 1.4 business days. U-46 has received an average feedback score on its responses of 8.4 on a 10-point scale.
“I think that probably one of the best things about Let’s Talk is the dashboard and the metrics, the accountability, the transparency it provides in terms of how quickly we are responding to our customers, how well we’re responding to our customers,” Lindholm said.
Over 300 dialogues were submitted last month with a 9.5 average feedback score according to Lindholm who said: “If anything, this is trending in a positive direction.”
Most of the dialogues have been submitted by parents/guardians but a lot have also come from employees according to Lindholm, and the majority of dialogues have been submitted to the transportation department.
“They’re actually doing a great job as a team of staying on top of these and getting back to parents and getting them the information that they need,” Lindholm said of the transportation department.
A similar report will be given to the board next year around the same time according to Lindholm.
Board member Phil Costello asked how this system compares with other districts. Lindholm said that the same system is being used by Rockford as well as school districts in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Lansing, Michigan.
Lindholm said that “what they really suggested was to take it slow. They like the sort of two-year rollout sort of plan” which allows U-46 to “work out some of the kinks.” He added that the district plans to promote and market the system more.
Costello said he’s visited the website to review the Let’s Talk system, and he said the dashboard should allow for empirical data to be gathered.
“It was very intuitive I thought,” Costello said. “You identify yourself, you identify the type of problem so it’s nice to kind of put it in buckets as opposed to ‘this is great, that’s bad’ or something like that.”
Board members Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Melissa Owens all lauded the system, Noland calling it “one of my top desires way back when we were doing strategic planning.”
Kerr asked if each school will choose who responds to dialogues submitted to them which Lindholm said “we’ll probably leave some discretion at the schools” but multiple people will be able to respond at each school.
Owens asked if all of the schools will be added to the system at once or will it be staggered. Lindholm said: “We haven’t quite ironed that all out yet.”
Jackson Teetor, the student advisor to the board, asked if the district will reach out to students about the system. Lindholm said “that hasn’t been the channel that we’ve invested as much in reaching to,” but “that could be a group that we would target.”