CX from the Classroom: What My Favorite College Professors Taught Me About Customer Experience

CX from the Classroom: What My Favorite College Professors Taught Me About Customer Experience

Coming straight from college into consulting, I’ve learned a lot in my first few months on the job. But recently I realized how my time spent in the classroom translates directly to what I’m learning about excellent customer experience.

1. Stay Receptive

Professor Saxena – Management Science

Management Science coursework revolves around creating and solving with strong links to economics, business, and engineering. It is a very advanced class and most of the students had no prior exposure to the coursework. The average on the first exam was a 57%. In the class following that exam, Prof. Saxena set aside the entire hour just for us to give him feedback. Suggestions from the class included a more comprehensive study guide, less options for multiple choice questions, and making sure homework questions were indicative of exam questions. All of the changes were considered and implemented. 81% was the average on the second exam.

The exam average was less than ideal so Prof. Saxena took the time to listen to those who could directly influence the number. In the same vein, companies can greatly benefit from asking customers for feedback. Take the time to invite a conversation about what you can improve, what was concerning, and how you can better prepare for that customer’s next interaction with your business. But it’s not enough to listen, show your customers their feedback is being put to good use and implement as many suggestions as possible

2. Stay Flexible

Professor Boquist – Finance

I took a 7:30 a.m. Finance class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. As you can imagine, every morning the room was replete with coffee mugs, messy hair and pajama pants but we tried to learn as best as we could. On the second Friday of the semester, Prof. Boquist pulled out a stack of papers for a pop quiz. Everyone gasped and quickly pulled out their notes to review. Then, as he was standing in front of 50 panicked and yawning students, Prof. Boquist recognized testing us on amortized bonds wouldn’t yield many A’s at this time of the morning. He made a decision, “Clearly you aren’t in any condition to take this quiz, would you rather take it on Monday?” A resounding “yes” filled the room as he put his quizzes back into his briefcase and carried on with class. For the rest of the semester, his quizzes were never given on Fridays and were always announced in advance.

After recognizing the reaction of the room, Prof. Boquist altered his plan slightly to fit the needs of his students. They were not difficult or unreasonable deviations from his plan, but they created an entirely different experience for his students. Translate this practice to how companies can adapt to their customer’s operational model. If a customer can’t make an appointment during normal business hours, is there another option? Do your call center hours take into account night owls? What about the early birds? Is there room for some exception built into your business model? When a company develops alternative customer-centric processes, they may be slightly inconvenienced but the difference in the customer’s experience may be much more impressive.

3. Stay True to Your Promise

Professor Brooks – Business Law

On the first day of class, Professor Brooks promised us a few things: the class would be hard and the tests would be difficult but he guaranteed we would all leave the semester with a deep understanding of our rights as citizens, consumers, and as human beings. We would also be masters in writing contracts, making cases, and maybe even getting ourselves out of trouble someday. In addition, he promised that if we ever needed legal advice, he would serve as a legal advisor whenever we needed him, even after graduating. What a claim!

Fast forward five months: Prof. Brooks was the best teacher I had in four years of college. He was extremely well-versed, very knowledgeable, and always prepared. The class had a personal touch, he knew all 50 of us and wrote our names as examples in exam questions. Throughout the semester, we grew to trust him, understand him, and even wish the sessions were longer. The class was challenging and time-consuming but I have never learned so much relevant application of coursework before. I even took him up on his offer and have used him as a personal legal advisor twice. He kept his word and helped immensely.

Prof. Brooks didn’t have to walk into class on the very first day and say he would be the greatest teacher at the University. He didn’t have to promise us a life-changing education and a wealth of knowledge. But he did. He was making a brand promise.

By connecting the promise to the experience, Prof. Brooks delivered an honest result and companies can too. It’s not about giving customers everything they want it’s about delivering on the promise. Because Prof. Brooks didn’t claim the class would be easy, we didn’t expect it to be. Because he claimed the course would be beneficial, we expected it to be. He set the expectations and exceeded them. That’s what happy and loyal customers say about companies that deliver on their brand promise.

Hopefully companies making an effort to improve their CX can learn just as much from these professors as I did.


  • Arielle Newcomb October 6, 2016 3:56 pm

    Awesome blog, Erin! The likenesses between your academic experience and the experiences companies can control for their customers are great. Also, good for you for remembering what happened in all of those 7:30 AM classes 😉

    • Erin McHale October 11, 2016 9:58 am

      Thanks, Arielle! Caffeine definitely helped with my attention span that early in the morning 🙂

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