Customer Experience: The Real Measure of IT

As I begin my transition to my new CTO role in Dallas ISD I have been thinking a lot about measures of success. How will I know if I am successful? How will I know if I am making the right decisions?

These are questions that all of us have asked ourselves many times over the course of our careers.  Being a data-driven CTO, I’d probably look to customer service surveys, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and other such measures of how our IT team is doing, which should be a reflection of my leadership.

I’m sure I’ll do all of that, but what I am really interested in is “customer experience.”  I’m not only referring to how efficiently we meet customer needs and how effectively we are meeting needs, but I’m referring to how the customer “feels” about the experience. Is the experience seamless and painless, maybe even enjoyable? Are they delighted? Are we adding value to their work? If they had a choice, would they choose to do business with us again? After all, IT departments are more or less monopolies.

Think about some of the businesses or products that focus on customer experience. (NOTE: These are NOT Endorsements.) Apple comes to mind first. Steve Jobs was notorious for stressing the importance of customer experience. The same seems to go for businesses such as Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, Southwest Airlines and Amazon.  A few years ago I traded up for a “luxury” automobile. The Lexus experience, not just the car, but the whole experience, is unlike anything I ever imagined.

There is nothing glamorous or remotely enjoyable about getting on a plane every week, but somehow Southwest makes it ok. That’s not exactly the same as delighted, but it’s not bad. A good friend of my wife is a dentist and my wife would rave about her experience. Sure enough, I switched to her friend’s practice and they make the experience enjoyable!

Now please tell me that IT can provide a customer experience that is better than a dentist. But how do you focus on customer experience? 

Start with a smile and an empathetic ear. When people contact IT they are often having a bad day. Even if you can’t immediately fix their issue, you can demonstrate that you care.

People and their problems are not widgets. Yes, they may sound similar to something you’ve heard dozens of times before and when that happens we go into-auto-pilot. Then we stop listening and thinking. Customers notice.

Details count. Yes, the teacher may be thrilled that they have that fancy new laptop-tablet and projector for their room, but that missing cable or missing app that they rely on can ruin the entire experience.

Remove barriers. All IT departments have great rationale for certain procedures and processes, but they rarely reflect the needs or desires of customers. They are generally intended to make things easier for IT or to “protect the interests of the district.”

Give people choices whenever you can and give them more control over their experience. Most of us insist on having choices in our lives, shouldn’t we provide the same for our customers?

I’m not sure yet how this focus on customer experience is going to go, but I can tell you that as I visit schools and walk the halls with principals and talk with teachers that it is causing me to look at the technology experience differently. A missing cable or spotty WiFi may not seem like a big deal in the scheme of things, but those do not lead to good customer experiences.

On your next school visit, see if you can get a feel for the customer experience from the perspective of the customer rather than IT. It may just open your eyes.

Bob Moore has enjoyed a career of 26 years in education technology. His work has included more than two decades as a CIO in K12 schools and several years as lead strategist for a multi-billion dollar global ed-tech business, as well many years of active leadership in organizations such as CoSN. In 2012 Bob founded RJM Strategies LLC and works with schools and ed-tech business clients as a strategist, advisor and subject matter expert. His life’s work is grounded in his tenacious commitment to vision, innovation, integrity and practicality. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMEdTech. See Bob's Profile and Connect on LinkedIn at 

Related toolkits

Learn more now with materials from these toolkit and resource collections: