As it appeared in the Daily Nation on June 20th, 2017
I have met hundreds of Kenyans that have gone through business school both locally and abroad. Many at undergraduate level and others at masters’ levels. I have also been a student and a teacher in business schools. Studied in three and taught in one. The question that has been going through my mind lately is – Are business school steering customer focus? In addition, do our business school graduates recognize that customer focus is vital for business success? If they do, why do we still have many gaps in the overall customer experience in most businesses?
I have sat through many job interviews as a panelist. I have interviewed students with varied education backgrounds. Some are graduates in engineering, others in education, economics, and arts and others are graduates in a variety of business studies. In most of these interviews, I am keen to find out more about the interviewee. Some of the attitudes and competences I look out for include their enthusiasm, their ability to communicate effectively and their customer perspective. So far, I have failed to identify a considerable difference in customer perspective based on a candidate’s education background. It is not evident that business school graduates are more customer focused. Are our business schools teaching us adequately on the need to focus on the customer?
I believe that most learning happens through not only what is taught but also through experiences. When I think about our universities, I wonder if the student experience is one that helps the students learn about the need to focus on the customer. Are our universities in general and business schools in particular meeting the basic minimums of customer experience? Do the students who are rightfully the customers have a good experience? Do the staff in the library, cafeteria, finance and career offices and the like treat students with respect? Do professors go to class on time? Do the universities respond to students’ emails? Are student phone calls picked up and handled professionally? Are students’ assignments and exams results records well kept? Overall, are the universities intentional about their student’s overall experience?
Having experienced public and private university education in Kenya and in the USA, I have noticed obvious differences in the student experience. Though universities in Kenya both public and private may currently be trying to put in extra effort to improve the student experience, the private universities are far ahead. I believe the higher expectations of students in private universities has driven this. Public universities on the other hand continue to battle with deep-rooted cultural issues that were not student focused. As the universities marketplace becomes more and more competitive, we are likely to see a greater focus on the end-to-end student experience.
Business schools are expected to teach and provide a conducive learning environment for best practices in business. In addition, I believe they are supposed to exemplify best practices such as customer focus. Maybe our business schools need to do a little more to support their universities. When I took the Harvard University guided tour a while back, it was evident that Harvard as a top tourist destination had invested heavily in their visitors experience. I believe there is much more that our learning institutions and especially our business schools can do to steer their universities to focus more on the customer. At the least, business students should be able to witness the best practices they learn being applied within their institutions.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy