A Client-Focused Q&A with Lisa O’Masta
09 February 2015
→ Lisa O’Masta, VP of Client Experience and Operations, Fuel Education
We recently spoke with Lisa O’Masta, VP of Client Experience and Operations at Fuel Education and EdNET Advisory Board Member, about what makes for a positive customer experience and why a positive customer experience is so vital to the education industry. Fuel Education partners with more than 2,000 school districts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to provide everything school districts need to implement and grow successful online and blended learning programs.
Q: How long have you worked in education and what has motivated you to stay in this market?
I started in education nearly 20 years ago after a short stint in the financial services industry. In education, I found the perfect marriage between my skills and passions and my desire to really make a difference. There is no better motivation than knowing that the work that I do can help the organizations we serve to better educate future generations—including my own children.
Q: You have a strong track record as a marketer. What compelled you to switch to your position at Fuel Education?
One of the critical jobs in marketing is to define your company’s brand and the promise statement that it makes to customers. As a marketing professional, it is important to me not only to believe in that promise but to deliver on it. Despite the best of intentions, sometimes companies struggle to do that. Often, there is a disconnect when internal members of an organization do not understand the full impact of their decisions on their customers. This disconnect really impedes their ability to deliver against that promise.
Fuel Education is committed to delivering on an effective, consistent customer experience. We make every effort to align our promise to customers with products and back-end infrastructure that meets customer expectations. This newly created position provides me with the perfect opportunity to bring the voice of the customer to the operational development of products and services so that I can help to ensure we were structured to deliver on our promises. In this new role, I’m able to have a greater impact on the full customer life cycle and on delivery against our promise.
Q: Most companies strive to provide a positive experience for their customers, but what makes it so hard and why do so many of them fall short?
First, I rarely use the term “good customer experience” because your definition of good and mine may not be the same. I prefer the term effective customer experience because that aligns to a customer’s basic expectation. They chose us because of the desire for us to deliver our promise and help solve their challenges. They stay with us because we consistently deliver upon those expectations.
Most companies believe and strive to provide an effective customer experience; the challenge comes in the execution. Often, it becomes the focus at the department level, where each department separately aims to create the best customer experience possible. But what can result from this approach is a disjointed experience for your customer as they pass from one department to another.
Companies fall short when they fail to make a consistent customer experience an organizational priority. The entire organization, led by the most senior people, needs to make an investment in and a commitment to the customer experience as a whole. At Fuel Education, we have made that commitment, and the creation of my role is one example of that commitment.
Q: What is FuelEd doing differently?
Fuel Education started with a commitment at the most senior level within the organization to create and ensure an effective customer experience. It is allocating full-time resources to ensure success across all areas within the company. We are defining common metrics, aligning budgets, and translating customer needs and expectations into how we do our business on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Is the customer experience unique in the education space?
Effective customer experience is delivering on expectations in a consistent way—regardless of the industry. I like to use the analogy of an airline. At the end of the day, if the airline fails to deliver you safely, on time, with your luggage intact, perks like frequent flyer miles or points don’t really matter. Too many companies get caught up in the idea of bells and whistles.
For educators in general—and this may apply to other industries—it is important to ease the burden on the consumer. I have seen educators who are drawn to free resources that may not be as advanced or of high quality but that are easy to pick up and implement.
Educators really aren’t that complex; they want you to give them the tools and resources they need to support strong student outcomes and to free them up to focus on the student—not on more processes and systems. They might have different approaches or expectations for how they do this, but if you can address that primary student concern for them consistently and effectively, everyone wins.
Q: Can client experience be effectively measured and can it be directly tied to revenue?
Absolutely! Client retention is your most important metric. Whether you use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effort Score (CES), both are great indicators of the customer’s willingness to continue to do business with you.
In tying the client experience to revenue, start by understanding your baseline performance on key metrics that directly relate to customer experience, such as cycle time and accuracy. Then you can see the impact on revenue when you improve performance of those metrics. It’s important to create common metrics across departments and a common dashboard so everyone is aligned to the same goals. Revenue wins that can be attributed to customer experience improvements make it much easier to gain champions of these efforts inside a company and to maintain the momentum and commitment over time.
Q: So what are some of the things that you’re doing at FuelEd to accomplish these goals for yourself?
We spend a lot of time listening. Interviews, surveys, and advisory boards are all important listening formats that we leverage. We also have embedded surveys within our product for immediate feedback. It’s important that we listen and can demonstrate that we take action so that our customers feel that the time they took to provide us feedback was valued. If we are listening and reacting to that feedback, customers will want to continue to partner with us, even if we don’t always get it right the first time.
Q: So your definition of an effective customer experience is…
When a company consistently delivers on customer expectations. And maybe the best marker of an effective customer experience is one where you don’t hear anything. It’s like Y2K: the best outcome is one where everything operates as expected.
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Lisa O’Masta, VP of Client Experience and Operations
As a strategic change agent and leader serving the education market for nearly 20 years, Lisa brings her passion for education and commitment to the customer experience to every organization she serves. As a recent addition to the Fuel Education executive team, the institutional division of K12, Inc., Lisa serves as the Vice President of Client Experience and Operations. In this newly established position, Lisa assumed responsibility for the client experience, including Product Management, Operations, and Instruction that support the organizational focus of creating an optimal client experience for students, teachers, mentors, and administrators. Lisa also dedicates a portion of her time as an EdNET Advisory Board Member.
Prior to making the move to Fuel Education, Lisa served as the VP of Product Marketing for K-12 core, intervention, and supplemental products at McGraw-Hill Education. Lisa was responsible for defining and refining positioning, distribution, and price that shaped the customer experience through a strategic approach, focused on developing market-winning products, improving margins, and creating an optimal customer experience from inception to grave.
Lisa has implemented processes and infrastructure that promote a scalable, profitable business and lend a voice to key stakeholders while supporting business objectives. She brings her creative approach combined with her analytic thinking to ensure success of students and the organization. From start-up organizations like eInstruction, SchoolNet, and Knowledge Delivery Systems to established changing organizations like Laureate Education and McGraw-Hill Education, Lisa brings an intellectual curiosity and pragmatic delivery that has resulted in organizational success in companies that she serves.
Additionally, as a coach and mentor, Lisa strives to establish strong teams and develop excellent leaders.
Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Towson University and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. She holds certification in change management from Cornell University and is certified in pragmatic marketing.