The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Are you building a creepy treehouse?

Somewhere I was recently I heard a great quote. I have been struggling to recall where I heard it, but perhaps the person is a reader and will chime in. I think the person was Stuart Sim at a recent meeting WGU. What I recall is that the discussion covered how in many cases with technology today society or companies are taking our perceptions and going forward and building tools and communities for kids, but not meeting their expectations or interests. He likened these efforts to "building a creepy treehouse."

That analogy struck a chord with me as I think about some of the current ways in which companies, society, educational institutions and college stores try to provide course materials or other services to students and faculty without thinking about (or asking for) their expectations, interests, or opinions. I think back to the trip Brian Cartier and Bill Simpson took to Japan earlier this year and the customer satisfaction and opinion survey the stores conduct there to make sure they know their customer. Without that type of information and input, we may all be building our own "creepy treehouses" for our customers.

Perhaps that is too deep of a thought for a Sunday morning, but it does suggest a strategic action item for stores: re-evaluate your customer relationship. How well do we really know our customers? How do we know what we know about our customers? When was the last time we solicited our customers not just about satisfaction with service, but about store layout? Product offerings? Other aspects of their experience with us? If they could change three things about the store (other than textbook prices) what might they be? If there was one product or service to be added, what would it be? What item(s) do they shop online for the most? Today's students like to be engaged in defining the products and services they consume. How does your store engage students in making it their store? Just some questions to ponder during your daily "strategic thinking" time.


Stuart Sim said...

Hi Mark,

Yes it was a discussion we were having at WGU. Creating online communities is a very difficult thing to do and requires a deep understanding of the target users. The 'build it and they will come' model has been replaced in the new web with 'your using it because you build it'.


M said...

Thanks, Stuart. I think the concept has some broader applicability these days, beyond just online communities. The clarification helps, though.