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August 30, 2011


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Steve Johnson

You make a good comparison to Apple et al. Everybody spends all this ink talking about Jobs and great products, when it's really a great experience--and at the prices Apple & Columbia charge, it SHOULD be a stellar experience.

That's what people miss. They think it's hardware or software or open or closed. But it's the experience from shopping to opening the box to the sound the device makes when it's started.

David Meerman Scott

@Steve -- Exactly.

Our daughter got a full scholarship offer from another university. But we chose to pay $60,000 a year for Columbia instead. And last month we purchased her a new Apple Powerbook to use at school which was twice what a PC would have been.

There is no doubt that the experience is a critically important aspect of those choices.


Efficiency is one of the most overlooked parts of marketing. And it is surprising how often travel companies fail to do this. I just cancelled a car rental from Hertz because it took 1.5 hrs to get the car from the original time: they failed to pick me up and failed to get me out the door quickly. Even returning the car was a terrible experience because it was *slow*.

Organizations which use experience and put thought into a process from the customer's point of view are inherently better than other organizations. I'm glad to know Columbia used their experience to make your first day amazing.

Is there a consultancy which specializes in that sort of customer service process?


Love how they made it an EXPERIENCE from start to finish. From the automagical appearance of her photo ID to the upperclassmen greetings, they considered how to make it a true Welcome! to the University. Love that. Great post. Good luck to your daughter! (And you)

Nancy Davis Kho

Funny, my husband and I were just discussing whether our kids' orthodonist is truly great, or merely the best businessman we know. Since the first visit, we have been blown away by the utter calm and competency that reigns in his busy practice. If you're not seen on time, it's because he's taken you early - never once have we had to wait for an appointment. The kids check themselves in via computer terminal or, as of August, via a thumbprint reader. His staff are cheerful, professional, and prompt. Whenever I refer a friend to his practice (which is all the time,) I receive a call or handwritten note of thanks.

Even if the kids came out with worse looking teeth than they had going in, I'd still go there. Why? Efficiency and professionalism.

Mazel Tov on Columbia. Hope it's a wonderful experience for her - sounds like it's starting off on the right foot!

David Meerman Scott

@Jeanniecw & @jdavidhill -- yes, it was indeed an amazing experience. We had a great car ride back to Boston just talking about how wonderful the university is.

@Nancy - so you'd recommend the orthodontist right? And you are talking about it here. That's great marketing!

Anne Sorensen

Wow David. A great story and reminders - thanks. It reminds me of the value of blueprinting a service - identifying and managing each moment (those 'moments of truth') that the customer interacts with the service. It sounds as though Columbia has done this, demonstrated by the colourful 'meet and greeters' through to guiding you to a nearby car park. It certainly is a great way to start the relationship and must give you even more confidence in the education experience to come for Allison.

All the best to Allison - and to you and Yukari - in these first days as empty nesters! :)

Take care.

Andras Baneth

Great post! I haven't realised until now but a customer service that answers super fast is indeed "efficiency" and the best way of marketing. I see it in my company where we answer customer requests within 24 hours or less, including weekends, and people just love it. Efficiency is indeed a super effective marketing tool!

Bob Williams

What a great story and testament to the planners and workers at the school. Thanks for sharing.


Interesting comparison drawn here. I think it's easy to forget, after all, that universities are businesses in and of themselves; efficiency is just as critical to their success as it would be to non-educational capitalistic endeavor. (Apple, et al.)

Why do you think some places get efficiency much better than others? What's the big trick here? If efficiency is such a wondrous thing (and lord knows it is), why isn't EVERYBODY doing it?


Not every worker in every company is taught to see things from the perspective of the user or the customer. Not every worker really cares.

At a good school, the students are happy and invested in the school's culture and therefore happy to volunteer to help freshman have a good experience, like they did. It also helps that the school was able to not only organize the students to do this, but also invested money in having enough carts so that you didn't have to wait. But should schools put money into carts that gets used twice a year when the money could go to "more important" resources? It must be hard to make those kinds of decisions.

David Meerman Scott

@Anne and @Bob - Many thanks!

@Andras - I hadn't given efficiency much thought either. But it certainly is a marketing asset.

@Emma - Universities certainly are businesses. They compete for the best students and professors. They need to raise funds via donation. And good marketing can help.

@Deb - The question you pose "should schools put money into carts that gets used twice a year?" is exactly what nearly all people would say. But that's the wrong approach. Instead, what Columbia did, was say things like: 1) "What is the most important moments for a student (arrival and graduation perhaps). 2) When are the few times a year that we have parents involved on campus? (arrival and parents weekend). So lets make arrival great even though there are things that others argue are "more important".

A Proud Mom

We also dropped off our son at Columbia. After an earthquake, hurricaine and the dean's sudden resignation we did not have high expectations. The energy from the students on campus, the extremely organized move in process as described by the author, and the warmth of the RA's and staff at Columbia comforted us as we left our son at an amazing place to discover himself. Clearly the folks at Columbia have done their homework and it worked to make a lasting impression. It may have been costly for them (they hired a private moving company) but from a marketing stand point it was well worth it.


What other well known NYC university did you pass by? I mean, you might as well mention it by name if you're going to call it out in your article. Just saying....And if it is the school I think you're referring to, you're also comparing two different types of campuses.

David Meerman Scott

@Proud Mom -- yes, a lasting impression indeed.

@Natalie -- for this post, I have chosen not to call out the companies I find to be less than efficient nor the other school we passed by.



I know you didn't call out other companies but you clearly insinuated another NYC school while other organizations you didn't even describe. It's always worthwhile when you are implying other institutions ("competition" as you call it) to know facts before you make statements. The other school you may be referring to houses approximately 11000 students throughout the campus of which at least 4000 are first year students. So when we talk about efficiency we must also talk about sizes of institutions or really the understanding of what efficiency means. Do you base an organizations efficiency on how quickly your daughter's bed was made or do you dig a little bit deeper to see all aspects?

Not trying to be argumentative here and I'm really glad that you had a great experience. Just wanted to add a little perspective. :)

David Meerman Scott

Natalie -- Yes! This *is* a blog post about efficiency based on the first few minutes of my daughters eduction! No, for this blog post I am *not* digging deeper - it is not an expose or anything more than what it is!

According to this wikipedia entry, there are dozens of schools in NYC and the school I refer to is on this list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_New_York_City

You are simply wrong in your assumption of school. You are jumping to a completely false conclusion and being overly defensive about a school which is simply not the one I am referring to.

I just don't want to reveal the name, okay?

A Facebook User

I completely agree with Steve and David, it's all about having a rich, positive experience! So many businesses fail to see that. David, thanks for this post because next year I will be in this position and this post will help me to see just how efficient the university my daughter chooses really is.

Best of luck to your daughter!


I see some interesting paths to take with your observations. I wonder if a comparison could be made between the efficiency found at a "private" organization, and one found at a "public" organization? (Sorry to go slightly political here...but watching the news and it is hard to navigate around the current them of governmental inefficiency). Do all top tier universities portray this efficiency...in tune with their status, reputation and ranking?

I was struck by the same degree of awe when dropping my son at Duke...same degree of organizational efficiency and an incredible first impression.

David Meerman Scott

Steve -- good questions, but like I said to Natalie, this was simply a blog post about my observations and not trying in any way to be a scientific comparison. Glad to hear that Duke is getting it right.


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Inbound Call Center

Efficiency was an additional factor in terms on marketing. The company were I working for, giving the efficiency for the customer to reached out us if they have any concern or wanted to ask about the business or they transaction by our 24/7 Call center agent.

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