Friday, March 27, 2015

The customer is always right.

Unless they are wrong.

Then, the real question becomes, "How do you handle the fact that they are wrong, yet believe they are right?"

The answer to that question depends upon the horizon you have with your customers. Do you look at profitability as a requirement for each and every sale? Or, do you look at the long-term value of the customer spread out over months or years (multiple sales) as opposed to each transaction individually?

The answer also depends upon your customer-service mission. Are you customer-obsessed like Amazon, or are you more like Comcast where customers (even long-term good customers) tend to get in the way of efficiency and more profitability?

Take time to determine your customer horizon and your customer-service mission. Doing so will help you align your efforts with your message and be more authentic to those you wish to serve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015



Don't ignore it.

Don't fear it.

Let it serve its purpose.

Then, move forward.

Don't let it stop you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cyber Schools Are Failing, So Why Are They Expanding? I have an answer.

neaToday published an article, Cyber Schools Are Failing, So Why Are They Expanding?, that discusses recent findings from a study conducted by the National Education Policy Center.

The study laments the ongoing performance of cyber, or virtual, schools across the country, and singles out K12, Inc. and Connections Academy. The graph shown in the article though demonstrates the rapid growth in enrollment at these virtual schools (now over 250,000) since their inception in spite of all of this evidence.

This takes us back to the title of the article: Cyber Schools Are Failing, So Why Are They Expanding?

The answer: Parents are unhappy, and the last time I checked happiness was not an empirical concept but an emotional one.

Perhaps we should spend as much time in the educational experience of students/families as we do in the empirical evidence world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tennessee Senate Passes Virtual School Authorization Act 31-0

Previously I had stated that I hope the Tennessee Legislature can separate the concept of virtual schooling from the debate going on over the performance of Tennessee Virtual Academy.

With the Tenn. State Senate voting Monday 31-0 to extend the Virtual Schools Authorization until 2019, it would appear they are doing just that.

Well done. Well done.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Turn flight delays into WOW opportunities

What could airlines learn from American Girl Dolls? American Girl dolls are extremely popular among young girls. They are educational, entertaining, and expensive. One problem, they are easy to break (and their hair messes up easily).

So, how did American Girl respond to this potential problem that could impact revenue negatively? They saw it as a potential to enhance the story of American Girl dolls, generate new revenue, and minimize returns. They set up an American Girl Doll Hospital. Now, little girls with broken dolls can send them in to the hospital where, for a fee, they can be restored to their former glory.

This was what I was thinking about as I stood in O'Hare at my gate and watched as my flight was delayed time and time again. Finally, after a 2-hour delay, we finally arrived home. And, as I reached out to the airline to share my experience with them, their best response was to simply apologize for the delay and the interruption. As I told them, it wasn't the delay (those things happen). It was the way in which the delay was handled -- no communication, no updates (except to let us know that we were delayed again), no information on the screen, and no explanations.

As you can imagine, it was not the most pleasant experience for the 100+ passengers on this flight, though most handled it with patience.

And that is when I began to think about American Girl and their hospital. Imagine the airline that considered the inevitable delays in flights to be opportunities to WOW their customers, instead of merely and meekly apologizing.

What could it look like?

1. For each hour the flight is delayed (up to a maximum of three hours), randomly draw a passenger's name and give them a round-trip airfare to be used within the next six months. Then, when the flight does take off, have one of the flight attendants randomly select one additional passenger for a round-trip airfare to be used within the next six months.

2. If First Class has seats available, randomly select passengers to fill the seats at no cost if the delay is an hour in length or more.

3. Set up a scale system that allows the mechanic (or whoever is making the decision) to rate the probability of the flight taking off within an hour of its original departure, two hours, or more.

4. For every thirty minutes of delay, randomly draw a passenger's name and give them a discount card to one of the airport restaurants, coffee shops, or other stores -- even a 10% discount will do.

5. If the flight delay goes over three hours, provide each passenger a $99 companion ticket they can use within the next six months or year.

6. Provide each passenger a voucher for entry into one of the airline clubs that they can use within the next six months when flying again.

7. At a minimum, ensure the gate agent smiles, and says more than "I'm just the messenger." Then, make sure the flight attendants go overboard on the service knowing what the passengers have been through. Even doing just this would have been far better than what I and my fellow passengers experienced Thursday in Chicago.

Is there an airline out there that cares enough about their passengers to try even one of these? Or, do they believe apologies are enough? Seeing it differently could allow the delays to become WOW opportunities.

For me, I am flying a different airline next time, and I am avoiding Chicago altogether.

Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) Parents Sue to Keep School Open

On Thursday, March 12, two Tennessee families launched the next phase of keeping TNVA open -- via lawsuit, and the real battle has begun.

Could the solution be a simple one?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Texas parents rallying today for virtual school options

Parents in Texas, as part of the 4th Biennial Day at the Capitol organized by, are rallying in Austin to support expanding virtual school options in the Lone Star State.

Current parameters place enrollment restrictions on Texas residents limiting the options for those wanting to utilize virtual learning.

Opening the door for more virtual schools in Texas could be a good thing -- if done correctly. Hopefully, any expansion will include virtual and blended options.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

California Virtual Academies issues

A friend forwarded this report to me on the California Virtual Academies (CAVA), managed by K12, Inc. It is a report from the group, In the Public Interest, and it is a scathing look into the way CAVA and K12 are intertwined.

But, is it accurate? According to K12, the report was conducted as leverage for the California Teachers Association (CTA) and their push to unionize the CAVA teachers.

I do appreciate the finding by In the Public Interest that the concept of virtual schooling is a great option for some students. Again, my concern is the concept and the implementation are becoming synonymous, so it is refreshing to see the two be separated in a report such as this.

Virtual schooling is a great option for the right student -- the one willing to put in the work, daily.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A possible solution for Tennessee Virtual Academy?

As a consultant in the virtual school world, and a strong proponent of the concept of virtual learning, I am fascinated with the debate now going on here in Tennessee -- should Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) be closed due to poor performance, or does it merit more time to demonstrate gains?

Oh sure, the overall issue at hand right now is the furtherance of the virtual school bill authored by Tennessee Sen. Dolores Gresham (R) to extend the Tennessee Virtual Schools Act to 2019. But, make no mistake, the real issue at hand is the fate of TNVA and K12.

The lines have been drawn. On February 15, Tennessee Rep. Joe Pitts (D) penned an editorial Time for Tennessee Virtual Academy to go -- probably guessing you can determine his stance on it.

Then, not to be outdone, on February 26, Cathy Berg, parent leader of the Tennessee chapter of, offered a rebuttal: Pitts is wrong about Virtual Academy.

Rep. Pitts seems to take issue primarily with the idea of a for-profit company running a public school -- ". . ., it is the structure and profit-taking by this company (K12) that is failing." In addition, he states, "Furthermore, there are now some who want to allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools in our state. Not a good idea."

Pitts also lays out the core of what is going on here. If TNVA, which has scored a "1" for the first three years of its existence (on a scale of 1-5 with "1" being worst performing), can score a "3" or higher then they obtain a reprieve for one year. If not, then they may have to close their doors -- barring any special legislative or legal actions to keep them open.

On the other side of the spectrum, Ms. Berg, who has one child in TNVA, says TNVA is actually now "one of the fastest-improving schools in the state." She then proceeds to try and offer additional counterpoints to Pitts' argument for closure.

So far from what I have seen the disputation is a Yes-No offering: Should TNVA be closed? Yes, or No.

My thought is what if a different question was asked? What if the Tennessee Legislature offered an opportunity for TNVA to remain open if they sought out another provider of services, removing K12 from the equation? Just something to consider for those wanting to put the students first.

Or, perhaps TNVA can demonstrate true academic progress by scoring a "3" this year and negating this parley altogether.

More to come on this.

Monday, March 2, 2015

If the norm is successful, then follow the norm.

Recently I spent time with a group in the blended learning space who understand that following the norm will produce normal results. They realize too this goes much deeper than a competitive analysis in order to find a niche to fit in or a space to occupy.

No, this is taking a step back and perusing the entire landscape in order to understand the norm and then determine if it is worth being followed. Apple, Disney, Google, and others did not achieve their success by following the norm. They understood that the norm allowed them an opportunity to reach higher levels of success by going against it, blowing past it, or doing something entirely different altogether.

In your line of business what is the norm? Is it successful and worth following? Or, does the norm present you the opportunity you need to lead in a new direction?

Instead of starting with the question - "How can we differentiate ourselves from our competitors?" - broaden the question and start with "What is the norm in our industry and is it worth following?"

When you do, breakthroughs can occur.