Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why your school needs to be like Alexa

The advent of digital assistants is having huge impact on our culture but Google and Alexa also account for larger shifts in how we engage with brands and technology. Those shifts are influencing the way parents engage with independent schools and are shaping their expectations. To be successful, schools need to pay attention and adapt to a changing marketplace. With that in mind, here are two reasons that your school needs to be like Alexa.

1. Your voice is more important than your logo or any other visual communication.

In a September 2017 Fast Company article, a CMO commenting on the rise of digital assistants said the following: 
“What will brands look like in a more-voice-oriented world? Is there a post-logo world there? It’s just so interesting to think that the visual world may be less important and what that means.” 
While the CMO was clearly talking about the voice of digital assistants, the reality is that schools have a voice as well. It is reflected in the language used in communication as well as in its tone and style. Your communication makes a statement about who you are and what’s important to you. In short, your communication is the voice of your brand and one should be as unique as the other. In fact, in an increasingly competitive environment, your school’s voice is a key differentiator.

In the same Fast Company article, an agency creative officer said, “…we shouldn’t be going at people with what we sell, we should be telling then what we believe in. Get them to buy into your brand by understanding what it stands for.”

The reality is that what you say and how you say it is more important then what it looks like. Content trumps design. That applies to everything from websites to email to print to video. Let's face it. The most popular YouTube videos are often shot on smartphones.

The design of the Amazon Echo is attractive but purposefully unobtrusive. It is a vehicle, a platform for its voice. And when you hear that voice, you know its Alexa.

An interesting test would be to give someone something written about your school that contains no give-away references. Would they recognize it as referring your school? Would your school’s voice be as distinctive as Alexa’s?

2. Customer expectations are being driven higher than ever.

Digital assistants are all about the user. A recent Google blog post presented results of a study of voice assistant owners. These are the reasons that people use voice-activated assistants:  
  1. It allows them to more easily multitask.
  2. It enables them to do things faster than other devices.
  3. It empowers them to instantly get answers and information.
  4. It makes their daily routine easier. 
Me. Me, me. In fact 41% of respondents said that using their voice assistant felt like talking to a friend.

So, here’s the obvious question. Is your school as customer focused as Alexa? Voice assistants are empowering, enabling and responsive. They answer the questions they are asked and, by the way, admit when they don’t know the answer. They provide the information you need to be better at what you do. They tell you what you absolutely need to know on any given day. They don’t hide facts and they make no assumptions about why you are asking a question. Alexa is never short or condescending.

You can also extend the capability of your voice assistant so that you can control your thermostat, lights or choose TV channels. Are you equally anticipating the needs of your customers and extending your capabilities? That could be before and after school care, parent education programs or financial planning seminars.


Just as was the case with social media, ongoing technological advances empower customers and raise expectations. They also put a premium, both literally and figuratively, on the voice of your school. There is no turning back. To be successful, schools must meet the challenge and be more like Alexa.

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