By Sara Campbell
Please join me in congratulating Celia Stokes, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer and Dianne Conley, VP of Marketing Systems at K12 Inc., our latest customers to receive the Appirio Cloud Pioneer award.
K12 is a publicly traded education management company, based in Herndon, Virginia, that provides online schooling and curriculum to both public and private educational institutions, as well as to individual students and families.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Celia and Dianne to learn more about K12’s business, how it has been impacted by the cloud and what it means to them to be named Appirio Cloud Pioneers for 2012.
Q: Could you tell me a little about K12’s business?
Celia: K12’s mission is to develop each child’s full potential with an engaging, individualized learning curriculum. We provide district, charter and private schools with a full range of online education solutions from full-time programs to supplemental advanced and remedial courses for students from kindergarten through 12th grade worldwide.
Dianne: For parents, making decisions about their child’s education is not something taken lightly. It is often an emotional decision that comes with intense research, thought and planning. Our goal is to provide a warm, relevant and personal customer experience at every touchpoint, including access to enrollment and customer care professionals, to help guide and support parents and students through this very important, and sometimes overwhelming process.
Q: What challenges was K12 facing that you have addressed with Salesforce.com?
Dianne: With that goal in mind, we had to take a step back and realize that we weren’t doing everything we could to make the family counseling process a positive, easy experience for those seeking educational alternatives. We were operating on a painfully slow homegrown CRM system that had an extremely limited ability to integrate with other systems. Our enrollment and customer care reps couldn’t access the information they needed while on the phone with parents and we had limited tracking of interactions with multiple people within the same family. Our interactions with students and families were not as efficient or personal as we wanted.
Celia: Changes needed to be made and we realized we didn’t want to just replace one technology with another. We wanted to build a foundation that would allow us to transform the customer experience. We wanted to change the game.
Q: How has “going cloud” changed the way K12 does business?
Celia: K12 went live with Salesforce in early 2012 in an effort to build the foundation that would allow us to transform our customers’ experience. Our enrollment agents now have complete visibility into a family’s motivation for seeking an education alternative, the enrollment process, and the stage a prospective student is in during the application process. They are better equipped to proactively advise the family through their decision process. Additionally, as a business, we have access to real-time reports and information into how our marketing efforts are generating interest in K12 programs, as well as driving actual enrollment. And we don’t have to worry about the servers burning up or going down.
Dianne: Partnering with Appirio and Salesforce in the cloud has allowed us to customize some really key functionality. An example that is essential to our business is the related leads look-up logic that suggests possible related contacts within the same family, based on last name, phone number, email, or other piece of personal information. This allows us to improve enrollment center efficiency and improve customer experience by streamlining interactions and information-sharing among different family members all calling about the same student.
Q: What future plans does K12 have?
Dianne: Moving forward, we really want to be more proactive with our customer care and better understand our customers via the social media channels they participate in. We’ve used Radian6 for years for social media listening, and we’re eager to take it to the next level by integrating it with Salesforce to scale our responsiveness on those channels.
Celia: Our goal is to be able to identify a question or issue communicated via social media and immediately, programmatically, match that Twitter or Facebook account with one of our existing customer records to create a case or, in the case of a new prospect, a lead. This would allow us to leverage the knowledge of our enrollment and customer care center, right within Salesforce, and be able to interact with and provide relevant information to families via the social media channels they prefer.
Dianne: Additionally, we’re planning to rebuild other key technology components that support our enrollment process on the Force.com platform…and the list goes on.
Q: Recently Appirio recognized you and Celia as Cloud Pioneers. What does being named a Cloud Pioneer mean to you?
Celia: Embarking on the mission to bring in a new CRM system was scary and risky. We did so with great trepidation after hearing about the myriad examples of companies who had done this and failed. Selecting Salesforce and Appirio, and then achieving buy-in (and staking our reputations on it) was daunting. The fact that we launched on time and on budget as promised was not only a relief but personally satisfying for the whole team. Being named a Cloud Pioneer is a profound layer of frosting on the cake.
Dianne: Celia, does this mean I get a raise? All kidding aside, bringing Saleforce.com into K12 with the blessing of our CIO at the time was an achievement in itself. Appirio deserves a huge amount of credit for gaining the confidence of both our Marketing and IT teams by demonstrating that you understood our business and would be a steadfast partner in our success with Salesforce. Your team has been the major force behind the success of a project that represents a lot more than a new technology platform. They have brought a level of confidence that we can accomplish great things in concentrated timeframes and introduced an entirely new way of working to our organization. And you drank our coffee, we should be giving you guys the award! But really, we are honored to have been singled-out by Appirio for our innovation.