Testing Ideas to Improve the Parent Experience of Boston Public Schools

When our Harvard student team set out to make the parent and guardian experience with Boston Public Schools better, we weren’t sure what to focus on. We went out and found parents and guardians across Boston to hear their stories. We observed call centers and welcome centers to see families interacting with staff. We asked tons and tons of questions.

 Chris explains his thinking about what we’ve learned so far.

Chris explains his thinking about what we’ve learned so far.

We’re still asking questions, but this week we started to find some answers, too.

Based on our research, our team came up with a couple ideas we want to pursue, from a “Smart Search” that makes online self-service easier, to a “Smart Internal Directory” that helps Boston Public Schools employees get you your answer faster.

For parents, getting questions answered too often depends on if you know the right person to call. But what happens when you don’t know who to call? We also heard how frustrating it is to get bounced around from one person to another, and have to tell your story over and over. On the staff side, we heard that parents often call in with questions that aren’t answerable.

What if instead of saying “that’s not my department, let me transfer you to the main line for the right department,” staff could quickly look up answers? What if staff could transfer you not just to the right department, but to the exact right person? What if they could get that answer or transfer exactly right, even if they’d never heard of your issue before? And what if each new person you talked to could see what steps you’d already taken?

 Our team debates ideas to improve BPS customer experience

Our team debates ideas to improve BPS customer experience

We imagined a system where a staffer starts typing in a short summary of your issue as soon as you’re on the phone. The Smart Directory would then start offering information, including forms and web pages that helped past callers with similar issues, as well as name and contact information for people within Boston Public Schools who have relevant expertise. As a result, parents and guardians get answers, or at least the right person to speak with, quickly and smoothly.

Ayna Agarwal, Chris Kuang, Ben McGuire, John La Rue, Molly Thomas