Ike Nelson comes to Path with a track record of guiding customer success departments to peak performance through rewarding humility, empathy, kindness and dedication.

Here he shares his thoughts on how Path partners with customers to create a successful student portal and the power of a strong customer success team.

Ike Nelson - Path VP of Customer Support
Ike Nelson
VP, Customer Success

Our Experience is Your Gain

Throughout my career in customer success, I’ve learned time and again that kindness, transparency and open communication are vital to a customer’s success with any product. 

We want our customers to trust us enough to tell us what is and is not working well for them. It allows us to course-correct or discover something new that everyone may want. We also want our customers to trust our expertise. When customers have an idea that we’ve seen fail elsewhere, we must steer them in another direction. Many times, we can accomplish what they want to achieve in a different way than they envisioned. But, occasionally, the idea could have very negative consequences for their organization and it’s our duty as their partner to help prevent that if we can.

A few common requests that, in our experience, are never a good idea include:

  • Not tailoring alerts by persona
  • Using SMS for all alerts
  • Not sharing administration of content with other team members

In these instances, we ask our customers what they are trying to achieve before just saying no. Then we brainstorm ways to help them achieve their goal in a more user-experience friendly way. 

For example, suppose an institution wants to make sure students have access to calendar updates for special events, extracurricular opportunities and campus emergencies. In that case, we create a communication plan that informs without burning out the recipient. We would first establish user roles to make messages much more targeted and then perhaps pin key calendars to their dashboard so they can check on their own for upcoming events. 

This saves push notifications and SMS alerts for emergencies that could directly impact the student. Sending all messages via high touch channels like push notifications and SMS runs the risk that students will opt-out of all of your communications, thereby missing the most critical messages. Taking a more tailored approach minimizes this risk and we’ve seen this approach work for numerous customers.

To make a product truly successful for a customer, it can’t just make administrators or internal stakeholders happy. The users — students, faculty, alumni and prospects — have to love it and get value out of it. Our goal is to make the product a success for everyone who touches it. We do that by pushing customers to put the user experience first and leveraging lessons learned from previous experience.

Find a Partner, Not a Vendor

By now, everyone has experienced explaining a problem in great detail to a customer service representative only to be transferred from one support tier to the next (sometimes multiple times). Then there’s the all too common availability issue. Sometimes you don’t know that your service package is tied to off-hours phone support until after your implementation is done, and sometimes it’s immediately apparent that you’re on your own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When you are deciding which vendor to go with, ask some key questions:

  • Who will be on my implementation team?
  • Does the support team have real-world experience with higher education technology?
  • Which hours will they be available, and in which time zone?
  • What kind of help can I expect?
  • Will the people on my implementation team be the people I call for support?
  • Can I meet the people I will be calling for support?

One of the most important facets of a student portal support team is whether or not they’re user-centric. Are they passionate about each user having a great experience? Do they look at problem-solving from the perspective of a real person interacting with the technology (not just through the lens of a corporate entity)?

If you sense you’re not getting full transparency about what a product is and isn’t capable of and the implementation team doesn’t offer alternatives or best practices, it’s probably not a good fit.

I think transparency into our process and the product, including how we can make the platform unique to your institution, sets us apart. Every institution is different. The experience they expect their students and their users to have is unique. We want to make sure that we can capture your institution’s culture and represent it digitally so that all of your end users will get the right impression.

Digging into that uniqueness requires a partner mindset versus the normal tech support mindset.

How a Partnership Works

When we work with our customers, it’s a shared responsibility to achieve what they’re trying to accomplish. We want to be thoughtful and creative. Path is an opportunity to start fresh and create something unique for an institution. We partner with our customers to capitalize on that opportunity. 

As a combined team, we discuss the best configuration for all thier users, and review all of the various widgets and modules that they may implement. It’s important to know the data they’re trying to pull in from the various applications throughout the university. It takes technical know-how and creativity to make it all happen. 

Being a trusted advisor is critical. Customers look to us to guide them on the best ways to configure a flexible product like Path. They purchased Path because they believe in the vision that we’ve shown them. But they also have their own vision in mind, and they may request things that are not a good fit, which, as I mentioned earlier, may require us to offer some creative alternatives.

When we work with a customer, we want to understand the two, three and five-year plans for your university and what you want to achieve digitally. That’s the roadmap we use to plan and figure out the best way to get there together.