NIA Rounding Poster

Customer Rounding to Find Real Solutions

Rounding is so much more than simply communicating with employees. It gives leaders the opportunity to see where gaps exist and make changes to help their organizations run more efficiently.

Northwestern Illinois Association (NIA) understands this concept and is using rounding practices to deliver better customer service. NIA serves 40 public school districts and provides services including adaptive physical education, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, deaf and hard of hearing services, and vision orientation/mobility. They also provide technical assistance in Autism, Inclusion, and Assistive Technology. 250 leaders and employees work with districts to assist thousands of students to achieve and succeed by focusing on customer service.

When we say customer service, we mean ensuring all those we serve have the necessary tools and resources to do excellent work. How does NIA do this? Rounding is the answer. NIA rounds consistently with every school district. A couple of months ago, at our What’s Right in Education conference in Chicago, NIA leaders presented their results poster. We had the chance to hear about how they increased customer service results through rounding and using the Evidence-Based Leadership framework. Here’s what we learned from the NIA team:

What specific challenge were you trying to solve or what outcome were you aiming to achieve?

Regional Director for NIA, Jon Malone, and his team of leaders began a partnership with Studer Education and the intentional practice of Evidence-Based Leadership in order to serve customers (leaders in surrounding school districts) and support their work through rounding to provide the best services possible to their students. Their #1 goal is to provide “unmistakable value” to their customer districts. To build value, they knew they had to seek customer input through rounding, highlight specific service excellence characteristics, and provide continuous feedback on how they were adapting practices to improve service. After all, these customers were not obligated to purchase the services from NIAthey could take their business elsewhere!

How did you address the challenge using Evidence-Based Leadership?

To build unmistakable value in the eyes of their customers, they intentionally implemented these practices:

  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Inviting superintendents, special education directors, and others to rate the services of departments and provide feedback to the organization
  • Rounding with Customers: NIA leaders met with district leaders to ask specifically what services were providing outstanding value, what services could be added or adjusted to increase value, and who at NIA was especially valuable to the district
  • Reporting Results: NIA consistently reports the survey results and the action steps to build value (“On our last survey, accessibility was our lowest score. A new phone system has been added…”)

In the spring of 2016, accessibility was NIA’s lowest-scoring area. They conducted a review of communication tools available at NIA to identify areas for improvement. Then, based on the survey results, they set customer service targets for the 2016-2017 school year. NIA’s strategy consisted of utilizing technology to improve the speed at which they are able to send and receive communication with partners.

What were your results?

Leaders established new communication tools for the 2017-2018 school year. All NIA teammates now have a direct number with flexible call forwarding options and voicemails delivered directly to an email inbox. As a result, they are able to track and respond to customer service requests and their customer service means have improved over two years and three customer satisfaction surveys (see below).



Are you consistently rounding within your organization? How can you use rounding practices and other data collected in surveys to troubleshoot and find solutions? Seek out an area that needs work, develop a strategy, take action, and measure those results. 

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Download Leader Rounding Worksheet

The key to making rounding work is consistency. All leaders in the district should round with the employees they serve at least a few times a year. Building relationships takes time, and checking in from the last connection is important.

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