Breadfruit Story

Rolling out the orange carpet

EC reinvents the international student orientation experience

Our Goal

In 2016, EC set a target to make itself stand out from the competition. We wanted to shake things up in a market that had been static for the last ten years, and create a student-centred initiative that would not only drive us forward in our customer service, but also make EC stand out in a highly-competitive industry saturated with language schools vying for the attention of the same students. Our goal was to craft a superior experience for our students – something that we could roll out consistently across all our schools around the globe.

Our approach included three stages - Discover, Develop, Deliver - each with clearly defined outcomes.

In the Discover stage, we fully shadowed the student journey to identify key touchpoints, including first contact, arrival, accommodation requirements, induction day, and classes. The outcome was to map the student’s journey of the status quo.

We then sought feedback from former and current students, agents and colleagues in several countries through focus groups and one-to-one interviews. To overcome language barriers, we used emojis and collages to validate points - this helped us to outline emotional and functional highs and lows of the current student journey and identify areas to make the student experience better than ever.

In the Develop stage, we worked with colleagues across the company and students around the globe to refine the feedback and create the ideal end-to-end experience. Rather than improving one or two areas, we wanted to rework the full experience.

Using trial periods and measured results, we held co-creation sessions for academic colleagues and students until we reached what we believed was a new way of managing the student experience. We then coached a team to pilot the recommended changes, measured the results, and refined it even further to create the Orange Carpet Experience.

In the Deliver stage, we rolled the programme out across the company and embedded relevant cultural activities. The result is the Orange Carpet Experience which creates a smooth transition into student life and includes a more human, emotional touch to the learning journey.

The Orange Carpet Experience is now the central focus of our student experience and has resulted in a significant increase in our agent and student Net Promoter Scores (NPS), making us comparable to some of the world’s most highly regarded companies, including Apple and Ritz Carlton. We want our students to know that we care about every aspect of their time with us, from the moment they book right up to their graduation - and beyond. Their success is our goal. 

Our Breadfruit

The student experience is an established ideal which has been in place for years. It wasn’t bad; just inconsistent, delivering what we thought students wanted rather than what they actually wanted.

To create the Orange Carpet Experience, we looked to the Great British Cycling Team for inspiration. Their approach to successful bike-riding is thus: if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

If we broke down the student experience to its many smaller parts, did each thing at least 1% better, then put everything back together, how much better would the entire experience be?

If we broke down the student experience to its many smaller parts, did each thing at least 1% better, then put everything back together, how much better would the entire experience be?

By tracking down the problem areas in the previous, less-structured approach to the student’s journey, the Orange Carpet Experience works to identify and resolve what our students told us was wrong at each point of contact.

We carried out extensive research into what makes the ideal student experience and used our findings to develop and deliver a brand-new solution that would take the customer journey to the next level. By dissecting the journey and addressing issues at each step, we worked to make all those little things at least 1% better, so that when we put it all back together again, we had a superior product.

The Orange Carpet Experience - the first of its kind within the EFL world - is made up of eight key steps:

  1. Pre-Arrival – Once booked, the learning process begins with access to EC Online, our digital study companion that tests starting levels and outlines learning goals. EC Advance, our needs-analysis tool, diagnoses problem areas and creates a tailored learning plan.
  2. Personal Welcome – Students are met at the airport by an EC team member, and transported by Wi-Fi-enabled car to their accommodation. Students staying in residences or with host families receive a personal welcome letter from our Centre Director outlining weekend activities. An EC team member acquaints students with residence amenities.
  3. Breaking the Ice – The weekend before school begins, planned activities let students meet their classmates, address concerns with EC team members, and adjust to their new city.
  4. Orange Carpet Premiere – Monday, the first day of school, we literally roll out the orange carpet. Refreshments, music, and 100% of the EC team’s attention creates a one-of-a-kind VIP student experience. The day includes innovative sessions on the learning process, introductions to student ambassadors, ID card delivery, and invitations to an evening event.
  5. Personalised Learning – Analysis of individual performance creates a customised plan. Assessments are through conversation, personal guidance is through tutorials, and students track their progress through EC Online.
  6. Guaranteed Outcomes – By following their customised plan, students achieve their fluency goal and take the Oxford University Press Online Test to validate their progress.
  7. Overview Meeting –  Two weeks before leaving, students can opt for a one-to-one meeting to discuss their experience, future plans, and the alumni programme.
  8. Farewell Event – The graduation ceremony, celebrating the student’s achievement, includes certificates, photos and confirming lifelong friendships.

To our knowledge, no other industry language school offers an equivalent to EC’s Orange Carpet Experience.

Reaping the Benefits

The Orange Carpet Experience is now a critical selling point used by our sales team and partner agents when speaking with students about the benefits of EC. The initiative features prominently on our website and in videos like the one below. The message of how we provide our students with a VIP experience is spread across all global source markets.

The response to the Orange Carpet Experience has been overwhelmingly positive from all our stakeholders, including our students and some of the most respected agencies in the business. As a result of the unique selling point of the Orange Carpet Experience, we have experienced double-digit increases in our agent bookings.

As a result of the unique selling point of the Orange Carpet Experience, we have experienced double-digit increases in our agent bookings.

In addition, our 2017 Net Promoter Scores (NPS) increased significantly over our 2016 scores. The NPS measures customer satisfaction and loyalty to a provider. This rating system is used across various consumer industries (airlines, hotels, banks, etc.) to provide companies with a clear understanding of their customers’ level of satisfaction with services provided, as well as their willingness to remain loyal to the brand and recommend it to others. Some of the world’s most iconic businesses (Apple, Google, Airbnb), use the NPS benchmark to see how they compare to their competitors.

EC’s NPS is as follows:

 

2016 (Pre-Orange Carpet Experience)

2017 (Post-Orange Carpet Experience)

Agents

73

92

Homestay

49

64

Residence Overall

41/43

59

 

Implementation of the Orange Carpet Experience has also resulted in EC receiving the following awards:

  • Study Travel's Star Chain School Award 2016, which honours top performance in the study travel industry;
  • UK Customer Experience Awards 2016 (Silver), which recognises organisations that achieve excellence in customer experience.

Our research into developing the Orange Carpet Experience confirms that the more purposeful the need for learning English, the more demanding the expectation of the students. EC’s Orange Carpet Experience gives our students what they really want and need: a tailored learning experience that treats them as individuals, meets their specific needs, and truly celebrates their success.

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