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Building Customer Communities: Lessons From U of Florida

Posted by Bill Lee on July 1, 2010 at 08:22 AM

Online MBA programs have obvious appeal and are enjoying rapid increases in enrollment. But they also suffer from high drop out rates as well. One reason: virtual students don't enjoy the advantages and stimulation of being part of a community like campus based students do.

The University of Flordia's Hough Graduate School of Business is addressing that problem by creatively infusing elements of community into its online graduate program, as reported in today's The Wall Street Journal. For example, Alex Sevilla, the director of the executive education program there, sends out regular emails to students and alumni describing the program's latest innovations. He and other staff go out of their way to meet students during their brief stays on the campus. They also started distributing iPod Touchs to each student, packed with program lessons, about three years ago--a creative way to use technology to enhance the sense of personal connectedness. "This was a huge hit for us," said Sevilla. This year, they plan to start distributing similarly loaded iPads.

Results from the community building efforts: Online student retention rates have increased from 81% to 95% over the last six years. The efforts have also improved the school's visibility and helped create loyal, donating alumni.

How attached are your customers to your customer communities? What can you do to increase their attachment. What non-technology, people

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