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Monfredo: This Year Schools Need to Deliver High Quality Customer Service

Saturday, August 04, 2018

 

Very shortly schools across the nation will be welcoming students back as the start of another school year begins. One of the first jobs of any school is to reach out to the child’s first and most influential teachers … their parents.

School customer service experience matters for how you treat parents and other stakeholders is just as important as the quality of education you provide.  In this day and age parents do have options to go to other school districts and this is why exceptional customer service is so important in retaining students and families.  Remember studies are finding that the culture or climate of a school can have a noticeable impact on student performance.

.So what should schools consider in their customer service plan?  First, of all districts need to develop a customer service mindset.  Writer Lyn Chambers from the ASCD ( Association for Supervision and Curriculum – dedicated to advancing best practices in education) wrote an article on “ How Customer-Friendly is Your School?”  In the article, she pointed out the importance of Attitude, Behavior and Communication. It’s something that I can relate to very well as a former principal and I know the importance of reaching out to all parents.

Under attitude, she asked the question, “ How do staff look when someone visits your school or district?  Are they happy? What’s their body language?  How do they sound on the phone?  Do they give off a vibe that they want to be there or do they seem like they’re having a bad day?  Parents and visitors should always be greeted with a smile and a warm friendly attitude… both in person and on the phone. They should never be made to feel like they’re a nuisance. Again, as a former principal, I certainly agree and worked on setting an example for my staff.  One of my goals was to always return a telephone call to a parent within 24 hours.

Next, under behavior … all parents and visitors to your school should be greeted promptly.  If a staff member is busy, someone should be there to let them greet a visitor - and to follow up.  All should be done with a smile.  Moving to communication – all staff communication should be cheerful and considerate.  Same with emails – think about how you respond via email.  Tone can be hard to interpret in writing so make sure all written communications come across as courteous and respectful.   That also goes without saying – signage should be welcoming such as “ Welcome to our school please report to the office.” Remember first impressions in schools are similar to customer service in retail.  Look at how visitors are greeted.  Do the signs in the school shout rules? Or are they positive?

It’s the little things that make a difference and schools need to convey a positive culture at the school for both staff and parents.  You want parents to feel comfortable in coming into the school and feel that there is a partnership between the school and the home.  I know from experience that it doesn’t happen overnight but leadership by the principal is paramount in establishing the culture of the building.  What needs to take place is that every staff member needs to be trained in good customer service if the culture of the school is to change. Being welcomed is everyone’s business … teachers, administrators, office staff, and even bus drivers for everyone is the face of the school.  Some indicators of a healthy school culture are collaboration (do staff members work together and share information, collegiality … is there a sense of belonging and efficacy for do stakeholders feel as if they have control of their destinies or do they view themselves as victims for the system?)

Parent trust comes from the interactions they have at the school and that’s why a positive culture of caring needs to take place. Teachers need to establish a good working relationship with their students and let them know that they need to work together and that “I care” about you succeeding in school.  Teachers need to positively reinforce students verbally on a regular basis. Tell your students when you are pleased by their behavior.  Let them know that you are proud of their accomplishments.  Every teacher needs to keep in mind that students may forget what you said, students may forget with you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

I would also encourage teachers and administrators to call parents throughout the year with good news for so many times the only conversation parents have with the teacher is when something goes wrong and this can discourage any parental involvement because it may instill feelings of helplessness with a parent. As a former principal, I can attest that this strategy of accentuating the positive works and it’s a fantastic way to establish rapport with the parent. Look for the good in each child and when they do something special let the parents know.  A one-minute telephone call to a parent with good news can make a difference in the climate of a school. If teachers share their students’ successes with the parents, it can provide parents with the confidence and direction on how to become involved in their child’s learning process.  In the long list of priorities for teachers, communicating good news is usually not at the top but I would urge them to make it as one of their top priorities.

Every school needs to have a positive school culture and every school can improve its culture by working together and looking at their commitment each year.

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