Thursday, September 3, 2015

Customer Service in Education

About six months ago my husband and I decided it was time to start doing some major renovations around our nearly twelve-year-old home. So began the process of looking at flooring products, meeting with contractors, looking at more flooring products, a few glimpses at new furniture, more flooring options and more contractors, several trips to Home Depot, Lowe's ... you get the idea. As we trekked across Parker County, Tarrant County, and even parts of Dallas County, we "met" a variety of people. During this process, we quickly eliminated options based on the type of service we received as we walked in the doors or as conversations were had regarding our renovation needs. When we FINALLY made our choice on flooring and chose a contractor, our decision was not solely based on price. Instead, it was more about the relationship that began to develop as we had countless conversations with the contractor. Because believe me, as we narrowed down our choices, we went back multiple times before that final decision was ever made. Thankfully, there was a foundation of trust and respect that developed as we got to know the flooring contractor because a job that should have taken less than a week ended up taking more than a month. Yes, hiccups were expected to happen during renovations but they had to come out and re-do a couple of things until we were satisfied with the final results. Then, we repeated this same process to purchase new furniture. After all, what good is it to have new floors and not have new furniture to go on top of it?!

If CUSTOMER SERVICE impacted the decisions we made throughout our renovation process and will continue to influence where we shop for future furniture purchases and securing contractors, it IS a BIG deal. Customer service is defined as "the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services." So, what does this have to do with education? It was this process of relationship building and the follow-up customer service that we experienced that led me to reflect upon my role as an instructional technology specialist.  In education, who are the customers? Students! And parents are too, of course. In fact, in all facets of education, there is a customer and a customer service provider. In my role, my direct customers are the teachers and staff across the district for whom I provide technology integration training. If I provide sound customer service to my teachers, then they'll continue to invite me back into their classrooms to help them which will in turn impact our primary customers: students. However, unlike my renovation experience, our customers often do not get to choose us as their provider. Therefore, I feel it is imperative that we provide quality customer service to students, parents, teachers, and community members. In fact, I believe so strongly in the importance of providing customer service in education that I have deemed Customer Service as my #onelittleword this year.

I encourage you to reflect on the type of customer service you are providing in your classroom, campus, department, etc. Are you providing the kind of customer service that makes your students and teachers want to come back? Here's a great list of customer service skills to implement in your role as an educator. (Adapted from Help Scout, a company that focuses on customer service.)

  1. Patience
  2. Attentiveness
  3. Clear Communication Skills
  4. Knowledge of the Content, Campus, Department... 
  5. Use Positive Language
  6. Acting Skills or as I often refer to "Fake it until you make it!"
  7. Time Management Skills
  8. Ability to "Read" Customers or Make Time to Build a Relationships
  9. A Calming Presence
  10. Goal-Oriented Focus
  11. Ability to Handle Surprises = Flexibility and Adaptability in Education
  12. Persuasion Skills
  13. Tenacity
  14. Closing Ability = Customer Satisfaction 
  15. Willingness to Learn = Lifelong Learner
Which of these is your strongest skill? Weakest? 

PS - The renovation project is not complete. We are now building a massive deck and patio area in our backyard ourselves (As in my husband and I are working in the evenings and available weekends to complete this project!). If only we would have found a contractor who provided great customer service and was qualified to do this outdoor work, I could have saved a few fingernails and my husband a few gray hairs! I have also learned that I am way better at using technology in education than I am at using the technology involved with power tools.

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