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The new PD: Training school customer service superheroes

school customer service

Time is in short supply in the education world.

Whether you’re a teacher, a building principal, or district administrator, finding time to think beyond the next lesson or next decision is hard. I know from experience–I’ve served in all three capacities in my career.

Time is a scarce resource, which is why when it comes to professional development, educators and school staff traditionally look for the quickest ways to fulfill mandatory training hours and get back to the mission at hand.

But something is changing in our schools. Across the country, educators, school leaders, and staff are embracing a new form of professional development. Not as something they must do to earn continuing education credits, but as something they want to do to ensure their schools remain relevant to the communities they so bodly serve.

The emerging customer service SUPER hero

Customer service, once considered the stuff of retailers and restaurants, has surfaced as an area of intense focus and improvement for many K-12 schools. As competition for students and families heats up, local schools are vigilant for enticements that extend beyond the classroom to other facets of the school experience.

An emerging body of research shows that culture, or how our schools make students, parents, and teachers feel, is nearly as important and impactful as the lessons we teach in our classrooms.

But there’s a problem: Most schools lack a formal system and a process for training staff how to engage with different members of their school community. The result is a sticky web of negative perceptions, comments, and misunderstandings that threaten the reputation of our schools, alienate parents and students, and seep into academic performance.

In the journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, a group of Ohio researchers recently found that social capital, or the quality of relationships between students, parents, and staff, had a greater impact on academic performance than financial resources invested in schools and classrooms.

At K12 Insight, we’ve long been interested in research that points to the positive impact of community trust and strong relationships in schools. Findings like these are why, in recent months, my team has sought to develop what we think is a pioneering program designed to help school leaders at every level of the organization adopt a fearless commitment to customer service and community engagement.  

The workshops

Our guided face-to-face workshops train school personnel in every department to become customer service S.U.P.E.R heroes. S.U.P.E.R represents the five key attributes of exceptional school customer service. Each superhero must be:

  • Service-driven
  • Understanding
  • Positive, patient, and professional
  • Exceeding expectations
  • Reflective

This isn’t your standard sit-and-take-notes PD. Customer service is by nature a social enterprise–and our workshops encourage participants to get up, move around the room, and have fun.

From understanding the customer journey, to managing your emotions during difficult interactions, to reflecting on how best to improve your approach, each workshop is designed to help your school district embrace a culture of exceptional customer experience.

We’re not the first company to offer customer service training. Disney, Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, and Zappo’s all offer customer service programs. But we’re not selling entertainment, or coffee, or clothes. We’re in the business of education and of serving children–which brings its own unique sets of challenges and opportunities.

We also understand that every district faces its own hurdles. Which is why, even though we teach the same curriculum, each training is designed to mirror unique challenges faced by your schools.

Heroic results

Harrison Transportation Customer Service TrainingBy the end of the 2018, we’ll have trained more than 2,500 school personnel throughout the country. The feedback we’ve received from district leaders has so far been overwhelming.

“We have had such positive feedback!” says Beverly E. Reeves, customer service supervisor at Austin ISD, where we recently trained more than 1,000 staff members. “Some staff are saying that it was the best professional development they have received while at AISD.”

While praise like this is great to hear, the real satisfaction comes in knowing that our newly-minted service superheroes take away practical lessons to help them lead the change in their schools.

When asked what she learned as part of a recent training, one superhero at Harrison School District 2 in Colorado said, “Slowing down and taking a moment to understand where my ‘customer’ is coming from during my interactions so that I can be a service hero for them to and from school.”

A participant at another district wrote, “Beginning Monday morning, I will start to see eye to eye with everyone I come in contact with, regardless of what the situation may be. Learning to accept and adapt to change will be a challenge but the outcome will be tremendous!”

Building a quality customer service culture in your schools isn’t something you can hope to achieve overnight. But with the right amount of leadership, hard work, and training, your district can quickly put itself on the path to turning everyday interactions with students, parents, teachers, and staff into truly memorable and exceptional experiences.

Are you ready to train the next generation of customer service superheroes in your schools? Sign up for a free consult.

About the Author

Dr. Christine Wells
Dr. Christine Wells, NBCT, spent 16 years in K-12 schools as a teacher, instructional coach, building principal, and director for teaching and learning. She currently serves as Director of Researcher at K12 Insight.

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