I recently went on a cruise with my family and although we had a great time, there were several issues that occurred that really needed to be addressed. As I followed the chain of command on the ship, the issues were not resolved. The company had to offer a compensation package after we got home because no one on the ship wanted to step up and help alleviate the major concerns that we were experiencing.

Reflecting on this vacation, I realized that this was a basic customer service issue on this ship. Going to the Guest Service desk was my equivalent of when a parent has an issue and goes to the teacher. My talking to the Guest Service desk supervisor was when a parent has to go to the principal of the school because they didn’t receive a satisfactory resolution to the issue. When that still didn’t work, I had to contact the cruise line directly and make it a formal complaint. This is what happens when a parent contacts Central Office.

Issues are going to happen in business and also in your classroom. Taking the 10 Simple Rules for Outstanding Customer Service from Dylan Swart’s article on www.linkedin.com, I’ve come up with five customer service rules for educators. The term customer refers to your students and their parents/guardians.


1. Respect the Customer

I have choices in what dry cleaner I take my clothes too. If I am unhappy with the service that I get at my chosen dry cleaner, then I go to another dry cleaner the next time I need that type of service. Parents and students don’t have that choice. You are their teacher. You are their educational point person. We must treat all our students as if they are the best students who are giving their best 100% of the time. We must treat all our parents as if they are the best parent who truly cares about their child. I often hear teachers say that our field doesn’t get a lot of respect. I don’t disagree but I also know that respect is a two way street. If you don’t give respect then you don’t get respect.


2. Know How to Apologize

This is hard. I get it. But we all know mistakes happen. We all know that miscommunication happens. When there is an issue, telling the parent that you are sorry for the miscommunication, tells the parent that you are actively listening and understand that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Apologizing doesn’t mean that what occurred was malicious, it’s just means that you understand how upsetting the issue is. An apology helps open up communication lines.


​ 3. Stay Positive

This one is pretty straightforward. I know it can be extremely difficult when the kids had a rough day behaviorally, your principal popped in to tell you about a new change that you had no idea about and needs to happen today, and now you have a message from a parent that they need to meet with as soon as possible about…(well you can fill in the blank). Staying positive can be hard on some days but when you put positive out there with students and parents, that is what is returned to you. It’s that simple.


4. Keep Customers Informed

I have been in schools where teachers have no idea what is coming up. Things seem to come out of nowhere in these situations and that is hard to plan for. Students and parents want the same things, to be able to plan. Informing parents of field trips, lunch changes, picture days and other little changes goes a long way in creating a happy families. As a teacher and a parent, I believe that over-sharing from the classroom is vital. On the student front, this can be posting your classroom daily schedule or how a class session is being structured on the board at the front of the room. Informed customers are happy customers.


5. Be Truthful but Kind

Parents and students may not always understand educational acronyms and jargon but they do understand when teachers are being less than truthful. Most parents know that their child is struggling and where they want this information they want it presented in a kind manner. Sharing their student’s strengths and all the ways that their child makes your classroom special is important but I believe that every time you present an area of need, you need to present a plan of attack on how you will strengthen that area of need. Just putting an area of need out there may be truthful but offering a path of correction is kind.


About the Author:

Brian Smith is currently the RtI and Professional Development Facilitator for Newton-Conover City Schools. His undergrad degree is from Lenoir-Rhyne University and his Masters in Elementary Education is from Gardner-Webb University. He is also certified to teach Academically-Gifted students. Brian has delivered a TEDxHickory talked called Building a Better Teacher. He was named to the ASCD Emerging Leader class of 2015. He is the Vice President of the North Carolina branch of the International Dyslexia Association, treasurer of his local chapter of the Autism Society, and a board member of the the Patrick Beaver Learning Resource Center and Newton-Conover Educational Foundation.


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