Starting with a student’s first interaction with their school bus driver in the morning to the parent’s first interaction at the front door buzzer and main office at the school, customer service sets the tone for safer schools.
First impressions set the tone — and tone matters
My wife and I recently visited an Apple store for assistance in transferring data to a new phone for a family member. We were on a time crunch to get things in order by the next day. Unfortunately, our timing was not the best as it was the release day for the new iPhone 15 and upon arrival about an hour and a half before store closing, we found a line outside of the store and around the corner.
A manager was performing triage on the line to get people where they needed to be rather than everyone waiting needlessly in the initial longer line. He was pleasant in noting that we had done everything we could on our end and they can help, but it might not be done that evening. Still, he reached out to two of his team members, had us escorted back to the Genuis Bar, and another manager immediately began work on our issue. In a calm and friendly manner, this manager seamlessly rotated among three separate families resolving all of our needs.
The moral of the story? Customer service still exists in our society. And at this suburban Cleveland Apple story, it exists consistently — to the individual staff member — and over years and years of time we have dealt with them. They set the tone from the minute we walk into the store (or hit a line outside of the store). And they deliver every single time.
The result: Satisfied customers who are less stressed and anxious, and whose problems are resolved. All in an environment that is upbeat, individualized, and successful for all (the customers and the workers who tell us they love working there).
“Customer service” is an oxymoron in our society, adding to stress and anxiety
Stress. Anxiety. Hectic. Hassle. Delays. Obstacles. Headaches. One problem after another.
Ask kids, parents, grandparents, and friends today how they feel and how things are going, and these words pop up time and time again.
In years past, one out of 10 interactions requiring customer service support would go bad. Today, it seems like having one good customer experience is the exception to a rule of encountering one difficult, bureaucratic obstacle after another for the simplest of interactions.
Sadly, many people today enter public interactions expecting a hassle and headache.
“Customer service” in schools matters and it can contribute to safer schools
Our interviews with principals consistently reveal “increase in anxiety” as a top observation of challenges in their support of students. Stories of irate parents coming to school offices are common. Tired, exhausted staff have become the norm.
People are frustrated. The frustration has intensified during, and coming out of, the COVID pandemic. And increased frustration leads to increased aggression.
No school employee (or anyone else) should be subjected to verbal abuse or threats, or physical assault. Frustration is no excuse for such behavior. But we often have a choice of whether we add to the stress or help to reduce it.
If school staff and safety officials focus on customer service and helping students and parents navigate through school protocols and bureaucracies, we can set the tone for less stressful and safer schools. We often see this in our school main office support staff helping parents navigate paperwork and computer forms, facilitating students getting items left at home and delivered by parents, dealing with ill students, and deescalating angry parents.
If a student brings forward a concern or need, set the tone with good customer service. If a parent calls or comes to your school with a problem or need, set the tone with good customer service. Help them navigate the administrative bureaucracies and hurdles put in front of them.
People are frustrated and if we pause, give people our full attention, and take a genuine customer service approach, we can set a positive tone for safer schools.
After all, school safety is about people.
Dr. Kenneth S. Trump is President of National School Safety and Security Services
National School Safety and Security Services
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