Customer Service in Schools

We’ve all experienced it… The grouchy cafeteria worker, the angry bus driver, and even the scary teacher. It’s a sad truth that most of us adults can probably remember an encounter with an unpleasant and unfriendly teacher or school worker from our childhood.  Well, times they are a changing…. In my school district we kicked off our initial staff development this year by inviting every district employee to embark on an important district initiative. Our district mission this school year is “Mission Believe” and customer service is our focus. We started off by watching a popular School Tube video, with fifth grader Dalton Sherman giving a motivational speech to 20,000 school workers of Texas public schools. It was inspirational to come together as an entire district…teachers, office staff, bus drivers custodians, food service workers, and administration. We all confirmed that we believe in one another and are committed to serving our customers who happen to be our students. We agreed that every member of a school team is an influential contributor to each child‘s success, from bus drivers, front office staff, teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers, administration and classroom teachers.

Each member of our school faculty has an opportunity to implement “Mission Believe.”  An example of “Mission Believe” is when classroom teachers commit to engage in professional learning communities, thoughtful collaboration, and implementation of best practices in the classroom; while bus drivers recognize that they are the first and last person a child sees at the beginning and end of the school day.  Bus drivers provide the first and last impressions with our children. When students walk through the hallways they may encounter custodians or office administrators. We recognize that we need to model positivity and friendliness by smiling and saying hello to our customers and one another. There’s nothing worse than when I see an adult pass a child in the hallway without even smiling or saying hi. In meetings and professional development we set the tone by our body language, choice of words, and active participation. We need to believe in each other and presume positive intentions. Our mission is purposeful and our customers are our students and their families. Everything we do we do for our students. A school should be a warm, friendly, and positive environment for the students that we serve and for all of the professionals that work in the building including, cafeteria workers, custodians, classroom teachers, front office staff and administration. Its time to choose our attitudes and BELIEVE.

When I think about customer service at its finest, I think about prestigious models of customer service in the business world such as Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, Zappos, Starbucks and Safeway. I love the way I am greeted when I walk into a grocery store and I know when I look like I’m lost that within a few seconds an employee will approach me and ask me if I need help finding anything. At fancy four-star hotels the employees smile in the hallways and greet their guests by name while doing whatever it takes to ensure their guests have memorable and enjoyable experiences. Whether I am being welcomed at my favorite restaurant, provided coffee at my local coffee shop or treating myself to a vacation at a resort I always appreciate fine customer service and walk away wanting to come back.

I believe that we can make our schools memorable and enjoyable for our colleagues and our students and make them feel like they want to come back. An emphasis on customer service is a business model practice that I happen to agree with. I recognize that implementing business models in schools is a controversial notion.  However, when it comes to customer service and treating parents, colleagues and students with a smile and serving them with the best intentions, it just feels right. I would encourage all educators and school employees to ask themselves: Do you serve your colleagues, your students and your families with a smile each and every day? Do you choose your attitude and presume positive intentions when you go to work everyday? And finally, how do you show that you believe in yourself, your colleagues and your students?



Annie Diaz

Annie Diaz

Buckeye, Arizona

I teach fourth grade in the greater west valley of Phoenix. I am not one of those who have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a teacher. My parents aren’t in education so I couldn’t follow their footsteps. I don’t even remember many teachers from my childhood. Who inspired me to choose this profession? Well… I have two boys whom I love more than anything in the world. They are students in the 21st century.

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