Dawkins: It’s Time to Prioritize Customer Service in Schools

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Dr. Gerald Dawkins

SVP, Superintendent and District Relations

Every day, school leaders go to work in the shadow of incredible adversity. You have the toughest job in America. But you do it anyway—because you know what it means to make a difference in the world.

As a former educator and superintendent of school districts in Michigan and Louisiana, I’ve been where you are now. I know what it means to pour your heart into every challenge, knowing full well that funding and resources will not keep pace with effort.

But I’ll tell you something: The culture to which we’ve resigned ourselves—the infighting, the bureaucracy, the complete lack of authentic communication between schools and communities—doesn’t make our jobs easier. I spent more than three decades poking my head into classrooms, searching for solutions to problems that nobody, myself included, knew how to solve.

It wasn’t until I stepped outside my career as an educator that I started to realize the right path forward for schools.

That path begins not in the classroom, but outside of it—with exemplary customer service.

Create a service culture
In the previous 30 years, the business world has developed the systems, processes and professional development to promptly respond to customer feedback. These systems make it possible to manage and contain crises, while pushing relentlessly forward in pursuit of other business goals.

I know what you’re thinking: Schools are not corporations. We have different goals. Our challenges are vastly more, uh, human. I agree. In fact, I think the human nature of schools amplifies the need for empathy and straight talk between educators and parents.

Communication only works when people feel heard, and when all parties—be it parents, teachers, students or staff—resolve to find solutions to common problems. There is no reason why debates about basic necessities such as school technology or school bonds or transportation, should end up costing a good school leader her job. But it happens. And it speaks to a lack of effective communication.

It isn’t just your reputation that’s at stake. Alternative and charter schools are creating stiff competition for students. If your school or district fails to offer parents and families what they want, they’ll enroll their students elsewhere, taking precious per-pupil funding with them.

The bottom line: Customer service is essential. But you can’t do it alone.

With this in mind, K12 Insight developed a Definitive Guide to Quality Customer Service to help you make customer service an integral part of your work.

With this guide you’ll learn:

  • Why bad customer service is hurting our schools—and what to do about it.
  • The importance of setting goals and why you should never assume anything.
  • How to create a culture of exemplary service throughout your entire district.

For the better part of our careers, we knew customer service as a slogan, a phrase—like happiness. In 2016, customer service is as tangible as the bricks in our school buildings. We can touch it and feel it and know it. More important, we can measure it.

Do you have the systems, processes and professional development to make customer service part of your district’s DNA? Download the guide (it’s free) to find out.

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