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  • Writer's pictureKelly E. Middleton

Concept #7 - Collect Reliable Information About Your Customer Service Practices

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

When it comes to providing great customer service, it's important to make sure that you're actually helping the customers with issues that prevent them from fully enjoying or engaging with your product or service. Many leaders believe their customer service initiatives will be well-received when in actuality these changes have no effect or even a negative effect on the customer experience. A study by Bain and Company found that 80% of companies think that they give great customer service, when in reality only 20% of them do. That's a problem.

One way the best companies prevent wasting energy on customer service initiatives that don't solve real customer problems is by asking for input from the customers – getting it straight from the horse's mouth. In concept #7 Collect Reliable Information of my book, Competing for Kids: 21 Customer Service Concepts Public Schools Can Use to Attract and Retain Students, I outline three ways that companies get customer feedback: focus groups, mystery guests and surveys. These are just a few ways companies involve the customer in decision-making.

Research has found that people support what they help create. Students are no different. When students are given the opportunity to share their opinions in schools and school leadership listens by implementing changes that reflect those wants and needs, they tend to support the resulting policy or rules. They even help police them.

Earlier this year, when students from across the country walked out in support of the victims of the Parkland School shooting in Florida, school leaders were faced with difficult decisions on whether or not to allow students to leave the school en masse. In my experience, any time there is potential to create an us vs. them dynamic between school leadership/staff and students, it's worth putting the time in to avoid such a powder keg. When students think we don't have their backs it can galvanize them against the staff and leadership.

Enter customer service. In situations like the March 14 student walkout, school leadership has time to meet and discuss how to handle the impending situation. Many schools decided to either forbid or persuade students against a walkout. The result was that students still left and had to pay consequences. But there was fallout for school staff and leadership too. Students need to know that their schools have their backs in everyday life as well as in regard to their safety at school. The schools that chose to not support students who walked out to speak out against gun violence in schools missed a huge opportunity to show their students that they truly cared about their safety and would support them in getting the message to the country's leadership.

However, many schools were able to see the big picture and answered the call to sacrifice a small part of one day in order to show their students as well as the world that student safety was a top priority for them. In our district, students met with school principals and guidance counselors to decide what we would do together as a school. It was very clear from the start that students were going to walk out regardless of whether we supported or even allowed their intentions. So our response was to hear their concerns and their thoughts on what would be a good way to participate in this national student symbolic display. After discussing ideas, students and staff decided they would hold a silent walkout by the side of a nearby highway, holding signs dedicated to the students who passed in the Florida shooting. This “silent walkout” idea manifested in a funeral-like procession out to the highway and back to the school. It was solemn, serious and deeply emotional for the entire school with no student discipline issues. As I said earlier, students will support and even police what they help create.

Of course, student input can be useful for regular days as well. School leadership can listen to student voices with focus groups, surveys or simply casual conversations with students. A few situations when student input can be considered for school policy, changes and events include: menu changes in the cafeterias, initiating a school breakfast program, school cell phone policies and ideas for extracurricular offerings, to name a few.

One tip from the Collect Reliable Information concept in my book is for superintendents or principals to have regular closed-door meetings with a chosen group of students – I call mine Kelly's Kids – to get feedback on any issues they may have with policies, changes at the school or any pending decisions. I do not let anyone else in the room when I meet with students so they know their candid suggestions are kept confidential. Getting this input has proven invaluable for my principals and me. I recommend trying it out to see how many easily fixable changes students uncover. The entire student body will benefit and the students who get to share their thoughts and opinions will be excited to have their voices heard.

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