I’ll admit it. I love a McDonald’s hamburger and fries from time to time. There’s something so familiar and comforting about knowing exactly what to expect out of the meal. Whether I am in my own town or in a foreign country, I know what I’m going to get at McDonald's. It’s that consistency in their product that has made them a staple of fast food across the globe.
The idea of consistency is an important part of any organization’s customer service mission. People come to expect, and take for granted, that what they experienced last week will be the same this week. During times of crisis, like our current pandemic, that consistency is in jeopardy of being lost completely.
As educators, we all know this to be true today, as schools scramble to adapt. Our students are at home, not at school, creating a vast upheaval of their routine. So what can we, as public school employees, do to regain some of that consistency lost to our students?
I mentioned in my previous post that our school is continuing to serve our students meals via a takeout system we implemented immediately after students were ordered to stay home from school. Now maybe our students’ parents make a mean lasagna or a mouth-watering casserole, but not every family has the means–and time–to cook a hearty, healthy meal for students home from school. In order to take some of the burden off families and provide consistency with nutrition and meal choices, we offer free meals to all our students for pickup. In addition, for families who have transportation limitations, we offer food deliveries to five different neighborhoods. Continuing to provide school meals is just one way we are able to provide a sense of normalcy to our students’ lives.
Our district is also making sure that students are supported while participating in remote learning. Our technology department offers support and in-home service for computer, tablet or internet issues so students can use their devices at home for schoolwork. It is a small thing, but working on class assignments can be grounding in a time when many students feel overwhelmed by change.
In addition, teachers are engaging students via video conferencing programs so students have a sense of normalcy while they continue with classes. Having that little contact with the teacher and, when possible, other classmates, can help young people feel balanced and stable again. This is especially true when we consider how stressful home life may be for them right now. While I applaud parents and families who can teach their children on their own, the consistency of interactions with their teacher and classmates can be a powerful tool in combating the sense of upheaval that many students are experiencing now.
I've talked about how important it is to collect reliable information about your customer service practices in my books and here on my blog. We have begun conducting surveys of our remote learning to get a sense for how well we are meeting the needs and expectations of our students and families. These surveys not only show our customers that we care about providing the highest level of learning we can, but it also gives us important information about what we are doing right and where we need to improve. School leaders cannot assume that our teachers will be given a free pass by families regarding the quality of learning they’re providing simply because we were all thrust into an unfamiliar remote learning model that nobody was prepared to roll out at short notice. The bar may be lower than normal, but that doesn’t mean we have to lower our expectations. Checking in with students on how well remote learning is going can move us toward a stable, sustainable model so our students can continue to make the most of this opportunity.
One of the more difficult decisions that schools have to face is what to do about future plans. For example, do you cancel your home visit program for summer vacation? At this moment, our district has decided to move ahead with home visits, making everyone’s safety a top priority by ensuring they all have personal protective equipment and maintain a healthy social distance. A few great ways to do this are to chat through a glass door or to sit in the backyard at opposite ends of a dining table.
Finding creative ways to continue to provide the services you normally offer to your students and families is a key component of giving great customer service during a time of crisis. Providing that consistency can be a meaningful benefit to your students and families. While we cannot do all we wish to do because of safety or logistical issues, when we think outside the box, we can find innovative ways to give students much-needed grounding as they navigate these difficult times.