• Kelly E. Middleton

How to Create a Customer Service Program without Burning Out



Being a school leader is exhausting work. It's long hours, late nights and lots of coffee. One of the main concerns my clients have about implementing customer service trainings and standards is that they don't have the time to devote to it. Let's face it, we never have enough time. But that's not an excuse to not even try! Actually, it's counterproductive to not devote time to service. It takes much more time for your organization and leadership to keep recovering from mistakes made by untrained or undertrained employees.


One of the most important skills a school leader can have is great time management. Knowing when to delegate, who to trust and how to say no are keys to getting work done without burning out. An article in Education Week explains just how important it is to delegate, outlining some keys to working efficiently and avoiding burnout that causes so many school administrators to leave education. Utilizing time management skills is a good way to free up a little time to devote to customer service training and I encourage all school leaders to try out a few new methods to squeeze a couple more minutes out of every work hour.


Whether or not you utilize time management opportunities, I believe you can find time to begin customer service training. Summer break is also a great time to brainstorm potential new customer service trainings, so now is the time to get started. As I say in my book, Competing for Kids, starting small is the best way to ensure that you don't bite off more than you can chew and to avoid getting frustrated when you don't meet your goals. Finding one maybe two areas where you most need to improve your customer service in your school or district is a manageable first step and one that you can build off each year.


For example, if your school is working on building better relationships with students, family and the community, you could find out which social media platform your audience prefers to use and create a school account. If you've already done this, committing to posting something as simple as one school news story each week that your audience would appreciate can be a good goal. Maybe a student got accepted to a college or a student performance is coming up this month. I strongly believe that communicating with our customers via social media is an important tool for us as school employees and one that is relatively underused by most of us. Consider posting your school's menus at the start of each week and creating a poll at the end of the week about which meal was students' favorite. That way, your students see that you want to know what they think and you also get the benefit of knowing which meals are going to be a hit and which you may want to rethink or discontinue.


One year, my school leaders and I decided we wanted to create a pamphlet for our administrative employees who answer phone calls and greet guests at the school. This pamphlet would lay out expectations and give tips on how to do their jobs better. It was a small idea—one that needed only a day's worth of work—but it had a huge impact. We still use this pamphlet today and have incorporated it into our customer service training for our office support staff.


I'm proud of the work we did to create the document and when I look back on that day, I don't regret pushing off all the other work that still eventually got done. In truth, we ended up saving countless hours of training and directing employees with this pamphlet. Instead of having to tell each individual at some point, for example, to "speak with a smile in your voice," handing them the pamphlet did the job for us.


Remember, every little victory counts. When it comes to starting out with a customer service training program, it can be daunting to think about everything you want to change or do. Don't let that overwhelm you! Start small and make sure it's a realistic goal. If you can only implement one new customer service directive a year, that's fine. It's still better than last year, which is always the benchmark on which to measure.


Whatever you choose to work on, be sure to celebrate that victory. We have so many items on our to-do lists, it can be easy to just move right on to the next item. But I believe that taking a moment to feel good about implementing a new customer service directive can reinforce that positivity and encourage you to do it again soon. Make one of your summer goals to plan out a new customer service initiative. Committing to improving customer service and building it into your trainings, adding more each year, will ensure you are making manageable strides and not overextending yourself.

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