As any of you who keep up with this blog know, I think Shep Hyken is a customer service wiz. A recent article he wrote on how to manage angry customers shares tips on how to diffuse these situations and, I think more importantly, how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
In public education, we have no shortage of angry customers. Many of them have legitimate problems, while others are victims of miscommunication, misinformation or, dare I say, fake news. As an administrator, I've had my fair share of angry customers. Teachers certainly get plenty of disgruntled parents, but the one group that bears the brunt of the angry customer burden is administrative assistants. I like to call them school office professionals. They're answering phones, greeting guests, resolving disputes between students and supporting both school staff and leadership. All they do all day is deal with customers! That's why my next book is written specifically for these front-lines workers. Like Shep's timely article, I share tips on how to placate angry customers, give great service to leadership, maintain a professional, yet approachable demeanor and give a customer service twist on answering phones or emails.
As I say in my book, the school office professionals I've worked with over my 30+ years in public education have been some of the most important people to me as a school leader. Having an administrative staff person I knew I could rely on and who solved problems before they got to my desk was a game-changing experience for me and I'm forever indebted to these employees.
What's more, school office staff are crucial to any school's success. With so many of today's students fleeing a plagued public school system for now affordable private schools, newly founded charter schools and the fastest growing educational segment—homeschooling—we need our front-lines employees to be as good at turning a frown upside down as a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines.
The school districts I've worked in have been incorporating the tips in this book for decades. A lot of the advice in this book comes directly from the mouths of some of the best school office professionals I've had the privilege to work beside.
At the end of the day, it's all about the customers. And for a school's front lines employees, that's a tall task. But it helps to have tips and tricks to get you there. You won't always get it right and there are some problems you simply can't fix, so it's important to keep it all in perspective. As Shep says in his article, "You're not trying to win the argument. You're trying to win the customer." This could certainly be a mantra for us in public education and even for all our interactions in life.