As an educator, I have always been in the customer-service industry. As a classroom teacher, my “customers” were my students. My job each day was to put my students’ needs first. To make sure I was creating relevant and engaging learning experiences that helped each of them grow every day. If they were bored, unhappy, sick, tired, or misbehaving, it impacted their learning and that of their peers in the class. While these may seem secondary to those not in education, teachers know how meeting these basic needs comes before any knowledge learning can occur.
“Do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind.” ~Scott Nearing
As a curriculum director, the teachers and my fellow administrators became my clients. I saw my position as a support role to make them more effective and efficient while making their lives a little easier.
Now as an education strategist, consultant, and learning coach, my focus is the same…helping the teachers and administrators with whom I work. My first job is to alleviate fears and help them feel more comfortable. My second job is to equip them with knowledge, skills, and resources to positively impact their students. In all of these roles, I’ve needed an open and compassionate heart to hear the person, before we could “go to work”. Through all of these experiences and interactions, I see it as my responsibility to remain professional and friendly, putting others’ needs first. Because of that, I am doubly appreciative when I see excellent customer service in other areas of my life.
Recently, my work schedule had me in New Jersey at the beginning of the week and Florida at the end. My hotel room in New Jersey had a Keurig machine with one pod of decaf and one of regular coffee. Those were gone after the first morning, and I jotted a quick note to housekeeping requesting extra (because let’s face it, when I’m traveling I need more than one small cup of caffeine in the morning). That evening when I returned to my room, I found two of each. The following day, the housekeeper was still in my room when I got there. She quickly offered me a genuine smile and asked how my day was. We exchanged pleasantries, and then she asked me if I was just drinking the regular coffee. I said, yes that was my preference, and she went directly to her cart in the hallway and brought me back four pods of coffee. Then she said, “you aren’t using the condiments, though?” I said, “No. If it was the yummy liquid creamer I would, but I’d rather drink it black than use that powdered stuff.” She said, “I’ll be right back.” She went down to the kitchen, and then came back with a small bowl of five liquid creamers for me. This small gesture of kindness filled my heart. She did not have to go out of her way to get me the creamer. I wouldn’t have even known she had access to any. She could have easily left the room after our initial greeting, but instead went the extra mile to hold a meaningful interaction, and put my comfort first.
Wednesday night had me returning to the same hotel near Tampa that I had stayed in the previous week. As soon as I walked in (I should also tell you that last week was the first time I had ever stayed in that hotel), the desk manager said, “Welcome back, Mrs. McLaughlin. How was your flight?” He proceeded to hand me my keys, thank me for being an elite member, and gave me a little bag of goodies. It felt genuine, and not like something he was obliged to do as part of his job. That conversation gave me a little burst of energy after a long day of traveling, and then when I opened my door, I found this:
This is not a luxury hotel. I paid next to nothing for my stay there. And, yet, their employees went out of the way to make me feel welcomed, to make being away from my family a little less difficult, and my stay more comfortable. Plus, chocolate!
I like to think that I do that in my own profession. I believe that building relationships has to be what happens first before true learning and change can occur. I believe in the power of servant leadership. So I try to get to know the people I’m working with first. I enjoy genuine conversations with them. I hope that they leave our interactions with a little more energy, and feeling more comfortable with the change we are walking through together. Small acts of kindness and courtesy can make all the difference.