The Front Lines of Customer Service in Schools

What would it look like if we applied the concept of customer service to the classroom? The term is more frequently associated with business and sales rather than education.  For independent schools, customer experience must be a wildly important goal, though the word ‘customer’ falls short of describing a school’s relationship with students and parents. Partnership is closer.


Teachers and their direct communication with students and parents are the front lines of customer experience in a school. There are many other levers that teachers have control over that directly impact customer experience. We will focus on one for now: communication. There are a few non-negotiable ‘Do’s’ that teachers must commit to and administrators must support/inspect to guarantee a positive customer experience.

1. Update the Grade Book – Open 24/7 online to students and parents, this is the first place parents go for information about their child’s progress in your class. The teacher committed to exceptional customer experience will not only update the grade book frequently and consistently, but they will pay close attention to the labels and descriptions they write in the grade book so that the wording precisely matches the labels and descriptions they write on the assignment, rubrics, and LMS posts. The keys are timely, descriptive, and accurate.

2. Post Classwork and Homework Accurately to Blog – We use Schoology as the platform for teachers to communicate each day’s assignments. There are many platforms, but the important thing is for a student or parent to be able to quickly and easily access what happened during class each day (in case of absence). Teachers need some flexibility in case a lesson takes longer than anticipated or students take a particular interest in an unexpected area, yet students and parents need accuracy and timeliness. We ask our teachers to update their pages each Sunday night by 6:00 p.m. for the upcoming week. Teachers know to update their page the same day that they alter the plans.

For the average teacher, updating one’s page can be viewed as a tedious chore, but the teacher committed to exceptional customer experience realizes this is one of the first and best chances to communicate the quality of their practice. Compare two examples…

Example 1
Classwork: Ch 5 – The Columbian Exchange
Homework: Work on project

Example 2
Classwork: Essential Question – How do the ideas, goods, and technology traded on the Columbian Exchange compare/contrast to international trade today? 

Homework: Read article ‘The Columbian Exchange’ and article ‘What is International Trade?’ and write down 5 questions. Bring questions to class discussion tomorrow.

Example 1 communicates ambiguity, dependence on a textbook, and lack of thoughtful planning. Example 2 is clear, specific and leads to learning even if read by someone on the other side of the planet. Which class would lead to a better customer experience for a student and parent?

3. Notify Customer When Grades Drop Below 73 – Although customers have 24/7 access to their grades, they still expect the teacher to communicate early warning flags. Teachers expect middle school students to take ownership and responsibility for their grades. Parents expect teachers to inform them every time a homework assignment is not turned in. Strike a happy balance by making a quick call or email approximately whenever a student’s overall average dips below 74. Every 3 weeks, we check student progress in all grades and notify parents along with recommendations for how a student can improve their performance. Usually, this involves attending tutorials, making up missing assignments, changing habits, or scheduling a conference.

Communication is essential between stakeholders in a school. Teachers cannot control everything that happens in a classroom, but these are three things they can absolutely control and use to their advantage to accelerate student learning and create an exceptional customer experience.


One thought on “The Front Lines of Customer Service in Schools

  1. Chip,

    This is a fascinating post to me. To be honest, I am full of mixed reactions, and I love that. Thank you for challenging me. I’d love to discuss sometime. It would help me discern some things that are grey and fuzzy in my mind.


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