Students and their parents are customers and the Wellington Schools need to brush up on their customer service skills, according to McCormick Middle School principal Nathan Baxendale.
He recently graduated from the Cleveland Clinic’s “Communicating with HEART” training program and plans to pass on what he learned to every single employee of the Wellington school system.
HEART stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, and Thank You — steps Baxendale and district superintendent Ed Weber said every worker can take to heart, from school bus drivers to teachers to top administrators.
“We have customers, in reality, because they pay for the services we’re giving them,” said Baxendale.
And the truth is that if Wellington Schools customers are “treated like garbage” when they have an issue, they’re not going to want to stay, he said.
Baxendale and McCormick teachers Robert Ronsky and Malynda Perchinske are the first educators to ever go through the Cleveland Clinic program, which was developed 15 years ago in a time when the renowned hospital system was dealing with its own customer service shortfalls.
Taking the training course, they learned the importance of being genuinely welcoming to visitors to their “business,” truly listening to concerns that are brought forward, making eye contact, and building real relationships with parents.
Sometimes, that kind of customer service is as simple as offering a smile and a nice greeting, Baxendale said.
And it’s always important to show customers that you’re grateful to be there. “Thank you for letting us have that impact on your life,” the third-year principal said. “It sounds cheesy. It sounds a little Hallmark movie-ish,” but it works.
Enrollment is at stake if bad customer service is used, he said. Every home-schooler, every child who chooses to attend another school is a customer lost.
And with that customer goes state dollars that help all Wellington’s students.
But with the right training, which will roll out this fall, the Wellington Schools have a shot at becoming a “destination district” for open-enrollment, Baxendale said.
He also said winning customers over is going to have a major effect in this November’s election. A Wellington bond issue and levy are on the ballot.