Are Parents Clients in a School?

Ever gotten one of these?

How do you handle the parents in your school?  Are they partners in the education of their children?  Are they frustrating interruptions in your day?  Are they helpful volunteers who make your job easier?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we view parents.  This summer, my daughter began ushering for a theater during Broadway shows.  As an usher, her job is to help the patrons enjoy their experience.  Anything that can be done (reasonably)  to enhance that experience is part of her job description.  My husband works as a stage manager in the same theater.  He works with the Broadway shows that come through town to use the theater.  He also is responsible for making sure the client is happy with their experience.

I think we need to start viewing parents (and students) as our clients or patrons.  While we can’t always please them, we need to work to make their experience an enjoyable one.  The more you enjoy an experience, the more likely you are to return.  Think about times you’ve had excellent customer service.  It leaves you happier and more willing to continue patronizing that business.

This summer, my daughter ordered an item online from a popular designer.  When it arrived, the inside of the cardboard box was lined with purple, and the item was wrapped in tissue paper.  In addition, there was a small card with a brief note thanking her for ordering.  She was thrilled.  As I listened to her extol the virtues of this company, I thought about what small things make us happy.  She would have been happy with her order, without the extras.  Those little extras simply raised her enjoyment of the experience.

While we don’t need to line cardboard boxes with purple (although anything we can do to decorate our buildings would help), we should think about little things we can do to enhance the experience.  A short note to parents letting them know their child did something positive that day, a quick phone call, even a smile in the hall can go a long way toward helping parents and students view the school positively.

Too often, I think teachers see parents as a problem, instead of a valued client.  Rather than being irritated with a parent who asks questions about his or her child’s learning, be excited.  An involved parent has been shown to increase student achievement.  Give parents a vehicle for communication and make it easy for them to use it.  Look for ways to make everyone smile during the day.  By making the experience enjoyable, we set students up for better learning.  Happy students are more likely to listen to what we have to say.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Should we view parents as clients?  I don’t have the answer to that, but I do know that good customer service makes for happy customers.  And happy customers give good reviews.  What do you think?

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