For over a year now, Rwanda’s leadership has made a huge effort to sensitise people about the vitality of good customer service in both the public and private domains of business.
There have been continuous calls and even adverts urging everyone in the country to not only demand better services but more importantly to reject poor services.
In other words, customers ought to be empowered enough to know what they deserve to get from a service provider.
Surprisingly, I am starting to get the feeling that in many schools, the idea of good customer relations is more than alien.
It is as though schools have forgotten that they are a part of the service industry and therefore have a duty to make a positive impression on those they serve.
The fact that schools fundamentally attend to learners could be the root of this problem. The above fact blinds them of the more important issue of who their real customers are.
The real customers are those people who pick the bill for tuition. These include the parents, guardians, charity organisations that care for unfortunate children and in some cases the students who pay their own tuition fees.
The way the above people are handled is of paramount importance to the overall functioning of the school.
For example, what happens when a parent visits the school? How are they treated? Who attends to them and how do they (those that attend to the visitors) go about it?
Most of the schools I know are fenced off and have a security person at the gate. The problem is that in a good number of these schools, this gateman tries to play the role of a receptionist as well. Now this is where the poor customer service starts.
If a visitor states that he/she has come to see the head teacher, then the gateman has no business asking him/her what the meeting is all about. Sometimes he/she is there over very personal matters that the gateman has no business asking about.
The receptionist should treat school visitors with respect. It is very irresponsible to say that the headmaster is not around when the visitor can hear him speaking on his phone just in the next room.
The person at the gate and the receptionist and anyone else that talks to the visitor must know that there is a remarkable difference between talking to someone and interrogating someone.
Great consideration should also be placed on where the visitor has come from and the reason for their trip to the school. Sometimes a parent has travelled across the country and the last thing they need to hear is, “Come back tomorrow.”
In case a student has been expelled from school and the parent appears. It is only prudent for you to clearly explain why the boy was expelled, what the school rules say, and his previous record in the school and maybe some advice on how best the errant child can be helped.
No one likes it when another person jumps the queue they are in and so if a parent has been waiting outside the headmaster’s office then it is simply unfair for the headmaster to let a teacher or staff member who has just showed up to get in before the waiting parent.
Schools should try to keep waiting parents in decent and comfortable places. It is not fair to keep someone in the sun for hours as they wait for the headmaster. This is the person who pays the money that runs the school and thus deserves better from you.
It is pointless to have all the books and nice buildings and then treat the people who finance the institution like they don’t matter.
Good customer care should be integrated in the way schools operate. A customer should not only be treated well when they take their money to a hotel or travel agency.