Customer service. It isn’t just for businesses anymore.

One of our points of focus in McAllen ISD this year has been on improving our customer service.

If you look at our system, we are one of the biggest businesses in town. We have a $280 million budget. We’re very big on human capital and, most importantly, we educate the community’s children. So, from a business standpoint, we have to make sure that we’re doing a good job in serving our students, our parents and our community so that we can attract students, keep the best and the brightest teachers and continue to be a driving force in this competitive arena that we now call education.

This is especially true where we are in a friendly competition with surrounding school districts, whether it is in public schools, private schools or charter schools.

We looked at some companies that are known for their excellent customer service. Feedback from staff, students and parents led to some common names that came up repeatedly. These included Southwest Airlines, Chick-Fil-A and H-E-B. We also looked at Harley Davidson in terms of how they brand their product.

We took all of those perspectives, along with our research, to come up with our own standards for customer service and that’s what we’re training our people on right now. As we move forward, we become better at these five standards and they are standardized across the district.

The standards begin with the five domains of emotional intelligence. This includes Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills. You must have all five to produce world-class customer service but one of the most important here is empathy. This is being able to put yourself into the shoes of others and relate to how they feel and understand their perspective.

Each day, parents put their most precious resource into our hands – their children. We must always be mindful that this is not only a responsibility but a privilege.

Next is Courtesy and Respect followed by Greeting and Communication. There is also a step called Go the Extra Mile. Companies with great customer service are willing to do whatever it takes to keep customers happy. It is something that we hold close to heart as well.

The fifth area is the Environment. This refers to maintaining a clean and efficient work area. This is conducive toward presenting a polished, professional look to visitors to our schools and offices.

When you look at it, students are also customers. We want to make sure we provide a quality educational experience for them. We also know parents make choices on where they are going to send their children to school.

Our own staff members are also customers in a sense. They make decisions on where they want to work so we have to work hard to retain our best teachers and staff members.

It means we have an internal public and an external public that we are serving. We look at it from all perspectives; this includes parents, students, community members and staff. In short, it is everyone who has contact with our schools.

We want to provide an enjoyable, world-class experience and the method is driven by the five standards in our plan.