After a long day, it’s nice to sit in a coffee shop and get good service. A smile, a cup well positioned on the saucer and a well-wiped table. The attention to detail is what can make or break an experience. In contrast, I’ve had teatime ruined by surly service that doesn’t have a clue as to what a customer wants. I once asked for the table to be wiped of crumbs before my order was put on the table and the waitress brushed them off with a random receipt. In the end, I had to go to the kitchen to get a towel.
The purpose is not to just rag about bad service, but to remind us how difficult and important good customer service is. After all, the golden rule is that the customer is always right. This is not just based on the principle that a person who pays is always correct, but that the essence of service is to put another person’s needs before one’s own. Couldn’t this be applied to the idea of good teaching?
Of course, a good teacher serving their students cannot mean that the student is always right. The job of the teacher is to direct the student when they are wrong. On the other hand, the student should have the right to be wrong without the fear of punishment or humiliation. The student has the right to be ignorant since admitting that is the first step to getting educated. The student has the right to receive good teaching service. That should be the bottom line. They’re usually paying for it.
I always sigh when I talk to students so desperate to get an education. More than often, they feel an education is the ability to speak English and they complain that they can’t do so because they don’t have the money to study in a private school. Why can’t they learn it at school? They’re usually enrolled in a large institution that already has an English program, but they’re not being served. What would we do if we bought a cup of coffee that never came? Or for that matter cold coffee in a chipped cup or one with grounds in it or one from discarded beans?
People working in the service industry might sometimes wonder why they have to always smile for so little in return. People opening doors might feel more like doormats. Those in customer service have to be trained to endure abuse. In that respect, teachers with the right heart are by far better off. The gratitude and love from students is often beautifully expressed.
When I was teaching in a university, teenagers would ask for advice. Many times the problems were personal and complicated so I would just assure them that they should believe in themselves and do what they think is best. With this kind of advice, things would often just work out on their own and students would gush appreciation for my advice.
The returns of good customer service are especially strong when a teacher is truly sincere. It is not be a popularity contest, but one teacher complained that his students never contacted him after they graduated. He obviously didn’t leave much of an impression on them. Then, there are teachers with devoted students who pay them visits and remember them well into adulthood. It’s not because they’ve told their students they are always right, but they’ve communicated to them through their service that that student is special and deserving of the best. A good teacher who goes the extra mile for their students will enjoy the gracious adoration of extended families, children and grandchildren if they live that long. It lasts longer than a cup of coffee.