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Does Customer Service Belong In The Classroom?

Frowning faces on chalkboard 

Just For Faculty..... Justifiably, many faculty grimace when campus leaders use business jargon related to customer service. Learning requires civil discourse, challenging thought exercise, and debate. It’s difficult, if not impossible to think about learning as a transaction where the “customer” is always right.  Here are a few small service-related strategies faculty can implement to improve student performance while maintaining an authentic learning environment.

  1. Use a seating chart in order to learn students’ names.  Request class lists from the Registrar’s Office that include student photographs to more easily recognize students early in the semester.
  2.  Administer a short interest survey the first day of class to learn about specific interests or anxiety students may be experiencing.
  3.  Host a voluntary study/question session prior to the first exam.
  4.  Send an email to students who do not perform well on the first exam providing test prep strategies including an invitation to visit during office hours.

    Here’s A Sample

    Hi _______,

    I was looking at the exam scores and noticed that you didn’t do as well as expected. Since it’s still early in the semester, now is the time to try and figure out what went wrong and how we can work together to improve your performance. I have some quick questions for you that I’m hoping you’ll be willing to answer for me.

    First and most importantly, do you know why you didn’t do well on the exam? Did you read the notes and answer the review objectives? Did you attend class and participate in discussions on a regular basis? Lastly, did you come to office hours or our study session to discuss the material?

    With this information, we can figure out what happened and work together so that the rest of the course goes more smoothly!  I’ll wait for a response from you.

    I enjoy having you in class and am here to mentor you.

    This edition of EduShare is designed to show how customer service applies to the classroom.  


    What service ideas for the classroom are you doing?

    Should faculty be expected to do these extra things?  Is that realistic or fair given everything else they are responsible for?

    So...what do you think? Share your thoughts. Share this blog to keep the conversation going!

    Geri headshot

    Author: Geri Anderson
    February 3, 2019

    Comments 2
    • Erin Hoag
      Erin Hoag

      Eric, thank you so much for your insights. You make some great points, and I am sure your post will generate even more conversation on the topic.

    • Eric Salahub
      Eric Salahub

      I agree this is a difficult idea for faculty to entertain but it might help to avoid the term “customer.” Over-all, though, I totally agree with the core message you’re sending Geri. Here are some of the things this post led me to think about:

      First, students are not our “just” customers and we should care more about them than a business cares about its customers. We want more than their money or even their return business ~ we should want their success in our classes and in their programs and lives…

      Yes, for me, it is our jobs as faculty to do these “extra” things because they aren’t really extra ~ helping students succeed is at the core of what we do. And, I’m no altruist: things like learning student names is certainly good for them because it makes students feel respected and included but it is selfish for me because when I know their names and use them, students feel more obligated to care about me and the class. Building personal relationships with students stokes their intrinsic motivation to learn and, so, adds incentives beyond “points” or “grades” to do the homework and come to class prepared. Once I learn their names, students aren’t anonymous strangers and the “scowler” in the back row who I suspect is arrogant or hostile becomes someone who meets my gaze or even smiles at me. This makes a real difference for me as a teacher.

      Helping students succeed also makes grading and feedback much more enjoyable ~ it is clearly more fun to read and respond to strong, interesting essays compared to the chore of reading bad ones…

      I’ll end by adding that, clearly, if students are customers, those customers are not always right. What students prefer or like is, often, not associated with what will help them learn. If we can convince them that we (as teachers) are doing things they don’t “like” for a good reason, this can make all the difference.

      Thanks for this article Geri,


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