This post is based on one of Christine Frazier‘s writing prompts, in which she suggests writing about the most common question you get in some aspect of your life.
As a college teacher, one of the most common questions I get occurs when a student misses a class and he or she will send me an email asking “Could you tell me what I missed?”, or its more annoying variant “Did I miss anything important?”
It has become even more frustrating in the past few years to get such an email. I have all of my classes video-recorded so that after class students can bring up any class on their computer and watch it at their convenience. All the students are aware of this option, yet they still send emails asking what they missed.
I’ve often been tempted to either not reply to the email or to respond with some sarcastic comment, but I bite my tongue and send a reply that lets the student know what was covered in class and reminds them about the availability of the video recordings.
One of the the reasons for responding this way is because of all the books and blogs I read that stress the importance of providing great customer service. If I view my students as customers, then it seems reasonable to assume that it is my responsibility to provide them with great customer service. That’s why I have all my classes video-recorded, that’s why I get their tests back to them the next class, that’s why I answer such emails in a polite way.
But at what point does providing great customer service interfere with the idea of personal responsibility? At what point does wanting to do everything for your child interfere with the child learning to be independent?
I struggle with such questions. When I read the words of Seth Godin, I get pumped up about providing extraordinary customer service. But then I’ll watch a Larry Winget video and it’s all about taking personal responsibility, which I am also a big believer in.
So what do I say to a student who stops by my office and tells me he missed the previous class and wants to review a problem we had gone in over in detail during that class?
The Seth Godin side of me wants to do everything I can to help the student, the Larry Winget side of me wants to tell the student to go figure it out yourself.
I see potential merit in the idea that telling the student to figure out the solution on his own is perhaps the best form of customer service I could provide in the long run. However, to me it still begs the question at what point does telling someone to take personal responsibility replace the need to provide great customer service.
What’s the best way to teach someone to swim; do you just tell someone to jump in the water and figure it out on his own, or do you offer some basic lessons beforehand?
Or what do you do if you are a waiter and you serve a customer his meal and then a minute later he tells you he did not realize that his cheeseburger came with pickles on it. Do you simply apologize and tell the customer that you will get him a new burger with no pickles right away, or do you tell the customer that the menu clearly states what is on every burger, and he is going to have to live with that decision?
I think many of us would answer that of course you would provide someone with swimming lessons as part of helping that person learn how to swim and that you would replace a customer’s burger if there was a problem with it, even though it was not the restaurant’s fault.
But is there some magical line that gets crossed at some point and we say that customer service ends here, you’re on your own now?
Any insights would be appreciated – or is this something I have to figure out by myself?