Expensive hotels and exclusive restaurants are not the only venues for five-star customer service. Susan Chism, instructor of English at Greenville College, renders such care to her students that they have crowned her queen of service – well, not quite. They named her “Teacher of the Year,” honored her with a plaque, posted her picture on the web with a glowing story and flooded her mailbox with notes of thanks.
Susan’s appreciative fans are football players that have landed in her English classes. Their recent testimonials reveal that she goes the extra mile to meet their needs and ultimately improve their class attendance, grades and learning. Here’s a snapshot of the five-star care the first ever EMAP (Every Man a Panther) Teacher of the Year delivers.
One Star: Personal attention
Football players populate many of Susan’s classes – Developmental English, Research and Writing, Sports Journalism, Introduction to Literature and COR 401, a required senior capstone class. She sees lots of faces and skill levels in the course of a semester and a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. Still, she manages to sort it all out and personalize her approach. Players describe how she makes each feel like her one and only student: One told how she eased his transition from high school to college; another thanked her for believing in him and pulling him through a rough time. Yet another said she demystified writing for him, and then there’s the one that thanked her for keeping him so engaged that skipping class rarely crossed his mind.
Two Stars: Resolving issues quickly
Players most appreciated how Susan promptly dealt with their needs. She recalls her work with one particular group: “I’d stay after class with them; I’d meet them at odd times and be available by phone or text if they had problems.” If a problem surfaced, she also worked closely with coaches to ensure the players attended class. “[Coaches] backed me up absolutely,” she says. “We were practically on speed dial. If a student missed a class or an assignment, the coach heard within the hour.” Ultimately, attendance and grades improved.
Three Stars: Genuine friendliness
Susan takes every opportunity to break down walls and make learning approachable for her students. Early in the year she asks freshmen to write about topics that impact their immediate lives like their families and homesickness, campus policies and money and time management. With the football players, she makes it a point to visit them where they are, never missing a home game and regularly visiting GC’s Student Success Services where many of them study. She asks how they are doing and if they need anything. “She will bend over backward to help you,” says senior safety Matt Edler. “They know I like them,” says Susan.
Four Stars: Getting your money’s worth
Games, especially away games, consume large blocks of time for football players. “Even a home game requires the guys to be available at noon,” Susan observes. When GC began its junior varsity program, the JV games fell on Monday nights, class night for some of the players. Determined to see them succeed, Susan devised a way for the players to get what they paid for: she offered an alternate class on Tuesday nights. It helped that coaches required their attendance. In a nutshell, the customers got their money’s worth.
Five Stars: Loyalty
Satisfied customers often return for more, and Susan treasures when students take subsequent classes with her. Also, like satisfied consumers, students talk with one another about their experiences. “I was never your student,” admitted one of the players who voted for Susan, “but the guys always talk about all your enthusiasm.”
Susan is as much a fan of the football team as its members are fans of Susan. She raves to others about their politeness and believes GC’s focus on good character truly shapes them. “Athletes often have bad reputations,” she reflects. “News stories always talk about players who are violent and abusive. This is so at the pro and college levels, but it is not so here.”
Customer service professionals often say every client they keep is one less they need to find. In Susan Chism’s thinking, the concept also applies to student retention. If five-star service makes the difference between a student’s success and failure, then five-star service is what she will deliver.