District 16 adds focus on customer service

District 16 has introduced into its operating procedures a new concept based on a proven track record. Good customer service.

Park Terrace third-grade ambassador Ashia Stafne last week escorted voter Duane Stombaugh of Spring Lake Park to the school’s voting area. Students worked as school ambassadors as an off-shoot of District 16’s Make Your MARK customer service program. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Park Terrace third-grade ambassador Ashia Stafne last week escorted voter Duane Stombaugh of Spring Lake Park to the school’s voting area. Students worked as school ambassadors as an off-shoot of District 16’s Make Your MARK customer service program. Photo by Elyse Kaner

But in the district’s case, staff members are upping their already inviting amenities to further build relationships.

The mission is to leave a lasting footprint with every person whom District 16 staff members encounter.

Parents and students, or anyone who walks through the district’s door, are the customers who stand to benefit from the initiative called Make Your MARK.

“It’s much more than greeting the customer at the door,” said Colleen Pederson, director of community education and outreach, who headed the initiative. “It’s more about the experience with us.

“It has expanded from the basic how people will want to be treated, to how do we want to be treated and how do we want people to interact and experience the Spring Lake Park schools.”

The district introduced Make Your MARK into its buildings this school year. The idea was the brainchild of Pederson who read up on strong customer service, notably a book on the successful company Pixar Animation Studios.

“I thought, that’s no big deal, we can do that tomorrow,” she said about their service policies.

MARK is an acronym for Memorable first impressions, Always make their day, Reach out and build relationships and Keep exceeding expectations.

Staff at Woodcrest refer to parents and students as customers, said Martha Sinko, principal’s assistant at Woodcrest Elementary.

“We always strive to put the public first,” she said. “Knowing our response is critical to make the best experience for students parents and coworkers. To me, it’s just part of who we are as a district….”

Students make their mark

Make Your MARK is even spilling over to the students. Last week found third-grade ambassadors greeting voters with “good morning” as they stepped into Park Terrace to cast their votes for the general election. A hearty “have a nice day” was on the lips of students, usually resulting in a smile and a similar retort from the residents as voters exited the building.

“That was our goal – to put a smile on their faces,” said Park Terrace kindergarten teacher Shannon Zobitz, who was supervising the ambassadors at the school’s entrance.

The greeters went as far as to escort voters unfamiliar with the building to the polling area.

“I think it’s awesome. Spectacular!” said a voter, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Michelle. “I like the fact that they’re active in their community and they know what’s going on.”

But before helping out, students got a quick lesson on what and what not to do.

Don’t talk about candidates. Keep your comments to talking about school. For example, that Park Terrace is a Peace Site, said Principal Kim Fehringer.

“I think it’s something that we’re much more aware of,” Fehringer said about the newly improved customer service.

Make Your MARK ensures that visitors feel welcome. That their needs are being met. That the office is appropriately staffed at the beginning and the end of each day, during high volume visitor times.

But the move reaches beyond face-to-face amenities. It encourages timely answers to emails, for example. Or if a parent’s question is not being answered, they are immediately referred to the appropriate person, Fehringer said.

A district committee worked on Make Your MARK for about 18 months. Nearly 100 staff members were involved in an initial customer service awareness campaign.

In addition to Pederson, staff committee members were Karen Stifter, administrative assistance to the superintendent; LaToiya Jefferson, human resources manager; Tracy Pearce, former Northpoint Elementary office paraprofessional; Ericka Sanchez de Krause, District Services Center customer support; and Mary Heieren, retired administrative assistant from the district’s schools.

“It’s exciting to see,” Pederson said about where Make Your MARK is headed. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m pleased with where we’re at.”

The district continues to roll out the concept to its employees from custodians to teachers to food service staff to principals.

“Just everybody,” Pederson said.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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