2021 GSBA Leading Edge Award

NCSS Wins GSBA Leading Edge Award for Customer Service Initiative
Posted on 01/26/2022
Samantha Fuhrey and Shakila Henderson-Baker  holding GSBA AwardRepresentatives from the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) recently presented Newton County School System (NCSS) Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey and school board member, Shakila Henderson-Baker with the prestigious 2021 GSBA Leading Edge Award for the district’s customer service initiative—Family Friendly Schools.

“A key to student success is making sure parents and students feel welcome in our schools,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “We know that welcoming environment is fundamental and plays an important role in many areas of school and district success. With that in mind, we increased our commitment to high-quality customer service.”

According to Fuhrey, all goals and objectives of the Customer Service initiative were aligned to the NCSS Goal Area III: Culture, Climate, and Communication, of the District’s Strategic Plan. “To help us attain our goals and improve customer service across the district, we partnered with the American Association of School Customer Service,” Fuhrey explained. “AASCS helped us create and implement our plan, conducted a district-wide customer service needs assessment, and evaluated the district and school sites based on assessment results. AASCS also worked with us to develop a five-year Customer Service Training Plan for our employees.”

“We had two major goals for the Customer Service initiative,” added Dr. Shelia Thomas, NCSS Chief Strategy and Support Services Officer. “They were improving the quality of two-way communication with all stakeholders and strengthening school and community relationships.”

The district’s ongoing Customer Service initiative was developed with school and district level-teams. They worked collaboratively in the initial planning, decision-making, and training for the program, and adopted the mantra, “Family-Friendly Schools” as the most important aspect of the initiative.

“With that focal point, we were not only asking ourselves what services were provided to our stakeholders, but also how friendly and inviting those services were,” said Thomas. “We then had the American Association of School Customer Service conduct a very thorough investigation of district and school practices with a customer service audit that examined both in-person and electronic customer connections.”

In-person evaluations consisted of face-to-face site visits to experience customer service firsthand. Phone calls, emails, and websites comprised the electronic evaluations. Through phone calls and emails, auditors could determine how customers were treated regarding their wants and needs. Through website evaluations, auditors could determine customer usability, website function and design, and district information.

After the initial audit, a five-year customer service training plan was developed, consisting of two courses—Customer Service 101 and 201. The goal of Customer Service 101 was to identify fundamental needs of all customers, determine causes of bad service, develop strategies to serve diverse backgrounds, and discuss tips for primary modes of interaction. Customer Service 201 goals were to examine roles of diversity in customer service, practice strategies of service, prepare to serve difficult customers, and determine appropriate first impressions. Overall, 124 employees participated in the initial trainings and 90 new employees have participated in ongoing trainings.

“A second customer service audit was performed, and a third will be scheduled in the near future as we continue to study and implement best customer service practices,” Thomas explained.

“Our goal is to provide high-quality customer service to each and every one of our stakeholders,” said Fuhrey. “It is the organizing principle for how we improve student achievement, our workforce, culture and climate, and operational effectiveness. As such, we are very honored to receive the GSBA Leading Edge Award for our Customer Service Initiative. This program is not a one and done. We will continue to monitor our customer service practices to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our stakeholders, whether they be students, staff, parents, business leaders, parents in education, etc. That is our goal, and we are working hard to achieve it.”