Customer Service

I am currently without prospective teacher clients at an annual World Language conference in Lansing, Michigan and reeling from an interchange I had with a client/language colleague/friend who is newly retired from the teaching profession. She created quite a surprise when she suddenly announced last summer her intention to transition to the next stage of her life.

I have spent a lot of time working with her in her suburban Michigan school system as they dismantled the language lab that they had come to love as a valued part of their curriculum and replaced their cabled Dinosaur with a new VOIP software lab. My experience with software labs tells me that they are great in theory but are often victimized by interaction with the network within which they are newly housed. What this means to the novice is that once the glitch-less software is installed, it might be compromised by interactions with its network’s software components and varying permissions’ issues. IT departments within the schools have their own inherent problems: overwork of their employees, lack of knowledge of software issues (in some cases) and/or a lack of concern or care for World Language teachers and their lesson plans, frustrations, and time commitments. Add into this mix that those of us who count ourselves as language educators generally realize that we are eccentric (usually in a good way) and truly a breed apart (I can say that because I am a French teacher by trade and preparation)!

One might ask where I am going with this. My suburban colleagues had their software installed only to find what they deemed to be an inferior language learning situation component in their midsts! Glitches occurred as they normally do. The more the software is used to capacity, the better, issues flow forth and if documented and treated, easily dealt with. However, given the nature of in school IT departments and the idiosyncrasies of World Language teachers, success is not always quickly reached. Teachers don’t always have the time within their busy days to document issues, IT people may not have the time or the wherewithal to handle the problems. Teachers get frustrated at the need to incessantly change lesson plans. They are already under intense pressure to give their students all the information to reach a pre-specified level of learning. This frustration leads to not using the seemingly “damaged” lab and thus they neither test nor document the issues. Software companies don’t get called and tempers flare. Sometimes things take a long time to gestate and by the time the customer service end of the companies hear about the problems, they are like the Little Prince’s baobabs and have grown totally out of proportion! Add to this recipe the reaction of the software companies’ IT/Customer Service personnel who are often ill-prepared to deal with the firestorm of frustration that ensues. Being IT people sometimes means that verbal and written communications from them will often be extremely direct and may appear to be accompanied by tone and/or attitude. This is what happened in this scenario. One year later, the software company hasn’t heard much from the school and assumes (incorrectly) that all is well. Teachers there think the new lab software is one huge fiasco and, as my friend put it, a whole year was lost and the whole scenario hastened her decision to retire!

So, how might better communications have avoided the misunderstandings about good language software that works and its interface with a network?

A. Establish consistent “check ins” by company IT people with clients to make sure everything is okay

B. Assign “point” people at the schools (someone in IT and on the teaching faculty); my pre-retirement high school had the luxury and intelligence to listen to me and my colleagues over twenty years ago and put someone in charge of the facility!

C. Make sure that company IT people have the skills and attitudes for a good working relationship, there is no substitute for good interpersonal skills and we don’t all have them!

Companies must realize that just because the software works doesn’t mean it will work flawlessly in the new system. They need to communicate this at the time of purchase and double their efforts to make sure the “new” network where the software is being introduced is not setting roadblocks to its success.

My friend and her colleagues have suffered and still suffer from the results of this installation mess. My question: “Is this rocket science?”

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Bonjour à tout le monde!

Going to try this again. Thought I had saved what I had written and obviously I hadn’t.

I am a 50 something individual trained as a language educator. I spent well over 30 years teaching French in a north suburban high school in the Chicago area. It was an amazing experience and I will most assuredly get into that at some point in time on this blog.

I have a wonderful family, have been married over 35 years to a wonderful woman, my best friend, and we have three wonderful sons (the eldest married to a beautiful, wonderful, young lady and with a beautiful daughter, the second currently in a relationship with a another beautiful, wonderful young lady, and the third is just breaking up from a rather unfortunate situtation with his wife). The first two live in IL and the third now lives in southern CA.

I am currently “pretired,” that is, retired from teaching, but still working. I would like to say that I coined this expression, but I didn’t. I was working full-time following my retirement in 2007 from teaching French. I worked as an Undergraduate Admissions Advisor (IL, MI, WI, IN, MN) for my alma mater, Ohio University (in Athens, OH) and also for ASC Direct Inc. (language labs and courseware). I retired from OU in 2008 and put myself completely into ASC. In June of 2010, due to recession based issues, I was put on a situation where I work sporadically for them. My job with ASC (business headquarters in Marshfield, MO and administrative headquarters in San Antonio, TX) consisted of training educators in the use of the language lab software, doing presentations, attending conferences to educate educational personnel on our products, and serving as a pedagogical customer support specialist.

I am originally from Ohio, the Cleveland area, and at some point shall get into my reasons for leaving. I think they are quite interesting.

I have many different hobbies. I dabble in gardening (I find it therapeutic), calligraphy, photography, and the like. I was a lit major in college for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (French) and love good literature. I prefer fiction. I love to travel, always have, and have spent much time in France. During the last 10 years of teaching, I was the Coordinator of an Exchange program between my high school and a high school in Strasbourg, France. This was a most rewarding thing across the board, my family and I have adopted more than one French person into our family

I love to stay as fit as I can. I love to ride my bicycle when I can, walk, hike when I can, swim, and the like.

I am an organization freak. I am also a bit of a minor league tech geek. The aforementioned is perhaps the major thrust of my entire existence and always has been. I am guessing that it is my need to control a world that isn’t always controllable. I also have a sense of humor, by the way.

This blog will be about all sorts of things. One day it may be language pedagogy, the next on how to organize a room. I may easily head into how to deal with people (usually difficult ones and I have many suggestions there as somehow I have much experience here), and how to use your common sense to rear your children. I have always thought about writing a book, perhaps this may even lead there.

So, Bonjour à tout le monde!