Week 134

A look at how lessons from parent-teacher relationships at schools could be applied to community management and customer service.

Parent-teacher relationships and community management

Last week I met with a teacher at a primary school in our neighborhood in Mitte, both to get some input for our project on technology and autodidactic learning and to get some hints for my career pursuits. We discussed the nature of the school community and how to bring technology into the classroom – to the benefit of both the teacher and the students.

In terms of community management, parents of schoolchildren are a really interesting community to look at. The school is providing a service to the children as well as to their parents, who of course are deeply invested in seeing their children do well. My teacher acquaintance told me she has had plenty of colleagues who are afraid of parents, and who try to avoid them and their concerned questioning whenever possible. She has some interesting strategies for developing a good relationship with the parents and avoiding conflict, and these can be applied in many more areas of work than education. (If in search of business advice, for “parents,” read “customers.”)

Her philosophy when it comes to working with parents is complete transparency. She spends the first few months of the schoolyear concentrating on communicating with parents, as well as getting to know the kids. She makes sure parents know both how to contact her and that they are welcome to do so, and she takes time to answer their questions promptly and in detail. She mentioned that she uses Pinterest to collect her ideas about primary teaching and more specifically teaching math, both so that she can have a collection to refer back to and so she can quickly share links with parents about her teaching philosophy and methods. If they have any concerns or specific questions about her methods, she invites them into her classroom to watch class as it’s happening and see for themselves what it’s like. She said it’s especially from this gesture that she gets a lot of respect, since parents can then see how much patience and skill it takes to manage a 20-strong classroom of young children, and since they can understand more clearly why she goes about things the way she does.

This creates an atmosphere of trust and open discussion – she has nothing to hide from them, and there is no reason for parents to get upset if they know they can voice their concerns without hesitation. She is also able to feel more confident in her work, knowing that she and the parents are on the same page. They are also on same side – clearly working towards a common goal. This way she can make allies out of potential critics and opponents.

Transferring these ideas to business: this teacher, if she were a business, would be exemplary. In order to make her own work more effective, she gets her customers on her side, letting them in on the process and establishing trust.

What we read this week (16 Mar)

Our articles of the week: one man’s account of leaving Google, PayPal’s digital wallet, libraries of the future, thoughts on the New Aesthetic and some impressive customer service.

Quotes of the week

You want to have a mind that’s open enough to accept radical new ideas, but not so open that your brains fall out.

Michael Shermer

‘Customers’ are a repeating pattern of behaviour that expresses itself in people.

Faris Yakob

Articles of the week

  • James Bridle: #sxaesthetic
    Great commentary on the New Aesthetic and human collaboration with technology, resulting from a panel discussion at SXSW. With cameo appearances by the Higgs Boson, Kafka and Wikileaks.
  • TechCrunch: PayPal’s New Digital Wallet
    PayPal is looking to “let consumers do things with their money that have never been possible before.” Will these new options prove more convenient, or more problematic?
  • Undercurrent: How Bergdorf Goodman is Killing it in Digital
    Derrick Bradley recounts “one of the most pleasant digital encounters with a brand.” Bergdorf Goodman’s customer service went a couple small steps further than one would expect, making a huge difference in Derrick’s experience.
  • James Whittaker: Why I Left Google
    James Whittaker explains how “sharing” became a bee in Google’s bonnet, and how the ensuing social-oriented projects eventually led him to leave the company.
  • Rachel Coldicutt: The Joys of Having Nothing to Read
    Rachel Coldicutt of Caper gave this talk last year as part of the London Word Festival. Here she tells us why the libraries of the future shouldn’t make it too easy for us to find what we’re after: in other words, why they should “offer you sprouts when what you want is ice cream.”

What we read this week (Dec 23)

This week’s reading list features a Google tablet, Facebook as a customer service tool, stats on mobile and social media in Japa, thoughts on Amazon’s role in changing e-publishing and much more.

Ubiquitous computing is roughly the opposite of virtual reality. Where virtual reality puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live out here in the world with people.

Mark Weiser

What we read this week (Dec 16)

This week we read about smart homes, customer service, remix culture as the new prohibition, patents, Facebook’s revenues and ROI in Social Media Marketing.

Quotes of the week

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be creating things on the web. This year’s advances in browsers, standards, and smart thinking have enabled us to finally begin to web design. We’re no longer forced to think of the web as a digital reproduction of physical pages, but rather to finally embrace it as its own thing.

Dan Cederholm

The hardest thing to do, and I think the most important, is for agency leaders to unlearn everything we’ve been taught over the years. It’s very hard for people my age to admit they don’t know anything. Fact is, when I was young, I asked older people for advice. Now I’m old, and I ask younger people for advice. Our role as leaders is no longer to be the experts.

Clark Kokich, Razorfish

Articles of the week

  • Can’t get no satisfaction: Why service companies can’t keep their promises
    Dave Gray of Dachis again with another look at the service economy and the foundations for a decent customer service.
  • Homesense Final Report
    Georgina Voss and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino ran the Homesense project for two years, and helped a number of households enhance their homes through networked technology. (No internet fridges, though!) Here’s the final report with their key findings.
  • Waxy: No Copyright Intended
    “Remix culture is the new Prohibition, with massive media companies as the lone voices calling for temperance.” – A wonderfully insightful article by Andy Baio about a generation of people growing up without even understanding the fundamental concept of copyright.
  • TechCrunch: Apple Made A Deal With The Devil (No, Worse: A Patent Troll)
    Especially over the course of the last 12 months, we have seen an increase in the number of lawsuits targeting manufacturers of Android-based devices. Some of them came from Microsoft, some from Oracle, but mostly it was Apple who was trying to prevent others from competing with their products. In an unusual journalistic quality, Jason Kinacid from TechCrunch depicts how Apple transferred valuable patents to a company that can only be described as a patent troll to increase the opportunity for lawsuits. While the use of patents in general is debatable, it becomes obvious that Apple is using those tactics not to protect their assets, but to hinder innovation.
  • Business Insider: Facebook’s Revenue Numbers Just Leaked, And The Numbers Look Underwhelming
    An interesting glimpse into what seem to be Facebook’s revenues. Let’s just say: Facebook is definitely turning a solid profit, but failing the high expectations. Read the full article for some more concrete meat.
  • What I Learned When I Started a Design Studio
    Khoi Vinh with valuable insights that apply to many more businesses than just design studios.
  • There is No ROI in Social Media Marketing
    Sean Jackson, CFO of Copyblogger, says that asking for the RoI of social media is like asking for the RoI of your employees using email. Marketing is not an investment but an essential communication tool.