The Teacher as a Customer

When doing an exam I also suggest that students think of their teacher as a customer or client.

A customer is someone who requires something from another. While obviously there are customers who buy things, there are other types as well. This is another example of there being an extra dimension.

In organizations we often talk about "Internal Customers."

The staff from one department are often the customers of another because they require something from them. Often it is a "two–way street" as both departments require something from the other. In an advertising company the creative staff require a clear brief from the client managers. In return, the client managers require the creative staff to develop advertising concepts to sell to the firm's customers. They are both internal customers of the other.

Organizations often encourage staff to think this way, as the whole point in dealing with a customer is to provide good service so that businesses run more smoothly and profitably.

It is the same at school or university. A student is a customer of the institution they are attending. The school or university needs to provide a good product (education) and it needs to provide an environment that is safe and enjoyable.

However, the extra dimension is that this is also a two-way street. The institution is also a customer of the student who needs to provide it with the evidence (appropriate grades) so that it can award the appropriate mark, certificate or degree.

A student and their teacher are also customers of each other;

The teacher needs to provide good tuition to allow students to achieve the grade they are after.

Students need to provide teachers with the evidence so they can give the grade the student is after for each assessment task.

"Selling" our Exam Answers.

When we write an exam answer we are trying to "sell" the teacher our work.

When selling something we need to make it easy for the customer to buy. In marketing we often also work to “remove any barriers that may stop our customer buying.”

AppleTM has done this with iTunes. They have it set up so that it takes just seconds to search for a band, listen to their songs and then buy one.

Mobile phone companies do it with their phone plans. Successful companies make it very easy for us to find the plan we want and then to buy it.

At some stage you may have searched for a mobile phone plan and then not be able to find it in the maze of their web pages and information. You may well have given up and gone to another company, so the sales process is failing.

Both Apple and successful mobile phone companies know the process that a potential customer needs to go through to buy their product. They know each step the customer needs to go through before they hit the “Buy" button. These steps include the thought processes that a potential customer goes through.

It is exactly the same when a student is “selling” their exam answer to their teacher. They need to know the steps the teacher goes through when they mark their work.

So, in an exam answer, what does a "customer" really want?

What does the person marking the exam need? And what do they want? We need to look at it through their eyes.

Another important marketing concept is to give our customers what they want, not just what they need. For example, "what I need is a drink to quench my thirst. What I want is a very large beer ;-) ."

We need to encourage students to not be shy about asking their customers (the teacher) what they want. Customers actually like it when we work to clarify what they really want. This is being professional. We are trying to ensure they are getting the best service we can give them.

Teachers, generally, also actually like it when students ask them questions. It is part of being professional about our work. This shows the student is interested and that they want to ensure that they understand their customer's requirements well so that they can provide them with a good service.

Think of the person doing the marking.

Teachers are trying to help their students. They want their students to pass and to get great marks.

Students need to help teachers help them.

The person marking the exam will also be marking tens or hundreds more. They are busy people and this marking is an extra load on them.

I have found that when I am marking I get very tired and so if a student’s exam answer is hard to read or to understand or if it is hard to find the answers that student is making it hard to give the marks. Of course people marking do their best to mark in a fair and unbiased way but when an answer is well structured and laid out the answers just jump out to the reader.

The well-structured answers are the fastest to mark.

It is the same in a professional job. Managers and customers find that the well-structured reports and proposals are the easiest to read and understand. This leads to the person writing in that manner getting the best results and rewards.

The required writing style.

As you know, in a work role you find that different managers or different customers have different preferences for the style of report.

Some want it short. Some want it to be more descriptive. Some want images to help explain things. Some want summary tables and graphs.

It is important to work out what style your manager or customer prefers so that you can present it in this way. It is simply giving the customer what they want.

For an exam, students need to check with their teacher how they like things presented. The teacher should be happy that the student is professional enough to ask this.