Shifting Your Mindset Around Complaints and Using Them to Uplevel Your School

As we begin to get back into our regular daily routines in our centers, we need to brace ourselves for the inevitable new list of complaints that we will be hearing from parents. While these complaints will be the last thing that we want to deal with, they will be much easier to navigate if we proactively strategize how to resolve them. And in this case, being proactive includes shifting our mindset in how we view complaints. (Two great books that I recommend that have helped me to do this are A Complaint Is A Gift by Janelle Barlow and Clause Moller, and The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson.)

We’ve all experienced both excellent and terrible customer service before, so we know the ramifications of both. Chances are, if you repeatedly experience great customer service somewhere, you will keep going back. You will even continue to go back when you finally do run into a time when the experience is not quite up to par once or twice because you have already built rapport with that business and can bet they are probably just having an unusually off day. But, what if you had a poor experience with a business during one of your first interactions with them? Odds are that you probably won’t be giving that business a second chance.

In this industry especially, we don’t get second chances at making a great first impression. But we are much more likely to get a second chance and be given grace when we have an off day by a family that we have already built rapport with. So often when someone complains, we instinctively go into defense mode because we let our emotions get the best of us. We are so fast to justify our decisions/actions, that oftentimes we don’t even fully listen to or try to understand the parent/staff member’s concern.

Think to a time where you had to bring up what you thought could be an unsettling complaint. You were probably nervous and stress-ridden from it, right? Think about how stressful it can be for a parent/staff member to bring a complaint forward. By coming forward, they risk putting a strain on the relationship they have with your school and may be disappointed with the response given and action taken, making them feel like they have to search for new care. But if given the opportunity, wouldn’t you rather listen to their concern and work together to resolve it rather then have them feeling like their only way to be heard is through gossiping with other neighborhood parents and taking to social media?

Taking all of that food for thought into consideration, shouldn’t we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the complainee and gain their perspective on the situation? Them coming forward could provide you a lifeline to salvage a relationship that you didn’t even realize was on the fritz. Most of the time it’s as simple as validating their feelings. You might even discover as you dig deeper into the issue that it really had nothing to do with your school at all and their complaint stemmed from an unfortunate case of taking out their anger and frustration from their personal life on you.

Sure, some complaints are just far fetched and ridiculous (we’ve all gotten a few of them), but for the most part receiving a complaint can be a valuable source of information. By gaining feedback, we are able to gain a different perspective on how someone is viewing our service. We need to train ourselves to WELCOME THE COMPLAINT and make them WANT to come to us with their feedback rather than bad mouthing our schools behind our backs.

Take a step back to ask yourself these questions and reflect on your answers – 

  • What is your center’s mind-set around complaints? 
  • How does your admin team view them? 
  • What verbiage do you use when conversing with one another about a complaint that has been received? 
  • Has your staff been trained on what sort of verbiage to use when receiving a parent complaint and what their communication process should be with your admin team to get the complaint resolved? 
  • Have you ever received a complaint in the past that has provided you with an opportunity to learn and grow from it? 
  • Do you have a clear system in place that allows parents/staff the opportunity to provide feedback? 
  • Do you continuously strive to reduce the amount of complaints that you receive?

We must be prepared to deal with a stressed out staff and emotionally depleted parents for the next few months, and brace ourselves for the inevitable higher than usual amount of complaints that we may receive. But I assure you, if you shift your mindset to embrace those complaints and work to resolve them rather than dismiss them, a lot less tears will be shed by everyone, including yourself!

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