If you teach high school business or career readiness, you likely spend time teaching customer service skills.
And while there are a ton of resources available to help adults hone those skills, teachers often tell us they struggle to find relevant, engaging materials to teach customer service to high schoolers.
In this article, you’ll learn how to teach customer service skills in high school by following these six steps:
Start with customer service activities
Talk about why good customer service matters
Explore what good customer service looks like
Talk about empathy
Reflect on customer service skills
Discuss the role of a Customer Service Representative
We'll start with how you should introduce customer service lessons to your class.
1. Start with Customer Service Activities
When teaching any new unit, it’s common to start with an opening activity. This is important when teaching a soft skill like customer service because it immediately engages students.
Scenario-based activities provide crucial context to high schoolers so they understand what they’re doing and what’s up next.
But finding good scenarios to use is tough, and most teachers don’t have the extra time to write detailed activities.
With that in mind, here are two activities to kick off a customer service unit in your classroom.
Demonstration Activity: Ice Breaker
This activity involves you and a student acting out a short scenario in front of the class. The student will play the part of a customer service representative and you are a customer with a problem.
You can choose to write a full script or just go with the flow of conversation with your student. There are a lot of ways you can spice it up, such as being sad or angry.
Give your students prompts to make them feel the urgency of the situation, and gauge their reactions in the context you provide.
After a few minutes, open the floor for discussion amongst the class. Ask a few questions to get students thinking about different aspects of what they observed, especially if they would do something differently.
Group Activity: Role Playing
This activity will require a little more work on your end, but it goes more in-depth with customer service skills.
During the class, split students into groups of three. Students will be an observer, customer, or representative in their group.
Give students scenario cards and ask them to role play the scenarios they are given. The observer in the group will take notes to share afterwards.
Be sure to have students rotate roles so each student is an observer at some point.
The purpose of these activities is to give an overview of the importance of good communication and how an employee can affect the emotional state of a customer.
Your students will be ready to learn more about the specifics of why these skills matter now that you’ve broken the ice!
2. Talk About Why Good Customer Service Matters
After the class discussions based on your starter activity, it’s time to talk about why these skills matter.
Customer service plays a role in every job, no matter what career path students choose. In today’s competitive workforce, these skills can set them apart from other job seekers.
By explaining the importance of good customer service skills in this context, your students understand why it matters. That makes it easier for them to engage with your course material, which will help them remember information in the long run!
But how can you help them understand? Here are a few talking points:
Customers are the reason you have a job
Poor customer service loses money for companies and even individuals
Happy customers stay loyal
Unhappy customers frequently talk about their bad experiences
The best way to help students understand why good customer service matters is to ask them about personal experiences of good and bad service.
You’ll be surprised how detailed some of their recollections may be. And sharing their own story will help your lessons click compared to sharing anecdotal examples!
3. Explore What Good Customer Service Looks Like
Once your students grasp the power of good customer service, it’s time to dig into the details.
When teaching customer service skills, you'll quickly realize some students have a good idea of what good customer service looks like. But other students may not be able to recall any kind of customer service interaction they’ve had.
Regardless, it’s smart to cover all of your bases by discussing the different ways companies can provide customer service. With the increase in online customer service, it’s important to emphasize that both in-person and virtual communication are critical in giving customers a good experience.
Any interaction with a customer is a chance to provide excellent service -- whether it’s in a store, on the phone, or even in an online chat message.
Then, transition to the four key factors in providing great customer service:
For each of these key factors, relate back to the real-life experiences your students shared. That way, you tie your lesson activities together.
Class Activity: Reflect on Real-Life Experiences
One way to break up the lesson from a long discussion is to pass out a paper with four sections -- one for each key factor.
Ask students to fill in each section with an example of one time they had a good experience related to that part of customer service.
Then hand out a second sheet and ask them to do the same with a bad experience.
Give the students a few minutes to think about their own experiences and fill out the pages. Then ask students to talk with their neighbors and see if they have any similar ones.
After a few minutes of the small group discussions, bring the class back together and call on a few individuals to share with the class.
You could increase class participation further by having students raise their hands if they had a similar experience to another student.
Tip: If you are running low on class time, ask students to fill the sheets out as homework and start the next class by going over them.
4. Talk About Empathy
Once your students have mastered the four key factors of good customer service, it’s time to talk about empathy, or someone’s ability to understand and express another person’s feelings.
Having empathy for others can quickly improve any customer service experience.
Start discussing empathy by asking about students’ experiences where they were frustrated, but a customer service representative still helped resolve their problems.
This turns every student’s experience into a case study where they can think about how the customer service representative viewed them, how they reacted to complaints, and more.
Class Activity: Customer Experience Scenarios
After the introductory discussion, provide some example scenarios for a few students to act out in front of the class.
The scenarios should show a range of customer experiences involving different technology, emotions, and outcome.
Be sure your scenarios include notes about using specific:
Tone of voice
As students go through the scenarios, ask them to explain what the person is feeling based on what they observe. This will get them thinking about how to use that skill as an employee to provide a better experience to customers.
If you want to go more in depth with talking about empathy, ask questions such as:
Why do you think the customer was upset?
How would you respond to someone acting in this way?
Have you ever felt someone didn’t understand your frustrations?
5. Reflect on Customer Service Skills
To wrap up your lessons on customer service, it’s a great idea to have students look inward at their own skill set related to what you’ve taught.
That’s the perfect way to introduce an ending activity!
Activity: Check Your Customer Service Skills
Provide a list of multiple choice questions for students to answer with different scenarios a customer service representative may encounter.
Each question should relate to skills a customer service representative will need, such as good communication and critical thinking.
Once students have completed the scenario questions, have them self-grade using a rubric you share.
Then, review the scenarios and provide some tips for how students can be sure to always make the right decision and provide a great customer experience, no matter where they work!
6. Discuss the Role of a Customer Service Representative
Depending on how you lay out your course syllabus, you may want to include a final section on the role of a customer service representative (CSR).
A few things you could include in this additional lesson are:
Discussing the specific duties of a CSR
Giving examples of how performance is measured
Asking students if they know anyone who works as a CSR
You could even make this topic extra credit or something for students to work on at home!
Start Teaching Customer Service Skills Today!
Teaching customers service skills is a key piece of many business and career readiness courses, but doing so is harder than it sounds.
Luckily, the ideas in this article will help you better incorporate customer service skills into your curriculum and better teach your students. However, if you’re covering customer service right now, you likely need teaching materials you can use today.
If you want a free customer service lesson plan to introduce your students to these important concepts, download this free lesson plan.
In the lesson plan you’ll find a class discussion activity and group role play scenarios to get students interested and engaged in your customer service lessons: