Student or Customer?

“Pass terminal to customer.”

“Return terminal to clerk.”

The messages on our studio’s credit card processing machine remind me that my students are also my customers. I am their teacher, but also someone they are paying to receive a particular service.

In the reception area before and after class, I stand behind the desk, and they are my clients. Once we enter the studio space, I take my seat in front of the room and step into the role of teacher.

Here are some distinctions that make managing the dynamics of this dual relationship interesting to navigate:

The student comes to us to learn. The teachers responsibility is to give the student what they need, not necessarily what they want. In fact, the student might not know what they need, and that is why they come to you. The teacher is someone they can trust to move them in the right direction.

The customer, on the other hand, is there to be satisfied. To receive a service provided. As managers, we want the customer to be pleased, to feel loyal to us, to have a positive experience. What we do to deliver that might be very different if we are acting as a business owner rather than a teacher

Both relationships are built on exchange and transaction, but can come with very different expectations and promises.

Certain qualities, though, straddle the line and embrace all the roles we play. These include respect, integrity, welcoming, trust, friendliness, honesty, fairness, kindness, compassion, generosity, clear communication, appropriate boundaries, sincerity, authenticity, dependability, responsiveness. 

Perhaps if we stick to these we might find the place where everyone wants to be met, as human beings.