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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

September 4, 2018

Extension Professionalism…Our Best Foot Forward

Submitted by Gregg Hadley

I said last week that I would write about some of the issues that we discussed at the recent State Extension Advisory Council (SEAC). For those of us who are new to K-State Research and Extension or for those of us who need a reminder, SEAC is our K-State Research and Extension advisory committee. It is made up of local board members who were voted by other local board members to serve as advisors to K-State Research and Extension administration.

One issue that a SEAC member brought forward this year is our professionalism. I believe this is one of those topics that 95 percent of us need reminded of five percent of the time, and, unfortunately, five percent of us need reminding 95 percent of the time. Today’s topic regards customer service, but I will cover another professionalism issue and a related issue in the next two Tuesday Letters.

Have you ever been to a store where the employee is just going through the motions of the job? Sometimes, they may barely recognize your presence or show distain that you made them look up from their cell phone. You may have to thank them for letting you buy something in their store before you get a barely audible and not too pleasant “No problem.” I guess we should be thankful that buying something from their business did not create a problem for them.

What about buying something from the fast food joint when the employee is simultaneously taking your order, talking on the headset to someone in the drive thru (or are they talking to a friend on their hands free device), impatiently gesturing with their hands in a poor attempt to order their colleague to do something, and preparing the previous customer’s milk shake? It almost makes you feel bad that your patronage adds to all of their busyness.

Worst yet, what about the times when you enter the automotive repair center and an employee is in an argument with a colleague or even a customer? It kind of makes you want to tip toe right out of that business, doesn’t it?

W. Edwards Deming once said “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.” I do not think any of these situations describe actions that are developing a repeat customer.

While our world is not one of profit or private enterprise, we are in the business of developing repeat education customers and having them boast about our educational programs and services. Do we always put our best foot forward and show how happy we are that they came to our office for an informational resource? Do we act distracted by the busyness of tearing down the meeting room when someone comes to you to ask a question after a workshop? Do we let our temper get the best of us when that one (you know the one) colleague, cooperator, volunteer, or customer crosses the line?

It is often said that it takes five positive interactions to make up for one poor interaction, but who’s to say if we will receive five additional opportunities from a disgruntled customer. We all have bad days, but we always need to remember that we are public servants working in full view of the public eye. We need our educational customers to become repeat customers who willingly advocate to their friends and elected officials about how great we are. Even when we are at our worst, we need to give the people we serve our best foot forward.