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HEART program celebrates a year of service

CMSD is well on its way to training all employees in the Communicate with HEART program, but the push to dramatically upgrade customer service won’t end there.

HEART, which marked its first anniversary on Valentine’s Day, will seek to build and sustain momentum by honoring employees who provide exemplary service. The first six standouts were surprised with gifts at work Tuesday, and quarterly recognition will follow.

A committee that meets every Monday morning to discuss the program also intends to keep spreading the word that CMSD is serious about hearing, respecting and promptly acting on questions, needs, complaints and concerns.

“We need to be looking at marketing, and not just to our own people,” said committee member Bill Stencil, who also works with Humanware, a District program that supports students’ social and emotional learning. “We have to get the word out to our visitors, our parents, our scholars, our colleagues. We want people to know what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The six employees honored this week were: David Staufeneger, Human Resources, supervisor of administration; Danny Kelly, Family and Community Engagement, student and family recruitment specialist; Valentina Moxon, academic superintendent, network support leader; Willie Henderson, Central Kitchen, truck driver; Dedra Ross, Woodland Data Center, senior purchasing specialist, ERATE; and 
Lori Olszewski, Denison, principal secretary

heart logo Origins of HEART program
The Cleveland Clinic created Communicate with HEART and let the District use the trademarked model for free.

The program consists of two parts: START with Heart for customer service (the acronym stands for Smile and greet warmly; Tell your name, role and what to expect; Active listening and assist; Rapport and relationship building; and Thank the person) and Respond with HEART for “recovery” when customers are unhappy with their service (that acronym stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Respond and Thank.)

CMSD launched the program because anecdotal evidence and exit interviews indicated many families who left the schools did so because they didn’t like the way they had been treated.

Since then, District trainers have taught the method to all the departments at CMSD’s downtown headquarters, other administrative offices that have been consolidated at the East Professional Center and staff at 80 of the 100 schools.

About three-fourths of CMSD’s 8,000 employees have completed training. The remaining number may seem relatively small, but jobs will turn over and the work will go on.

“Mystery shoppers” test the training’s effectiveness. CMSD also offers customer satisfaction surveys that can be taken by stopping at a computer in the District’s downtown Welcome Center or by clicking on a link at the end of emails from District employees. As of Jan. 30, customers had completed 269 surveys.

Stencil said the cultural transformation remains in its early stages, but there are promising signs.

“You can hear people saying things like, ‘That was HEART-like.’ You hear people saying, ‘That person does a great job of responding with HEART,’" he said. “It’s like a snowball – you roll it and pick up a little more snow. We pick up people.”

District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon introduced HEART a year ago with Dr. James Merlino, then the Clinic’s chief experience officer. Merlino wrote “Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way,” a book that was released in the second half of last year.

The Clinic deserves “major credit” for progress achieved so far, said CMSD Ombudsman Ronald Kisner, another HEART committee member.

Clinic representatives taught the model to CMSD trainers and then helped execute the program during much of the first year. They continue to assist when called.

“They helped us, really, to structure everything,” Kisner said. “They have been right there with us all the way.”