Being an avid reader, and a self-described student of customer service, on a recent trip to the local used bookstore I picked up a book by Tom Connellan, Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney's Success. The premise of the book is that Disney is always full of people, and considered the happiest place on earth (others opinions, not my own), and it has all to do with the culture of customer service that Disney celebrates. The fire service has much to learn when it comes to customer service, a good place to start is by implementing the 7 keys that Disney uses, and applying them to our organizations and fire prevention bureau's.
Lesson 1: The competition is anyone the customer compares you with.
Most people and organizations would not consider Disney to be a competitor. However, Connellan makes the point, that if one of your customers has ever had a Disney experience, or called their customer service line, then they are your competitor. They are subconsciously judging their interaction with your department against other customer service interactions that they have had.
In the public sector simple things can go a long way in providing a superior customer service experience. For example, when most people call a government entity (fire department, tax collector, voter registration, building department, etc.) they do not expect their call to be returned or to be really paid much attention to. Simply by answering the phone, and returning calls by the end of the same day (and promising to do so on your voicemail message) goes an extremely long way in improved customer service. For many, a phone call will be their first interaction with you.
Think about great customer service experiences that you have had and start to replicate those for others (businesses that provide great service that immediately come to mind are Mimeo, Publix, and Chick-fil-a).
Lesson 2: Pay fantastic attention to detail.
Always be looking for opportunities to serve the customer. If you can meet their need before they ask or even realize that it will be a need, then you will come out as a customer service hero. When providing customer service, don't stop at the bare minimum, but continue to help them throughout the process.
Notice what types of "details" get in the way of your departments ability to provide excellent service. It could be poorly written policy, employee actions (even if unintentional), or administrations mindset. If you notice a lack of attention to customer service detail, the best way to make a change is to start with yourself. Ensure that you are paying attention to the details.
Lesson 3: Everyone walks the talk.
What is the culture of your department? Is it one of customer service excellence? A culture that places customers/citizens needs and experience above all else? In order to provide a magical customer service experience everyone in your organization needs to be on the same page. Customer interactions should be the same no matter who they are talking to or dealing with. Often times, this requires a change in the entire culture of the department. The culture shifts starts with you and your sphere of influence.
Lesson 4: Everything walks the talk.
This is why we pride ourselves in clean vehicles and up-kept facilities. These things send a message to our community on there value to us. Ensure that you have working equipment and it is kept in good repair, do not park in the fire lanes when there is no emergency, ensure that your facilities are code compliant and free of fire/life safety issues. Maintain consistency in our message, in things spoken and unspoken.
Lesson 5: Customers are best heard through many ears.
Make sure that you are making time to get out and talk to people. Talk to the public, talk to the crews. Make and take as many opportunities to interact with the public as you can. What are people saying? What are they not saying? What makes them uncomfortable about the service offered? How can it be made more user friendly? Listen to your people (community/customers and crews/employees), act immediately on what is heard.
Lesson 6: Reward, recognize, and celebrate.
Do not let good performance slip by unnoticed. Our people often only hear feedback in a negative regards. Ensure that you are giving more positive feedback, reacting to positive actions, than you are giving negative feedback. Celebrate excellent customer service interactions. When customers/citizens write letters of praise, share them with the whole team.
Lesson 7: Xvxryonx makxs a diffxrxncx.
Like a typewriter with a broken key, so is an organization with a missing member. Make sure that every member of your team knows their importance and value. Make sure that everyone is pulling toward the same goal. Make sure they really, truly know that everyone makes a difference.
How can you apply these 7 principles to your organizations customer service strategy? How can you apply them to your own life, so that you are more aware of customer needs?