Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Customer Service Doesn’t Matter
By Frank Ricci “Politics & Tactics”
Your fire department is missing the mark. We have failed to understand the game and we have paid a political price for our lack of vision.
Stand back and watch what happens the next time a stranger walks into your firehouse. Chances are the watchmen or firefighter will stay seated and ask how can I help you.
Even if they stand and are helpful we still fail as a service. The customer service era that started in the late 80s focusing on the tangible was the foundation for our current mindset. The meaning was to do the best job possible for our customers, but fell short of exceeding expectations. It was about providing the best service and not providing the best experience.
To be clear your department can provide great customer service and still not deliver on creating a great experience. Experience is based on emotion, etiquette and execution.
Lets go back to our friend (boss, citizen) entering the firehouse. Would the experience of our friend improve if the firefighter walked toward the visitor, made eye contact, introduce him or herself, and shook their hands, all while smiling?
Simon Cooper past CEO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company mastered providing an experience. He ran a chain where the customers could go down the street and stay for a lower rate with similar amenities. However where the other top hotels fell to the Ritz was by failing to provide consistency with the intangibles. The greetings, attention to detail and the simple smile, ironically these are the things that are not affected by budget cuts and cost nothing.
As the fire service we need to move from the customer service model and move to a customer engagement model.
It comes down to the perception of our customers. I tell my members at each alarm we can have a choice to leave the customer with one of three impressions.
1. The meeting results in indifference where nothing in gained and only an opportunity is missed.
2. The experience is poor and they leave the meeting thinking you are an ass.
3. You master customer engagement and provide the best experience possible while making a new friend.
Number three is more than a great introduction. It is about wrapping our friends in cotton. First and last impressions matter to our friends.
Take the time to hold a hand of an elderly customer letting them know that the medic crew is going to take great care of them.
Take the time after the call to answer questions and put the neighborhood kids on the fire engine. Remember you are there on our customer’s worst day. It is up to you to make the difference.
These customers are the friends who will write letters to the editor, attend government meetings and come out to fight the closing of a station.
Engagement is the key to the lasting impression that will ensure and bypass customer service. We can and must do better. Our core values and the work in the late 80s will serve as the foundation, yet we can not rest. Now is the time to build and move our service to the front.