Customer Service ABCs

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Wilson
  • 21st Force Support Squadron commander
Regardless of our mission, specialty or rank we all provide some form of support, and our ability to deliver unrivaled customer service is fundamental in achieving any Department of Defense objective.

The quality of an organization's service is one of the most researched, prioritized and sought after values of any successful corporation. Legendary business leaders like Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Sam Walton and Bill Gates understood the paradigm that being the smartest, cheapest and fastest is not the singular secret to success.

Bill Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest people on the planet, once said, "Analytical software enables you to shift human resources from rote data collection to value-added customer service and support where the human touch makes a profound difference."

Since service is one the Air Force's foundational values, it stands to reason that we should be the global leader on the topic, always searching for methods to increase efficiency, decrease waste and provide our customer with the fastest, cheapest and most effective capability we are tasked to deliver. Customer service is a concept much like all of our core values, simple to explain but not easy to accomplish. Below are what I consider to be the A B Cs of providing unrivaled customer service.

Always Ask for feedback
The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer. Feedback is never a bad thing, even when it is negative and narrow sighted. If we truly value the quality of our service then we must not be afraid to hear our customers' perceptions. There is usually a grain of truth even in the harshest assessment. Consider all feedback, seeing what trends appear, and use all the data, both positive and negative, to make sound future decisions. Real inspirational leadership and "Service before Self" is found in our ability to see the reality presented to us, adapt our process and deliver what the customer really needs. 
Be professional
Extraordinary customer service is not about the customer, it is about the level to which the professional is committed to service and excellence. Some customers are easy to please and others can be nearly impossible but excellence in service is more about how you serve and less about whom. Always be the ultimate professional regardless of customer attitude. With the mantel of "subject matter expert" comes the responsibility to understand both what the customer wants and what they need. Very often the outcome of this service is not satisfaction or happiness. I call it the dentist office experience. You rarely leave feeling good but the service provided was absolutely critical and outstanding. Often the right answer, best for the institution and the individual, is not what they want to hear. Unrivaled service is always about professionalism, expertise, honesty, patience and most importantly FOLLOW-UP.

Courteous Communication is Critical
A lesson learned from many years of experience in Personnel and Services activities is answer the phone! Customers are not a transaction. Customers do not expect perfection, genius or miracle workers, but they absolutely insist upon service that is respectful, timely and endeavors to solve the root problem. CEO Ron Gutman famously said "When you smile, you don't only appear to be more likable and courteous, you appear to be more competent." In the 21st Force Support Squadron our goal is to exceed our customer's expectations . Bottom line--Live by the Golden Rule when providing customer service!