Changing the paradigm to HRM customer service

  • Published
  • By Col. Sean McElhaney Pahia
  • Air Reserve Personnel Center vice commander
In July 2015, Lt. Col. Michael A. Ortiz authored a ground breaking article entitled "Dream Big: Air Force personnel must keep pace with today's digital customer." The article chronicled Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center's crusade to improve customer and agent experience by harnessing industry leading technologies and using them to create a personnel enterprise information technology architecture that keeps pace with today’s technology savvy digital customer.

As Ortiz developed his article, the ARPC team simultaneously worked to create a customer and agent experience that is not solely reliant on technology. As a result, our team has undergone a paradigm shift in our behavior and way of thinking at the same time that we are optimizing the CX and AX through improved technology.

At ARPC, we no longer ask, "What do we provide our customers?" We now ask, "What does the customer want or need?" When that question is answered, we don’t stop there. We then ask, "How do we provide that level of service?” We strive never to say to our customers, "No, policy doesn't allow it." In the end, we want to say, "Yes, and here's how we can do it.”

This paradigm shift sounds very simple, but it disrupts the normal patterns of bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy has its place to ensure the service provided to the customer is fair and equitable through laws, policies, and regulations. Even so, form must follow function. Organizational structure must support optimized processes and the effortless CX and AX for which we are striving. If we are improperly structured to support our mission, we are nothing more than a bureaucracy (in the most negative context of the word).

A poorly structured organization creates a rigid "Yes" and "No" customer service culture. We don’t want that. Instead, we search for the very reason laws, policies, and regulations were written in the first place.

We have found that the customer’s (the airman, the unit commander, and the combatant commander) desire almost always supports Air Force mission objectives. The problem is that tools originally intended to facilitate the mission, now stand between the customer and the mission objective. Focusing on the customers' wants and needs first, opens the door to limitless possibilities.

Instead of interpreting laws, policies and regulations as the end all be all, we now look at laws, policies and regulations as an empowering tool to provide service levels our customers deserve. Whenever these empowering tools seem to limit our abilities, we take the extra time to diligently research the history of the affected law, policy, and regulation. We are then better educated as to the reasoning behind those empowering tools and able to determine if any updates are needed to keep them current, relevant and mission focused.

For example, ARPC has authored two legislative change proposals that will improve officer promotions. The first one will remove the requirement to conduct promotion boards on individuals who recently left the service. The second change will allow fully qualified lieutenants to be promoted without having to meet a supplemental board. In both cases, it saves the customer time and prevents unnecessary negative results.

At ARPC, we truly care about our customers and want to deliver the best service to generations of airmen. Even though we are the only service in town for our “Airmen,” we acknowledge doing the job right in taking care of our Airmen, allows our Airmen to take care of the mission…"Fly, Fight and Win in Air, Space and Cyber Space."