How important are our customers to you?

  • Published
  • By Sherrie Briggs
  • Chief, Personnel ­Readiness Division, Directorate of Plans
Have you ever called a business or service company when you've needed assistance and got so frustrated that you finally gave up and hung up the phone? 

We all know how budget constraints and new technology can translate into more and more automated telephone contact. 

As times change, what was once an easy process has often times become a burden to both the business and the customer. 

The Air Force, like any other business, has had to adjust its processes as well.
Working in the fast-paced mobilization environment is a little different. We normally talk directly to the reservists to assist them. Sometimes they are calling us from the "area of responsibility," or just before being mobilized or deployed. 

These are real people, putting their lives on the line for their country. They have questions that need immediate attention and concern, and we provide that extra care that everyone deserves. 

I wanted to remind everybody today that the reservists on the other end of the line are real people with problems that are real and important to them -- whether they are mobilized or just sitting in a nonparticipating status. 

I believe that sometimes we become desensitized to that fact because it seems like we are always on the phone, and instead of thinking of the callers as people, we start to think of them as just another problem. 

I've experienced poor customer service myself within this organization. I answered a call from a customer who needed a document and had been transferred to my office by mistake. I don't believe in transferring people again once it's already happened to them at least once. So, I put the person on hold and contacted the correct directorate. 

When I asked if I had the right office I was told, "no." When I asked which office in that directorate was the correct one I was told "I don't know." There was no offer to find that out for me. I was very happy that I hadn't transferred the caller there! 

I did find the right office eventually and transferred the caller there for assistance. I thought at the time that if this is the kind of service an internal caller gets, what would have happened to this caller if I hadn't cared enough to get him to the right office myself? 

Good customer service skills are a learned response. We need to remember the basic rules of good customer service: 

-- Treat callers as you would like to be treated. 

-- If you don't know the answer, offer to find out and call them back. 

-- Treat all callers with the respect that they are due -- our customers have all made a commitment to defend our country -- let's make a commitment to them. 

-- Answer all calls with "a smile in your voice." 

I travel a lot representing the Air Force at individual mobilization augmentee and unit conferences as part of ARPC's cadre briefing team. 

I love to have Airmen of the audience tell me about the great service they get when they call ARPC. I hear it quite often, and I can tell you that the reservists really do appreciate the extra care and assistance. I'm always amazed that many customers even remember the name of the person who helped them. 

I also hear about the poor service they received. Please try to be the kind of person that is remembered for the good they have done. 

One final word -- our customers need to be important to us -- without them most of us wouldn't have a job.