How dedicated to serving your public are you? We seem to pay a certain amount of lip service to “serving the public, 24/7, 365” in our mission statements. I always hear how proud we are to “serve”, but do we draw the line at putting out fires? Carting them to a medical facility? Or are you in an organization who will put someone back in bed or stop a leak until a plumber can get there?
I hear about all-hazards response all the time, but do we draw the line at “hazards”, or do we raise the bar a little? While I don’t advocate anyone in our jurisdiction calling 9-1-1 because they need help completing their tax return, if a situation really does affect our customer that they had to dial that number, aren’t we charged with understanding how this is perceived as an emergency before saying we won’t help?
My wife owns a flooring company. While a floor product delivery may not constitute an emergency issue to you, to her company, when a customer needs a product someplace at sometime, if it isn’t there, it creates issues that may effectively stop the completion of the project, be it a remodel or new construction. This week, a delivery had to go from the manufacturer directly to the project location in another state. To the trucking company, excellent customer service was a non-issue: After neglecting to send the materials in a truck with a lift gate, they decided, “Oh well, you’ll just have to wait until we can get a truck to do that later.” Later being three days later.
They had a pretty blase attitude about the whole thing, despite the fact that they were contracted to deliver something, they had an obligation to deliver it at a certain time and place, and being the subject matter experts on shipping, should have probably realized that they weren’t going to just hand-carry 3900 pounds of product off the truck (especially since they had to use a fork-lift to get it on there). Then to compound the issue, they weren’t very careful about how the product was loaded and they damaged some of the pieces. Again, “Oh, well…”
Dedication to customer service requires a “can do” attitude; it might seem to be outside your scope of practice, but depending on what your marketing strategy happens to be – and make no mistake about it, your mission statement and vision is your marketing strategy when you are fighting for ever-dwindling tax funds or donations – your organization will be faced with very specific situations in which you will have to stretch your resources to “make it happen”. In our case, we rented a truck, picked up the material from the trucking company and delivered it ourselves. The customer was completely thrilled.
In my wife’s company, we hope our efforts will be recognized in customer loyalty and a willingness to pass the word on. In emergency services, we hope that the care we take with each challenge is shared loudly when budget time or the annual fundraiser comes around. You can draw the line where you choose, but in these times of limited funds, can you afford to ignore the added value of extraordinary customer service? It is extra effort that will distance you from the rest of the pack. When a decision must be made between funding an analysis of the migratory path of earthworms in your community and cutting firefighters, that’s ammo you can’t afford to ignore. The next time you are drooling over your wish list and realizing you can’t afford things, remember the choices you made as to where you drew that customer service line.