Be Nice – More on Customer Service

Okay, bear with me, as I’m betting some of you might think I’m a little crazy for suggesting this, but here goes.  Next time you go out on a call, why not try to make it a pleasant experience for the complainant.  Yes, really.

We said it on day one: Customer service is the basis for our existence in the community.  We daily face open hostility toward our pensions, investigative reporters who want to expose our “shoddy practices”, negative comments, and a total lack of respect for the service we provide.  If you can step back and believe for a minute that some of this might be brought on by our own actions, then maybe you can see this for what it is.

Put yourself in their shoes.  Most people are embarrassed to call for help.  We hear it all the time: “I didn’t want to call you guys, but…”  Yes, “but” they didn’t know how to handle the situation, they didn’t have the tools, they have been having pain all day but finally came to the realization they needed to call 9-1-1, and so many other issues.  Or in many cases, the situation was out of their control and they needed you and your particular expertise.  Remember?  All that stuff you trained for years to do and are the first one to tell people, “Hey, putting out fires isn’t just putting water on a fire- it’s a science.”  Well, if anyone could do it, then, I’m betting they wouldn’t have called.

There is no reason why, when someone is having one of the worst days of their lives, that we can’t find the time to be a little bit nicer to them.  Be empathetic.  Be understanding.  Ask them if they want a drink of water from your cooler (then maybe they’ll see why you need a new cooler).  Take the time to see them as a fellow human being and you know what?  They might just see you the same way.

Take pride in showing your customers respect and I’ll bet they start to reciprocate.  And giving these individuals an unmatched experience is only possible through respecting their wants and needs.  I like to tell my personnel that we should be performing “concierge level” service for these customers.  “You need me to lock up the house before we leave?”  “Can I get you a warm blanket?” I’m not saying you have to take out the trash, but you know; we have people that have taken out the trash or done the dishes, knowing full well our little ol’ hip fracture sure as hell isn’t going to be doing it soon.

Does that bother you?  That we would lower ourselves to take out the trash or do dishes or cook a grilled cheese sandwich? Well, again, consider this.  What if it were your mother or your grandfather or your favorite aunt?  When you are helping someone shut off the water to their washing machine because they have a broken hose, think of how appreciative you’d be if a total stranger said, “Hey, look, you are having a bad day, can I help you clean up some of this water?”

If there is no other reason, remember, whether you are a career or a volunteer emergency service provider, we chose to do this because we believed that it is a respectable function in our community.  We chose this because of the prestige and the admiration others have for what we do and who we are.  If you are in it for the adrenaline, maybe you need to consider doing something different.  We, that is, the fire and emergency services, are moving forward, with you or without you.  If you choose to be part of this honored tradition, you need to remember what it is really about, and if you want thrills, perhaps you should go film an episode of “Jackass”.  Our calling is to serve others and to do so, we have to have some humility and understanding.  You’ll be surprised at how far it will get you.

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