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Customer Service for Fire Departments

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Presentation on theme: "Customer Service for Fire Departments"— Presentation transcript:

1 Customer Service for Fire Departments
The how and why of being nice… Massachusetts Fire Service Project Customer Service: East meets West Revision: Summer 2008 Captain Jim Vuona – Shrewsbury Fire Contributors: Lt. Jeremy Souza – Swansea Fire Lt. Stephen Walsh – Quincy Fire Capt. Phil Field (EFO)– C-O-M-M Fire

2 Customer Service - Spring 06
Goals Provide the highest level of customer service to the community Enhance the image of your department and the fire service Customer Service - Spring 06

3 Customer Service - Spring 06
Objectives Understand the concept of customer service Define who our customers are Avoid the common pitfalls Examine the potential benefits Customer Service - Spring 06

4 Customer Service - Spring 06
Objectives Explain the ways customer service can affect us Improve communication skills Provide a higher level of customer service Customer Service - Spring 06

5 Customer Service - Defined
What is customer service? “An organization’s abilities to supply their customers wants and needs” Does this go far enough? … or should we exceed customers expectations?... And provide “excellent customer service” Does this go far enough for our customers? We want “excellent customer service” - The ability to constantly and consistently exceed the customers expectations How do we do this? Quote from Susan Ward, Your Guide to Small Business, Canada ( Customer Service - Spring 06

6 Customer Wants and Needs
What do our customers want? Make a list… Guide students toward and write on dry erase board Someone to help them, regardless of the problem Timely response Sympathetic to their problem Courtesy Understanding A solution to their problem Someone to Help Them Timely Response Sympathy Courtesy Understanding A Solution to their Problem! Customer Service - Spring 06

7 The Customer Service Model Phoenix Fire Department
Provide best possible service to Customers Always be Nice Execute standard problem solving outcome Regard everyone as a Customer Consider how/what you are doings looks Don’t disqualify Customer w/ your Qualifications Customer – centered Organizational Behavior Continually improve Customer Service From Essentials of Fire Dept. Customer Service. Alan V. Brunacini. Customer Service - Spring 06

8 It’s all about perception
It’s all about perception! Remember, to the Individual Perception is Reality Remember, perception is reality

9 Customer Service - Spring 06
Public Perception The attitudes that we have Treat everyone with respect Those on the front lines represent everyone The attitudes that we have in the presence of our customers goes a long way to perception Treat everyone with respect, whether you think they deserve it or not. It may not be an emergency to us, but it is to them. Those on the front lines represent everyone, whether you like it or not. Perception is reality to that person, whether we like it or not The lowest denominator is the one that is locked in on – one brings us all down Customer Service - Spring 06

10 Customer Service - Spring 06
The Golden Rule The Customer is Always Right… (even when they’re wrong!) It’s more important to be Polite, than Right! Customer Service - Spring 06

11 Customer Service - Spring 06
It starts at the top! Fire Chiefs and Company Officers must: 1. Provide leadership 2. Set a good example 3. Communicate the mission 4. Support the troops 5. Recognize outstanding effort Customer Service - Spring 06

12 Customer Service - Spring 06
                                         CitizenKARE Means Putting Citizens First! Knowledge Attitude Respect Excellence Customer Service - Spring 06

13 CPR…keeping customer service alive!
CPR keeps customer service alive! Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect….NYPD What do Police Officers and Firefighters have in Common? They both want to be Firefighters. Customer Service - Spring 06

14 Who are our customers? Anyone that interacts with the fire service,
on any level, is a customer Those with a “genuine” emergency – fires, critical medical emergencies, technical rescues, etc. Those with minor emergencies – noncritical medicals, alarm activations, investigations, etc Those interacting with us in nonemergency areas – public education, inspections, station tours, etc Those we meet off duty who associate us with the fire service Customer Service - Spring 06

15 Customer Service - Spring 06
Who are our customers? Customers are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna to get… Remember…You don’t know who they might know…Treat Everyone with Patience and Respect. and you never know who they know…. Customer Service - Spring 06

16 Turn ‘Lemons into Lemonade’
“Unhappy customers are always a concern. They’re also your greatest opportunity” Bill Gates CEO Microsoft Use your listening skills understand what the customer wants or needs. Turning the unhappy customer into a happy and satisfied customer is a tremendous opportunity to turn ‘Lemons into Lemonade’. Customer Service - Spring 06

17 Customer Service - Spring 06
Angry Customers The Assassin – tells others about your flaws Strategy: provide apologies ask for specifics seek win/win options avoid absolutes never underestimate their connections Follow up The silent assassin. He/she can do harm to your reputation. They are steaming about a percieved service flaw. When we don’t accommodate the assassin, he or she will tell everyone about the awful treatment they received. Don’t underestimate their connections Seek win/win options Avoid absolutes Focus on the follow-up Provide tangible “we’re sorry”s Ask for specifics From Sanders Customer Service - Spring 06

18 Customer Service - Spring 06
Angry Customers The Butcher – demands go to the extreme or the impossible Strategy: indicate you want to help explore alternatives develop a matching offer know your limit This customer takes demands to the extreme. It isn’t out of the ordinary for the Butcher to ask for the impossible. What makes the butcher difficult is that his demand is often followed by a threat unless he gets his way Indicate that you want to accommodate his request Explore alternatives to the request Develop a matching offer Know your limit Examine short term vs long term From Sanders Customer Service - Spring 06

19 Customer Service - Spring 06
Angry Customers The Pincher – nitpicks the small stuff, ignores the big stuff Strategy: don’t sweat the minor details redirect focus on the big picture be sure to document The pincher is a meticulous person. He/she will bicker and squawk over the most minute detail or discrepancy. Often this customer can’t see the big picture because he/she is looking at the small picture Sweat the details Emphasize value vs cost Know your limit Be sure to document From Sanders Customer Service - Spring 06

20 Customer Service - Spring 06
Angry Customers The Grenade – angry about one thing, rants about everything Strategy: allow them to vent find mutual agreement clarify problem/solution act promptly This customer is all emotion – he is mad about something specific, however is outburst is all ranging. He may spend more time yelling about the cause of his anger rather than the solution he desires. Allow him to vent Find mutual agreement Clarify problem/solution Act promptly From Sanders Customer Service - Spring 06

21 Customer Service - Spring 06
Angry Customers The Vampire – wants to make you angry more than fix the problem Strategy: tell them what you can do be empathetic don’t take it personal don’t respond in kind… that’s just what they want to Suck the Life out of You! This is the extreme grenade customer. The Vampire makes the service flaw a personal attack. He/she may be mad at someone else, but will suck the life force from you. Vampires make personal comments in their outbursts. They don’t want to solve the problem as much as make someone else angry. Their philosophy is “Someone is going to pay for my bad day” Don’t take it personally Tell them what can be done Be empathetic “escalate” him to an upper level, don’t sink to his Don’t respond in kind From Sanders Customer Service - Spring 06

22 Customer Service - Spring 06
The Bottom Line Listen to your customers Don’t argue with them Accommodate them promptly (if possible) Nod and smile! (when appropriate) Customer Service - Spring 06

23 “What you do to or for your customers is the difference between success and failure”
From Uncommon Sense, Leadership Principles to Grow Your Business Profitability, by Thomas Faranda Thomas Faranda

24 Pitfalls What could possibly go wrong? Add to dry erase board:
Broken promises/failure to provide the service Unpleasant surprises Unrealistic customer expectations Delayed responses Ignoring/minimizing the customer’s problem or concerns Bad manners Customer Service - Spring 06

25 What could possibly go wrong?
Broken promises/failure to provide the service Unpleasant surprises Unrealistic customer expectations Delayed responses Ignoring/minimizing the customer’s problem or concerns Bad manners Customer Service - Spring 06

26 Customer Service - Spring 06
Broken Promises You said you were going to save grandma! I scheduled an inspection for this morning and you didn’t show up! The public doesn’t always understand the nature and scope of the services we provide We can make those expectations unrealistic if we say the wrong thing If you can’t do it, don’t say you can! Customer Service - Spring 06

27 Customer Service - Spring 06
Unpleasant Surprises Forcing entry on false alarms. Tracking dirt into a home. Don’t create more damage than the Emergency!!! Hippocrates said “first, do no harm” Don’t create more damage than the fire did. Don’t leave all of your EMS wrappers and used equipment in the patient’s home – clean up after yourself. Customers call us to make their problems go away, not to make things worse. As Hippocrates said, “first, do no harm.” Customer Service - Spring 06

28 PFD - Mission Statement: Prevent Harm – Survive – Be Nice
The complete mission statement of Phoenix Fire Dept. “Do No Harm, Survive, Be Nice” Updated Mission of PFD- “Prevent Harm, Survive, Be Nice” Customer Service - Spring 06

29 Unrealistic Expectations
Why can’t you save grandma? Get inside my burning house and save fluffy! Take time to educate the public Movies and television aren’t reality The public doesn’t fully understand our job and our abilities. The Rescue 911/Emergency! effect – if they can do it on television, why can’t you do it for me? Public education can help to address this – have the public understand what we can do Explanations can go a long way to satisfying the customer. Trivia who are those guys? Roy Desoto and Johnny Gage from Squad 51 of the L.A. County Fire Dept. These FF Paramedics from 1970’s television show “Emergency” – it changed the public perception of the fire service. Customer Service - Spring 06

30 Customer Service - Spring 06
Delayed Response I called you 20 minutes ago! Perception of time slows down for people having emergencies Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Accurate timekeeping and alarm processing can help defend complaints, but the customer will feel wronged Good customer service and quality interaction with the customer can help to make the customer feel better, turning the problem around. Customer Service - Spring 06

31 Minimizing the Customer
This call is nothing, you should have seen what we had last shift It’s the third time we’ve been here this week – our response gets complacent Don’t disqualify the customer with your qualifications Remember, you are seeing the customer on their worst day You may have seen worse, and it may not seem like a big problem, but it is to the customer Don’t make the incident seem to be nothing – its something to them. Customer gets the same level of response every time Customer Service - Spring 06

32 Customer Service - Spring 06
Bad Manners “Firehouse language” has no place outside of the firehouse Making comments in poor taste can easily turn a good customer away If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, don’t say to the general public The public paints us with a very wide brush Rude or obnoxious personnel give all of us a bad name If you wouldn’t say it or do it in front of your mother, don’t say or do it in public! Customer Service - Spring 06

33 What’s it mean for me ? How does poor customer service affect us?
Make a list… Guide students towards, and write on dry erase board Political issues Department actions Legal issues Changes the difficultly and frustration level of the individual incident Political Issues Department Actions Legal Issues Makes the Call more Difficult Customer Service - Spring 06

34 Customer Service - Spring 06
Political Issues Angry customers tell people about their experience with you Satisfied customers don’t tell anyone Happy customers tell people about their experience, but less than angry customers According to Sanders, 1 angry customer will tell 11 others about their experience, and those 11 will each tell 5 others. That’s 55 people that are dissatisfied about your single bad service episode Those people can be your political leaders Fire service funding may be fought or supported by former customers, based on their experiences with you Friends and relatives of politicians may be customers – what goes around, comes around. Customer Service - Spring 06

35 Customer Service - Spring 06
Statistically The average customer tells 11 people about their unpleasant experience… Those 11 each tell 5 more…and so on… That’s 56 people negatively affected by one bad customer service experience From Sanders Communication. Customer Service - Spring 06

36 Customer Service - Spring 06
Department Actions Customers may complain to department/city administrators about your actions Poor customer service may result in disciplinary actions towards the personnel involved Good or bad service can create good or bad press – the press never forgets Good actions may result in awards or citations, or at least an “attaboy” Customer Service - Spring 06

37 Customer Service - Spring 06
Legal Issues Good customer service can sometimes make up for undesirable outcomes Bad customer service can lead to legal consequences Bad customer service can infuriate the customer to the point that they start legal proceedings, with or without negligent action on the part of the responder. Customer Service - Spring 06

38 Customer Service - Spring 06
What’s in it for us? How can Excellent Customer Service affect us? Professionalism Turns negatives into positives! Recognition (political/media) Positive public image Community support Keeps the Chief off my ***!!!! Customer Service - Spring 06

39 Build Community Equity!
What’s it all mean???? Winning hearts and minds (and votes!) Connecting with community partners Marketing the mission (life safety programs) Building respect for your department Every good turn you do for the public (the Customer) builds Equity in your department. Customer Service - Spring 06

40 Connecting with your Community
Get Involved! Get down to the community level and interact with the people we have pledged to protect. Get Involved and Make a Difference! Phoenix Fire Dept. Race Car – financed and supported by Community Partners and Businesses in the City of Phoenix, AZ. Community Involvement on the front bumper says it all. Customer Service - Spring 06

41 Public Education & Life Safety Programs
NFPA – Risk Watch NFPA - Learn Not to Burn Curriculum Massachusetts – S.A.F.E. Program Public Education and Safety Programs are components of risk management for your community! Customer Service - Spring 06

42 Customer Service - Spring 06
Massachusetts – Department of Fire Services – Champion Program. Since inception of the S.A.F.E. Program (Student Awareness of Fire Education) there has been a 66% decrease in Fatal Fires. Raising a Fire Safe generation. Customer Service - Spring 06

43 Customer Service - Spring 06
Station Visitors First impressions Professional and courteous Any interactions with the public should be viewed as an educational opportunity! Remember: First Impressions – are forever, and there isn’t a second chance. Kids are like sponges, Take the opportunity to teach simple safety lessons, they may make a lasting impression. Customer Service - Spring 06

44 Customer Service - Spring 06
USFA – PIER Program Public Information Public Education Public Relations USFA - Strategies for Marketing your Fire Dept. Today and Beyond USFA Publication (1998) – Strategies for Marketing Your Fire Department Today and Beyond Example: Remembering When Program addresses – Provides: Public Information, Public Education and is Great Public Relations. The PIER Program – Public Information, Education and Relations are all interrelated and essential to the Success of your Department. Customer Service - Spring 06

45 Customer Service - Spring 06
Communication Skills Each of us holds the key to good customer service: Quality appearance Controlling emotions (ours and theirs) Controlling attempts at humor Appropriate language in the presence of others Each bullet discussed separately in upcoming slides Customer Service - Spring 06

46 Customer Service - Spring 06
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Your ATTITUDE will always show through. Be Open and Positive when conveying the message, it makes all the difference. Customer Service - Spring 06

47 Controlling our Emotions
Maintain a level attitude Their worst day, is our everyday Don’t escalate the situation Stay away from ‘road rage’ Be nice! Customer Service - Spring 06

48 Arrival – EMS incidents
Greet the customer in a friendly manner Perform your assessment in a friendly, professional way Use your listening skills Many customers are repeat business, they are comparing you to other responders’ actions Customer Service - Spring 06

49 Controlling their Emotions
Don’t interrupt the customer Acknowledge their problems Confirm the details Outline steps to solve their problems Provide updates, both good and bad Get their input to solve the problem Get their name and use it – making it more personal helps to defuse Don’t interrupt – customers don’t appreciate it Listen to what the customer says about their problem, make sure you know exactly what the problem is Try to come up with a solution that works with the customer, don’t brush them off or ignore them Customer Service - Spring 06

50 Customer Service - Spring 06
Humor Attempts at humor can ruin good service If you have to ask, then don’t use it If you aren’t good with humor, don’t try to use it Stay away from jokes about gender, race, color, religion, or sexual preference Make light of yourself, never the customer or their problem Humor leads to minimizing – it makes the customer feel less than what they are Customer Service - Spring 06

51 Customer Service - Spring 06
Language Our words often say more than we mean Don’t talk down to the customer Use friendly tones - it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it Be careful what you say Use friendly tones – don’t talk down to the customer Stay away from foul language – anywhere the public can hear it is off limits Customer Service - Spring 06

52 Customer Service - Spring 06
Listening Maintain eye contact Give customer exclusive attention Appropriate distance Be friendly Stay open and positive Nod and affirm what they say Remember the relationship between ‘the Sender and the Receiver’… Affective Communication is a Must. Customer Service - Spring 06

53 Customer Service - Spring 06
Appearance How you look often says more than what you say or do Take pride in your appearance First impressions are permanent – if you don’t look professional, you may be perceived not to be Neat and clean hair/clothes No offensive odors Receptive body language Smile and be friendly! Customer Service - Spring 06

54 Customer Service - Spring 06
Appearance Although the firefighter on the left (now retired) is in reality a very knowledgeable and skilled firefighter, his appearance does not demonstrate that to a potential customer. Which of these two photos would inspire more confidence in a customer? Customer Service - Spring 06

55 Organization Behavior
Fire departments must be consistently focused and centered on serving the customer Customer service should be an institutionalized value in your department. Customer Service - Spring 06

56 Bringing it to the Field
Fire and EMS runs with the customer in mind Any emergency scene customer service will have a teamwork component – everyone must be on the same page when it comes to customer service!

57 Customer Service - Spring 06
Taking the Call Dispatchers must be courteous The only voice the public associates with the fire department If the dispatcher made the caller angry, you get to deal with the aftermath Focus on the call Answer within 2 to 3 rings – customer’s anxiety increases with every ring Be courteous Transfer call properly (if needed) Smile – although they can’t see you, it will project over the phone Customer Service - Spring 06

58 Customer Service - Spring 06
Answering the Phone Fire Headquarters Name / Rank How can I help you? Use your proper fire department guideline for answering the telephone. Identify yourself and your department and ask how you can be of help. Customer Service - Spring 06

59 Customer Service - Spring 06
Dispatching Customers can hear you dispatch Many customers have scanners, they hear everything you say Stay professional on the radio Many customers have scanners – they know what everything we say really means No disparaging comments or personal information over the radio Customer Service - Spring 06

60 Customer Service - Spring 06
Responding Drive courteously! The public knows who to complain to about your driving Road rage and 20-ton vehicles – don’t mix. Set a good example – Wear Seatbelts! Know the rules of the Road, drive defensively. Customer Service - Spring 06

61 Treatment – EMS incidents
Introduce yourself Explain what you are planning to do Don’t condescend Don’t argue with your partner Clean up after yourself, particularly after nasty calls Refrain from arguing with your partner in front of the patient – don’t expose your patient to your conflicts Customer Service - Spring 06

62 Transport – EMS incidents
Make the patient comfortable Humor usually isn’t appropriate At the hospital, hand off your patient in a respectful manner Keep from disparaging remarks Visit the patient just before you return to quarters – leave on a good note Even if you think something is funny, your patient or their family might not – don’t risk offending people Customer Service - Spring 06

63 Arrival – Fire Incidents
Park for safety, but do not block traffic unnecessarily If possible, leave a driver with the apparatus to move if blocking parking spaces Be respectful of property when laying hose lines or setting up equipment Don’t drive or park apparatus in a mean way “because we can” Do not damage property with equipment – tearing up lawns, damaging vehicles, etc Customer Service - Spring 06

64 At work – Fire incidents
Try before you pry! Do not break things “because we can” Perform salvage work with a serious intent Show compassion towards those who’ve had a fire Stay away from “nice fire” high-fives and laughing/joking in front of residents/business owners Customer Service - Spring 06

65 Customer Service - Spring 06
After the Fire Try to leave the building in a good condition. Salvage work continues after the fire is out. Assist the occupants in working with their insurance company. For businesses, do what we can to help restart them at a temporary location. Mention “After The Fire” booklet from US Fire Administration. Customer Service - Spring 06

66 After the Fire! Returning to Normal
Free from U.S. Fire Administration Booklet or Downloadable PDF File Available free from U.S. Fire Administration Website. Complete Booklet to help residents (Customers) who have experienced a fire loss. Customer Service - Spring 06

67 Applying Customer Service to Real-Life Calls
Scenarios Applying Customer Service to Real-Life Calls

68 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 1 You respond with your company and a private ambulance to a 58 year old female not breathing. Your company arrives in less than 3 minutes. Upon arrival, you find the patient in cardiac arrest, with four family members there. You recognize the patient’s husband as a town selectman. Firefighters and paramedics use an AED to quickly manage to restore the patient’s heart rhythm on scene, another comforts the family. She survives the incident. Customer Service - Spring 06

69 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 1 - Discussion What is the customer’s perception of the call? What things went right? What things went wrong? What outcome can be expected from the call? The customer should have a good perception – a good outcome and professional service Everything went well Nothing went wrong Outcome - Future support and/or funding for fire department activities, better rapport with town administration Incidents like this show the “working in a fishbowl” effect – you never know who is watching your performance Customer Service - Spring 06

70 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 2 Your engine company responds on a first alarm assignment to a room and contents fire in a dwelling. After a quick knockdown and overhaul, firefighters are seen giving each other high-fives on the lawn in front of the family. Customer Service - Spring 06

71 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 2 - Discussion What is the customer’s perception of the call? What things went right? What things did go wrong? What outcome can be expected from the call? Department will look bad because of our celebrations, even though the call went well Technically, the knockdown went well Bad manners caused joking after the fire The occupants may complain to the press, friends, or the department administration. Goes back to the one-tells-eleven concept Customer Service - Spring 06

72 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 3 You respond to a residential fire alarm activation. Your crew parks on the lawn, forces entry through a front door, and destroys several expensive vases in the homeowner’s collection. When confronted about the damage, the company officer swears at the homeowner, shouting “don’t tell me how to do my (insert colorful exploitive) job.” Could the occupant be a powerful person in the community, such as a lawyer or prominent businessman? Customer Service - Spring 06

73 Customer Service - Spring 06
Scenario 3 - Discussion What is the customer’s perception of the call? What things went right? What things did go wrong? What results can be expected from the call? The customer will not be happy about this call – lots of damage and hurt feelings for no reason Nothing seems to have gone right – we would have been better off if we hadn’t responded at all Parking on the lawn, destroying a door for no reason, breakage of owner’s belongings, arguing with a justifiably angry customer The homeowner would most likely file a complaint, possibly resulting in disciplinary action within the department, bad press, or political implications down the line Customer Service - Spring 06

74 Improving Your Own Department
Remember, improvement starts with the individual Enhance your department’s image Changing / Implementing SOPs Awareness training for line personnel Fire Officer’s–Lead by Example Improvement is a Continual Process!!! Customer Service - Spring 06

75 “The highest form of wisdom is kindness”
The Talmud Customer Service - Spring 06

76 Customer Service - Spring 06
Review Understand the concept of customer service Define who our customers are Avoid the common pitfalls Explain the ways customer service can affect us Improve communication skills Provide a higher level of customer service Customer Service - Spring 06

77 Customer Service - Spring 06
The Internal Customer Don’t forget your brother and sister firefighters are customer’s too! Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service – Section “Always be nice – treat everyone with respect, kindness, patience, and consideration.” …(including Us!) Customer Service - Spring 06

78 Customer Service - Spring 06
Fortune Cookie Customer Service is like taking a bath; you have to keep doing it… Fortune Cookie says….Customer Service is like taking a bath; you have to keep doing it…(or you’ll soon stink!) Customer Service - Spring 06

79 Have a Nice Day… Special Thanks - Chief (Ret. ) Alan V. Brunacini
Have a Nice Day… Special Thanks - Chief (Ret.) Alan V. Brunacini Phoenix Fire Department Stephan Sanders – Sanders Communication Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Anna Maria College, Paxton MA

80 Customer Service - Spring 06
References Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service – Alan V. Brunacini - Fire Protection Publications Chief Fire Officer – IFSTA, Second Ed. Fire Officer Principles and Practice – Jones and Bartlett Uncommon Sense, Leadership Principles to Grow Your Business Profitability – Thomas Faranda the Speed of Thought – Bill Gates USFA – Strategies for Marketing your Fire Department Today and Beyond Delivering Unforgettable Customer Service – Stephan Sanders – Sanders Communications, Inc. Customer Service - Spring 06

81 Customer Service - Spring 06
Thank You! Captain Jim Vuona Customer Service - Spring 06

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