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Customer Service for Fire Departments. 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

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Customer service for fire departments

Customer Service for Fire Departments

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

The how and why

of being nice…


Goals
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


Objectives
Objectives

  • Understand the concept of customer service

  • Define who our customers are

  • Avoid the common pitfalls

  • Examine the potential benefits

Customer Service - Spring 06


Objectives1
Objectives

  • Explain the ways customer service can affect us

  • Improve communication skills

  • Provide a higher level of customer service

Customer Service - Spring 06


Customer service defined
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”

Customer Service - Spring 06


Customer wants and needs
Customer Wants and Needs

What do our customers want?

Make a list…

Someone to Help Them

Timely Response

Sympathy

Courtesy

Understanding

A Solution to their Problem!

Customer Service - Spring 06


The customer service model phoenix fire department
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


It s all about perception remember to the individual perception is reality

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


Public perception
Public Perception

  • The attitudes that we have

  • Treat everyone with respect

  • Those on the front lines

    represent everyone

Customer Service - Spring 06


The golden rule
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


It starts at the top
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


Citizenkare
CitizenKARE

  • Means Putting Citizens First!

  • Knowledge

  • Attitude

  • Respect

  • Excellence

Customer Service - Spring 06


Cpr keeping customer service alive
CPR…keeping customer service alive!

Customer Service - Spring 06


Who are our customers
Who are our customers?

Anyone that interacts with the fire service,

on any level, is a customer

Customer Service - Spring 06


Who are our customers1
Who are our customers?

Customers are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna to get…

and you never know who they know….

Customer Service - Spring 06


Turn lemons into lemonade
Turn ‘Lemons into Lemonade’

“Unhappy customers are always

a concern. They’re also your

greatest opportunity”

Bill Gates

CEO Microsoft

Customer Service - Spring 06


Angry customers
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Angry customers1
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Angry customers2
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Angry customers3
Angry Customers

The Grenade – angry about one thing, rants about everything

Strategy:

  • allow them to vent

  • find mutual agreement

  • clarify problem/solution

  • act promptly

Customer Service - Spring 06


Angry customers4
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!

Customer Service - Spring 06


The bottom line
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


What you do to or for your customers is the difference between success and failure

“What you do to or for your customers is the difference between success and failure”

Thomas Faranda


Pitfalls
Pitfalls

What could possibly go wrong?

Customer Service - Spring 06


What could possibly go wrong
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


Broken promises
Broken Promises

  • You said you were going to save grandma!

  • I scheduled an inspection for this morning and you didn’t show up!

Customer Service - Spring 06


Unpleasant surprises
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”

Customer Service - Spring 06


Pfd mission statement prevent harm survive be nice
PFD - Mission Statement:Prevent Harm – Survive – Be Nice

Customer Service - Spring 06


Unrealistic expectations
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Delayed response
Delayed Response

  • I called you 20 minutes ago!

  • Perception of time slows down for people having emergencies

Customer Service - Spring 06


Minimizing the customer
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Bad manners
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


What s it mean for me
What’s it mean for me ?

How does poor customer service affect us?

Make a list…

Political Issues

Department Actions

Legal Issues

Makes the Call more Difficult

Customer Service - Spring 06


Political issues
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Statistically
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Department actions
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Legal issues
Legal Issues

  • Good customer service can sometimes make up for undesirable outcomes

  • Bad customer service can lead to legal consequences

Customer Service - Spring 06


What s in it for us
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


Build community equity
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Connecting with your community
Connecting with your Community

Get Involved!

Customer Service - Spring 06


Public education life safety programs
Public Education & Life Safety Programs

  • NFPA – Risk Watch

  • NFPA - Learn Not to Burn Curriculum

  • Massachusetts – S.A.F.E. Program

Customer Service - Spring 06



Station visitors
Station Visitors

  • First impressions

  • Professional and courteous

  • Any interactions with the public should be viewed as an educational opportunity!

Customer Service - Spring 06


Usfa pier program
USFA – PIER Program

  • Public Information

  • Public Education

  • Public Relations

  • USFA - Strategies for Marketing your Fire Dept.

    Today and Beyond

Customer Service - Spring 06


Communication skills
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

Customer Service - Spring 06



Controlling our emotions
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


Arrival ems incidents
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


Controlling their emotions
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Humor
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Language
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Listening
Listening

  • Maintain eye contact

  • Give customer exclusive attention

  • Appropriate distance

  • Be friendly

  • Stay open and positive

  • Nod and affirm what they say

Customer Service - Spring 06


Appearance
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Appearance1
Appearance

Customer Service - Spring 06


Organization behavior
Organization Behavior

  • Fire departments must be consistently focused and centered on serving

    the customer

Customer Service - Spring 06


Bringing it to the field

Bringing it to the Field

Fire and EMS runs with the customer in mind


Taking the call
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Answering the phone
Answering the Phone

  • Fire Headquarters

  • Name / Rank

  • How can I help you?

Customer Service - Spring 06


Dispatching
Dispatching

  • Customers can hear you dispatch

  • Many customers have scanners, they hear everything you say

  • Stay professional on the radio

Customer Service - Spring 06


Responding
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!

Customer Service - Spring 06


Treatment ems incidents
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Transport ems incidents
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


Arrival fire incidents
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


At work fire incidents
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

Customer Service - Spring 06


After the fire
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.

Customer Service - Spring 06


After the fire returning to normal
After the Fire! Returning to Normal

  • Free from U.S. Fire Administration

  • Booklet or Downloadable PDF File

Customer Service - Spring 06


Scenarios

Scenarios

Applying Customer Service to Real-Life Calls


Scenario 1
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


Scenario 1 discussion
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?

Customer Service - Spring 06


Scenario 2
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


Scenario 2 discussion
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?

Customer Service - Spring 06


Scenario 3
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.”

Customer Service - Spring 06


Scenario 3 discussion
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?

Customer Service - Spring 06


Improving your own department
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


“The highest form of wisdom is kindness”

The Talmud

Customer Service - Spring 06


Review
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


The internal customer
The Internal Customer

  • Don’t forget your brother and sister firefighters are customer’s too!

  • Essentials of Fire Department

    Customer Service – Section 2 “Always be nice – treat everyone with respect, kindness, patience, and consideration.” …(including Us!)

Customer Service - Spring 06


Fortune cookie
Fortune Cookie

Customer Service

is like taking a bath;

you have to keep doing it…

Customer Service - Spring 06


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


References
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

  • Business @ 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


Thank you
Thank You!

  • Captain Jim Vuona

    • [email protected]

Customer Service - Spring 06


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