Customer service before self

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brian Swyt
  • 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, Detachment 1
First, let me start with an introduction to our unit, I am commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, Detachment 1. We're a Holloman tenant unit that flies manned and unmanned QF-4E Phantom aircraft in support of Department of Defense and foreign partner test and evaluation programs. We're also a part of the 53rd Wing, a diverse organization of over 2,500 professionals spread over 23 locations with more than 150 fighter, attack and bomber aircraft. The 53rd Wing is one of four Air Combat Command wings under the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. The 53rd Wing primarily conducts test and evaluation and tactics development for combat aircraft, associated aircraft systems, weapons, space systems and other advanced programs.

Now that you know a bit about who we are, let's talk about one of our unit's top priorities: Customer service. Customer service is applicable to almost every organization. In the 82nd ATRS, we support a myriad of customers from Army to Air Force and even some international programs that spend a lot of money to conduct testing on Holloman and in the surrounding areas. These people and programs help support local military organizations, infrastructure and community businesses. Hence why these customers, like most customers, deserve outstanding customer service. Many of the characteristics that go into good customer service could be considered common sense, but if it were that common and easy, nobody would ever receive bad service. The guiding precept for providing outstanding customer service should be to treat the customer as you'd want to be treated, and always strive to exceed the customer's expectations.

In order to succeed at this goal, there are a few basic principles that should guide your efforts. First, concentrate on serving the customer's needs. There's almost always a customer, whether they're a specific person that signs in to your office for assistance, or your customer is the general American public benefiting from your effective application of air and space power. Focus on the needs of that person(s) and treat them as if they are important (because they are).
Second, be enthusiastic, caring and courteous. Little things matter. A thank you, a smile, or a simple offer of some water or coffee can go a long way. It costs almost nothing to genuinely care about your customers, but it often makes a big difference.

Third, listen. Go out of your way to listen. When you really listen, think about what you are hearing, have patience, and you'll usually make better decisions.

Last, solve the customer's problem or find somebody who can; and follow through. Accept responsibility. Even if the problem is not your primary responsibility or is beyond your control, apologize for any issues, delays or errors. Then follow through and help get the customer the help they need and deserve.

Satisfied customers not only make for good business, but high customer satisfaction also leads to good organizational morale. Customer service before self, when done correctly, is rewarding to all involved. It is much like charity work, where it feels better to give and help somebody else than it does to receive charity from others. Providing excellent customer service motivates and helps develop job satisfaction. It also helps create a culture of personal pride in your efforts and within your organization. And unlike many things, it is usually free, or only costs a little bit of extra effort. Making that extra effort toward providing exceptional customer service before self will help make a difference as you execute your mission in support of this great country and its citizens, our true customers.