No set of rules could be complete without discussing the need for and the application of customer service. It is amazing how times have changed and along with that so must our focus. When I first started in the department in late 1971, the "customer" was clearly seen as the emergency event. It...
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When this situation presents itself nowadays, we should have a completely different and more comprehensive approach to solving this situation. First, we need to properly and quickly resolve any emergency situation by flawlessly executing the basics of our job (see "Rule 3: Flawlessly Execute the Basics of Your Job," Firehouse®, July 2009). Once we have the upper hand at resolving the situation, we must focus on the people that are directly and sometimes indirectly involved in getting through and recovering from this emergency. This means that the focus must become helping the humans that are impacted and the only way that we can do that is to open a line of professional, but frank communications. Most folks will not have a lot of experience at calling on your services. This will likely be the first and hopefully the last time they are users of your community's response system. So, try to make a lasting great first impression with your skills, knowledge, abilities and professional demeanor.
Going back to the car-fire case study, consider if we had taken a few extra minutes to pack up the couple and take them to a place where they could get the help they needed. The list of immediate issues that needed resolution was very obvious to get those folks back on track. The unlucky couple needed a place to get out of the traffic, use a telephone (before cell phones were in general use) to call their insurance company, and call to have their car towed and repaired. And finally, a way to connect to a replacement rental car to complete their trip and regain control of their situation. No big deal to help with any one or all of these items and it is the right thing to do.
How times change. It seemed like life was so much simpler when we didn't have to interact so much with the people we serve. But when you think about the work that we do and the close connection we must build with the people experiencing an emergency, it just makes good sense to provide for the needs of our customers in a more direct and personal way. The above case study simplifies the general philosophy that needs to be applied; however, the opportunities to add value to what we do every day are endless.
I guess we have Chief Alan Brunacini to blame for this dramatic change for the better. And, once your organization takes and truly embraces the customer service journey, the rewards will be amazing. They will first appear as kind notes and letters and ultimately as support in the all-important political arena. Never lose sight of the fact that is how we get funded with the resources to do our job.
DENNIS L. RUBIN, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is chief of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Previously, Rubin was chief of the Atlanta, GA, Fire and Rescue Department. He holds a bachelor of science degree in fire administration from the University of Maryland and an associate in applied science degree in fire science management from Northern Virginia Community College, and is enrolled in the Fire and Emergency Management Administration program at the graduate school of Oklahoma State University. Rubin is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officers Program, is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) and has obtained the Chief Fire Officer Designation (CFOD) from by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He is an adjunct faculty member of the National Fire Academy since 1983. Rubin is the author of the book Rube's Rules for Survival.