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E-Mail: Jim Clark (Customer Service Chairperson)
Left edge of tabA Guide to Customer ServiceRight edge of tab

I. INTRODUCTION

This guide will explain the department's philosophy on customer service and its relationship to the agency mission, vision and long-range goals. As such, it will guide organizational members as to the department's expectations and standards of performance.

Since its creation in October 1984, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue has strived toward improving services while working to build a legacy of overall excellence for its residents, guests and visitors. The department's vision and mission statement, as well as the 2004-2009 long-range goals, emphasize excellence and quality service. Improving the level of service provided to the customer has always been in the forefront of our strategies as well.

During the strategic planning effort in 2003, we realized that all of these goals were well-intentioned, but they could still not meet the needs of our citizens. Oftentimes, we are asked to provide unusual types of assistance that stretch beyond our normal scope of work. For example, during Hurricane Frances in 2004, we assisted with all types of issues, as we are in the neighborhoods with the citizens being impacted.

It is this type of behavior we are promoting on an every day basis. Bringing a positive and professional attitude to the job is the first ingredient; it can improve the work environment as well as make it easier to deal with difficult customers. Individual employees should feel empowered to act in the best interest of the customer. Supervisors can lead by example and recognize those employees that go the extra mile.

The services we provide to our customers and the way we treat those customers is the concept of this guide. It is through a mutual respect for others and a general, caring attitude that the department will succeed in accomplishing its overall mission of excellence and its VISION of being RECOGNIZED AS THE LEADER IN THE DELIVERY OF QUALITY AND COST EFFECTIVE HEALTH AND SAFETY SERVICES.

II. THE INTERNAL / EXTERNAL CUSTOMER

The term "customer" is not widely used in the public sector. The customer is the most important ingredient to the success of the organization. Our success can be measured by the community support we receive, where the level of customer satisfaction is second to none!

Every division of the department has interaction with customers, whether those customers are other department personnel, county personnel, or the general public. The very concept of the customer can be broken down into two parts: the Internal Customer and the External Customer.

The External Customer is the member of the community, whether a citizen, guest or visitor of Palm Beach County, that represents the potential recipient of the services we provide. The Internal Customers are the fellow employees of the Department. Each member is responsible and accountable for his or her actions (or inactions.) Our treatment of the public begins with how we treat each other. Each of us has a right to be treated with dignity and respect.

We rely on each other in order to be successful. It is critical to remember that to really be an exceptional TEAM, every member must commit him/herself to taking care of each other in order to preserve the unity that exists in our organization today. We have the responsibility to pass along to future generations the traditions, values, knowledge and determination that have moved our department forward, and to personally give back to an organization that has given each member so much over the years.

Taking care of the customer starts from within. The term, "SERVANT LEADERSHIP," comes to mind. This describes the method in which we strive to lead by example.

III. IMAGE & PERCEPTION

It is important to remind ourselves that public perception is the reality, and not how the fire department believes it to be. Providing service in a friendly, positive manner protects the department's image and produces better results. Attitudes in general are infectious. Each day we have an opportunity to reinforce the positive attitudes and attempt to correct behavior that exhibits a negative image of the Department.

We are most vulnerable when performing our routine job tasks; that is when our professional guard has dropped. We can preserve the positive image of the Department by helping out one another, while at the same time, preserving the element of the team concept. We simply want to motivate others to stay well in tune with the "CORE VALUES of the Department.We should view every moment of our jobs as a potential opportunity to educate the public through the committed efforts of our appearances, attitudes and our actions.

IV. MEET & EXCEED EXPECTATIONS

Identifying who our customers are and their needs helps us to individualize the assistance we provide to each person directly. We must never lose sight of the humanistic approach we also must employ. By continually and consistently striving to improve the way we deliver our services we will begin to exceed our intended goals by actualizing those services.

In a time when multi-tasking is a popular buzz word and the phrase, "other duties assigned" can reference a list as long as our official duties, we must be mindful that our customers often have expectations of us that are not clearly written. It is essential that we portray an image of trust and compassion. We should demonstrate empathy with our customers. Every member of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue needs to have a strong sense of belonging to the membership. Now that Fire-Rescue has become Accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, we have positioned ourselves on a global scale, as one of the elite fire-rescue agencies around the world! By exceeding the public expectation of what a fire-rescue provider should be providing, we as members of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue are "Raising the Bar."

V. RAISING THE BAR

While it is believed that some have rallied behind the misperception that "just doing your job and nothing extra" is the norm, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue is striving for just the opposite. We are striving for 100% satisfaction from our customers. Although it is difficult to gather this type of information from our customers through conventional methods of feedback, we are challenging all members of the department to live and breathe this mentality - the mentality to go above and beyond the call of duty.

It is up to each and every individual to "empower" him/herself to act upon any opportunity that is within the legal, ethical, moral, and practical capabilities of his/her position. As an organization we are empowering you to embrace this new customer service philosophy and invite everyone to exemplify acts of kindness that represent "raising the bar."

In an effort to promote the philosophy of "raising the bar," the department is constructing a program that will recognize any individual that goes "the extra mile" in delivering good customer service. Look for more details on the department's intranet site about this new recognition program for all employees.

VI. QUALITY & EFFICIENCY

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue is made up of a team of people recognizing the need to provide a high standard of care to the citizens in Palm Beach County.

As a member of this elite team, regardless of what function you serve, you must always have a "customer focus" in the forefront of your actions. A positive attitude is clearly a vital and unquestionable skill to demonstrate. Adapting this positive attitude and applying it in a more customer service-oriented fashion will ensure our organizational success in delivering the high quality and efficient level of services that we strive to provide to our citizens.

To secure our position as "the leading" agency in the nation, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, through the dedication and commitment of our members, will be operating on an unprecedented level of quality with regards to customer service. It is important that each and every member of the Department behave in a manner that is consistent with not only meeting and fulfilling our customers' needs, but exceeding their expectations on every level. In fact, this becomes the very fiber of who we are, what we do, and where we plan to go as an organization. In a sense, consistently operating at the highest level of service to our customers actually becomes the CORE VALUE of the Department!

VII. SUMMARY

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue has a long-range goal to improve its customer service by being more responsive to its customers, presenting a friendly, professional and positive attitude that seeks to solve problems to improve the quality of life for the customers we serve. We intend on taking the concepts outlined in this guideline and building upon them in order to establish a culture where this becomes the norm and addressing all the customers' needs is just the way we do business.