Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Brunacini on Customer Service

Alan Brunacini's book on Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service is the best book on the subject that I've ever read. Its lessons can be easily applied to other professions because customer service rules are universal and, if anything, firefighters encounter people in far more demanding circumstances than does your average store clerk.

Chief Brunacini's prototype of a customer - Mrs. Smith - has been adopted by fire departments throughout the United States. His writing style resembles his conversational style.

An excerpt:

This human-to-human process begins with the initial call to request assistance. Mrs. Smith could care less that we have a space-age 911 electronic, nano-second, pass through computer driven call receipt and dispatch system with automatic address/phone verification capability and an instantaneous satellite-driven vehicle locator and an on-line computer terminal in the front seat of every vehicle that is painted red. Rather, she instantly connected with the voice and helpful feeling she received from a heads-up, calm, professional communications center human. When Mrs. Smith sent the personal message that she was in trouble, the dispatcher sent a personal message back to her that the system cared about her and help was on the way - at that critical initial stage, the human (dispatcher) became the entire fire department to Mrs. Smith. As the event continues to evolve, Mrs. Smith somehow forgot to ask about the results of the last pump test on the rig that pulled up on side A at her home. She will typically remember and relate (two page letter to the Fire Chief a week later) three basic observations about our service - none of it mentions pump test results (or anything else very technical):

#1 Quick response time - "It seemed you arrived as I was hanging up the phone."

#2 Skillful performance that solved the problem - "Your firefighters were so calm and took charge. Everything got better after they arrived."

#3 Positive personal treatment - "Everyone who responded was so kind, and I will never forget how nice they were to my family and to me."

Numbers 1 and 2 (QUICK/SKILLFUL) each get a nice three-sentence paragraph. Number 3 (NICE) gets a full page and a half from Mrs. Smith.

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