Customer service leads the future of Installation Management
SAN ANTONIO – “For me, customer service is number one. Without customer service, we don’t have a job.”
That sentiment by Fort Bliss Family Child Care Director Jessica Zagelow is one she lives by.
When personal situations prevented two boys under her care from trick-or-treating Halloween, the Army civilian and Army spouse stepped in. With the help of 17 neighbors and leftover candy from her own five children, Zagelow arranged a faux Halloween experience for the boys.
“It was the most emotional thing I have ever seen,” said Zagelow. “When we were out, my neighbors answered the door with huge smiles.”
Throughout the night, she said, families cheered the children along.
In addition to the benefits the children experienced, larger effects also emerged.
“It really did bring all the neighbors out and it got everyone involved,” said Zagelow.
She isn’t alone in her attitude toward serving Soldiers, families and civilians. Throughout the installation management community, others are also having a positive influence through their actions.
Carol Pryor, a support coordinator for Survivor Outreach Services in Florida, contracted through Goldbelt Wolf, was recently recognized for her efforts in supporting families of the fallen.
“Right from our first conversation I just knew Carol has a real heart for helping people,” said Donna Engeman, a survivor advocate for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, part of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. “Sometimes it’s just in a person’s voice, their mannerisms, their body language, their eyes. It’s all there with Carol.”
“Soldiers and families know they are valued by the manner in which they are served,” wrote Pryor in an email interview. “Quality customer service sends a resounding message that we care and we are committed.”
Zagelow and Pryor’s stories, and others like them, exemplify the quality of service sought by IMCOM leadership.
“How can we take these examples and then reverse engineer [and apply that knowledge] to the way that we lead?” asked IMCOM Commanding General Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter. Ultimately, that information could be passed on to the workforce, he said, and create a positive effect on all who interact with installation management personnel.
Director of Family and MWR Programs J.C. Abney agreed.
“That’s what it’s all about – customer service and taking care of people. If you’re at the front desk, how do you want to be treated? You are the ambassadors of customer service,” Abney recently told a group of management trainees.
Leaders from installations phoned in to share best practices in a recent session of the Commander’s Leader Development Program hosted by Ferriter at the Installation Management Academy in San Antonio.
At Fort Benning, Ga., every new employee working for Family and MWR receives an orientation stressing the importance of customer service.
“We want our customers to make our MWR programs their first choice,” said Fort Benning MWR Director Al Gelineau.
Among other examples, Gelineau described how his housekeeping staff takes the mission of cleanliness to the next level by recognizing they are “taking care of our Soldiers’ home away from home.”
“I’m pretty passionate about customer service,” Gelineau told Ferriter. “I believe that passion for what we do inspires people and gets results. And you can’t fake that.”
Passion for her work drives Zagelow as well.
“[Family child care] is where my heart is. That’s where I’ve always wanted to be.”
However, she added, more than passion is needed to succeed.
“People have to reach out and go above and beyond,” she said. “We say that so generally in the Army. We say it all the time … but what is ‘above and beyond’? If it’s in your job description, you didn’t go above and beyond anything. Above and beyond means really doing something for the community.”
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