Service. Bravery. Safety. Honor. Dedication. Preparedness.

Service. Bravery. Safety. Honor. Dedication. Preparedness. FDNY’s mission when 343 brother firefighters gave their all to save others. Our thoughts and prayers are always with them.

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Trickle-Down Customer Service

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Every organization serves customers. Retail stores, governments, hospitals and restaurants they all serve customers, both internally and externally. So, shouldn’t meeting the needs of all of their customers be a top priority? Trickle-down service may be the most effective way to serve everyone.

Fire departments, like other organizations,  are trying to make their way through tough economical times while maintaining, or improving, their customer service. But operational decisions made while weathering a storm must not ignore your organization’s first customers, your members. Making drastic changes, even if needed, must be done with care in order to meet the service needs of your members first. Take care of your members first, and, as a result, they will feel better about what they do. Your members deal directly with the community, so customer service is a key part of their responsibilities. Here are some ways to trickle customer service down through your organization:

  • Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Bypassing your members will not improve your customer service. Your members are the people on the front lines with your customers. You have to go through your members first.
  • Happy members make customers and the organization’s leaders happy. When your members experience good customer service they are happy. When your members are happy they serve their customers better. When your members and their customers are happy, well then, your organization’s leaders have no choice but to be happy. Everyone is happy!
  • Happy members help the organization work better. Unhappy members do not make extra effort to help, and sometimes make things worse causing more financial problems and less efficiency. Whereas, happy members contribute and take responsibility to make their organization better. They take initiative and go the extra mile. To improve your organization, keep your members happy!

How is the customer service at your organization? How have you tried to increase it through your members? Are your members happy?

The Right Mindset: I Am Still Learning

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

A few years ago I wrote an article titled, Observing FF Performance-Schmidt. I had observed firefighters for years, both in training and on the fire ground. Some performed significantly better than others, especially during unexpected, stressful situations. Why? My purpose for the article was to identify “what made one firefighter perform better than another?

In the article, I identified three critical factors that were attitudes and attributes that all firefighters with the right mindset shared: an intimate knowledge of and passion for the fire service; a professional attitude that includes understanding the dangers of the job, practicing situational awareness and being able to respond to stressful events; and accepting and following operational procedures.

After listening to The Right Mindset for Success on the HBR Ideacast, I was reminded of another critical factor that contributes to firefighter excellence. It revolves around their minds and how willing they are to grow them. The more-talented firefighters have a growth mindset. In other words, they are always learning. They believe that basic abilities are are developed over time and learned from experience. These firefighters are not just focused on the outcome, they know that the process is what makes the difference. They look for and like a challenge.

The less-talented firefighter, on the other hand, has a fixed mindset. They believe that their talents and abilities are fixed traits; they believe they already have what it takes (hard to believe, but some do think that). Many firefighters can fall into a fixed mindset because of their time on the job (years versus experience), success (they promote fast), or they may just be afraid of making mistakes or venturing out of their comfort zone (really? there are no “comfort zones” in firefighting!). The firefighter with the fixed mindset is more focused on outcome and how they look.

How can we encourage a growth mindset in others? Easy, just set the example. The message we send is really important, and should be practiced, not just said (Listen to what they say; Watch what they do). As leaders, we should send the following messages everyday:

  • We value passion, dedication, growth and learning
  • We don’t know it all and we don’t expect you to know it all, but we do expect all of us to be ready to learn
  • We expect all of us to stretch beyond our comfort zone and take reasonable risks
  • We value process here; we’re not just looking to check another box on a To Do list. We want to get things done right and in the right way.

I’ve had a Latin phrase on my email for years now that says it all for me, Ancora Imparo (I am still learning). Isn’t that really what’s needed for the right mindset?