The Real Meaning of Customer Service
As the Chief of the Wauwatosa Fire Department it’s my responsibility to communicate a vision to my officers and firefighters. One of the things I feel strongest about is the need for my agency to excel at customer service. At the end of the day the people we protect have no way of really knowing if we are good firefighters or paramedics but they will always remember how we treated them when they needed us. That’s why we stress that every call for help involves a person who is probably having the worst day of their life and that we need to treat them as if they are a member of our own family.
During the five years I’ve been here there have been many stories of exceptional customer service but two stand out in my mind. The first occurred four years ago when we responded to a woman collapsed in her front yard while mowing her lawn. Upon arrival the paramedics had quickly worked to stabilize her condition and then transported her to Froedtert Hospital. Meanwhile the Engine Company had checked on the spouse and found that her husband was in the house and was ok but was an invalid. The officer then placed the fire engine available in case there was another emergency but remained on the scene while one of the firefighters finished cutting the grass. After he was finished the lawn mower was returned to the garage and the husband was checked on again before the crew departed.
The second story occurred this past year when we were called to the scene of a car crash involving multiple vehicles. Fortunately, while the cars involved had suffered significant damage no one was seriously injured. However there was another problem. One couple, whose car was not drivable, told the firefighters that the husband was being treated for cancer at the Regional Medical Center and had to be back in Wausau in time to receive his scheduled chemotherapy. To further complicate matters the man needed his wheel chair to get around. One of the people involved in the accident whose car still worked offered to drive the couple to Enterprise Car Rental but did not have room to transport the wheelchair. Within minutes the man and his wife were enroute to the rental facility followed by a fire engine with the wheel chair strapped on top. As in the first story, the Engine Company placed themselves available in case they were needed for another emergency but then remained with the couple until they had rented a car and were ready to depart.
In both instances the firefighters could have just returned to quarters after they handled the emergency but instead they recognized a need and they determined the call wasn’t over until that need was met. We tell our people that when an unusual situation arises they should decide what to do based on the simple premise of always trying to do the right thing. This is the real meaning of customer service.
Chief Rob Ugaste