Customer College: Points on politeness
December 14, 2003
Airman 1st Class Kneiva Johnson works in personnel, where things can get personal.
“A member who wants to take leave asks me, ‘Hey, how do I go about this?’” Johnson said. “I would give them the paperwork they need to fill out. Then, in turn, I’d type their orders and explain the process.”
And what do her customers expect?
“All the right answers.”
Johnson, of the 100th Mission Support Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, is a student at Mildenhall’s Customer College, where the goal is to eliminate bad service.
Johnson, of San Antonio, said she had no expectations for Customer College, one of 12 programs recently instituted by Gen. Robert H. Foglesong, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
But she said the training has helped her see things from a customer’s viewpoint.
“If I can’t do something, I’ll make sure I find someone who can,” she said.
Customer College is in session at all USAFE bases. Forty-three people at Mildenhall are enrolled at the 40-hour course.
It’s for anyone who stands behind a counter or sits behind a desk and is supposed to help people, according to Maj. Kenneth Sibley, manager of the combined program for Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath.
Sibley said his own office at Mildenhall — the legal office — can even be guilty of bad service.
“If you’ve got a guy who comes in after working a 12-hour night shift turning wrenches on aircraft,” Sibley said, “and the paralegal behind the counter is not attentive to him … the last thing he needs is to be second place with a customer-service provider.”
Classes at Mildenhall’s Customer College include Communicating with your Customers, Positive Customer Interaction, and Individual and Organizational Pride.
Sibley said some airmen — especially young ones — just don’t know any better.
“The military takes people from all walks of life,” Sibley said. “It doesn’t matter if their parents taught them to be polite.
“Our job is to help them if they don’t realize they’re giving customer service that could have been better.”