FORT LEE, Va. – Receiving feedback about community services rendered is paramount to customer satisfaction, emphasized Cliff Whitehouse, lead Strategic Planner for the garrison’s Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.
Moreover, getting that input in real-time – when the experience is fresh in the customer’s mind – can be a real game-changer.
Whitehouse is part of a team charged with upgrading the installation’s Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE for short. His comment is in reference to new computer tablet devices being tested at several directorates here. The system is providing point-of-experience feedback critical to improving how those agencies conduct business.
“Without a doubt, it’s a great idea,” Whitehouse said. “Being in the customer service business, I’m always looking for as-close-to-real-time feedback as possible, and this is about as close as I’ve seen. Really, it’s right there at the point of sale.”
According to several customer service websites, immediate or point-of-experience feedback is key to accurately gauging customer sentiment. It also is something virtually all Fortune 500 companies use, said Patrick MacKenzie, deputy to the garrison commander and project initiator, who spoke with the Traveller prior to departing for the War College in July.
“With the tablets, what we’re doing is introducing a real-time mechanism to measure our service capabilities and performance,” MacKenzie said. “This would evolve the garrison’s system where you would have to either go to a kiosk to make a comment, find a (comment) card to fill out or submit comments online. In today’s world, that’s just not efficient. Efficiency is while you’re receiving the service, you receive the tablet so you can provide real-time feedback in the process of that interaction between the service provider and customer.”
Whitehouse agreed that immediacy is critical.
“The longer someone waits to submit a comment, the more likely the true impact (of the customer experience) will be lost,” he said. “When you do something two days later, you might forget many of the salient details, and you may be less passionate one way or the other.”
Point-of-experience feedback is 40 percent more accurate than input collected just 24 hours later, according to Gartner, a business research and advisory firm. More accurate information should “significantly improve Fort Lee’s overall customer service and provide the feedback needed to know where efforts should be focused,” MacKenzie acknowledged.
The tablets, which began their trial run two months ago as part of the pilot program at select locations, are augmenting current kiosks that began service in 2012. They are portable, transferable and more convenient for customers than the kiosks, which are sometimes located away from the point-of-experience. Six tablets are in operation in the pilot program, and there are plans to deploy 24 more after the pilot program is completed.
Tameka Covington, branch chief of the ID Card Office in the Directorate of Human Resources, said her organization received its tablet in June. The device is rotated among employees throughout the course of the day while servicing customers in their cubicles. They have seen a marked increase in individuals using the ICE system, she remarked.
“The tablets work a lot better, especially for our section because we have a lot of customers who want to comment about the service,” Covington said. “Also, we deal with a wide range of ages, and some of the elderly aren’t familiar with computers. The tablets are very self-explanatory and easier for them to use.”
On average, the ID card section serves 200 customers a day, and a “low percentage” have used the kiosks to make ICE comments, Covington noted. “Most of them are government civilian employees who sit in front of a computer all day.”
By comparison, a good sampling of customers have used the tablets to rate services.
“During a month, we would get roughly three-to-four (ICE) comments,” said Covington, referring to the kiosks. “The highest amount I’ve seen so far since we’ve had the tablet is 14 in one day.”
The tablet project falls under the garrison’s Service Culture Campaign, an Installation Management Command effort designed to enhance the level of customer service and instill a culture of service excellence in every aspect of installation operations.
“This is something specific to Fort Lee,” MacKenzie said. “We’re trying to complete the circle in our Service Culture Campaign. In other words, we have training for our employees and surveys we use to measure the effectiveness of the training and how the training systems are working in relationship to customer service. Our motto within the garrison is ‘Service Starts Here,’ and in order for that to be a real thing as opposed to a motto, you need mechanisms to continually improve services provided to the community.”
In addition to providing real-time feedback, MacKenzie said the tablets have the residual effect of helping employees fully comprehend their importance as service providers.
“When you’re providing a service to customers and part of it is to request feedback … it drives the customer service person to provide better service because they understand they’re being evaluated.”
MacKenzie said he expects positive results and a good return on the investment in the tablet program.
“It will pay great dividends in the long run to the community as a whole,” he said. “The costs savings of not having to maintain a kiosk as opposed to the tablets will be realized in short order.”
The kiosks will serve customers until the end of their life-cycles, Whitehouse said. Once the pilot program is complete in about six months, the remaining 24 tablets will be deployed to front-line service areas.
MacKenzie said he hopes other installations will take notice of the tablet program as a best practice.