A Culture of Excellence through customer service
By Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander
/ Published February 25, 2008
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Most Airmen in the 30th Space Wing have heard the phrase "Culture of Excellence" recently. Leadership is talking about it and I know some units discussed it on our last Wingman Day. But what do we mean when we talk about creating a "Culture of Excellence?" Let's take a look. According to Webster's Dictionary, culture is "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a group" and excellence is "the quality of being excellent" (superior, very good, first class). So when you tie those words together and apply them to the 30th Space Wing, it means our every day attitude and actions always portray first rate quality -- excellence.
It is important to understand "Culture of Excellence" is much more than a catchy phrase for a bumper sticker or poster. As you likely already noticed, it directly aligns with our Core Value of "Excellence in All We Do" and it should permeate everything we do. It is my hope that we take this beyond the catchy phrase and make it part of our daily approach to our duties. We must develop an "excellence" mindset that drives our behavior. Excellence should be the norm, not something we achieve only during our peak performance.
To make this part of our culture I need every Airman in the wing to help. We're developing an action plan, but it takes people to make it work. Over the next several months, you'll see articles, posters, messages on marquees and briefings talking about our Culture of Excellence. As you hear the phrase "Culture of Excellence," ask yourself how it applies to you. Ask yourself, "What have I done today to contribute to the wing's Culture of Excellence?" When we all apply it personally, like so many of you have, it will be much more than just another slogan - it will be how things are done at the 30th Space Wing.
I want the "Culture of Excellence" to have an impact on all aspects of the wing's mission. While you'll hear how this culture applies to all facets of our mission in future articles and messages from your leadership, the first area we'll concentrate on is providing excellent service to our customers throughout the wing. And it is no coincidence that this directly supports one of our wing goals: Provide Outstanding Customer Service & Be Responsible Resource Stewards.
When we think of "Customer Service," we tend to think of organizations with customer counters like CPTS, MSS, Services or our Clinic. But we have many other places at Vandenberg where we provide a service - consider this: executing any one of our four missions is providing a service - the defense of our Nation.
The SF patrolman who checks vehicles at a check point on a Saturday night provides the service of safety to the Airmen on our roads and highways, and ensures the security of the installation and its missions. The Airman from the Wing Safety Office who performs inspections provides for the safety of those who live and work on Vandenberg, but also ensures that our Airmen can complete the mission unharmed. The electrician from CES who troubleshoots a wiring problem in a 30 year old building is serving not just the Airman at the computer, but the operator at his console on day of launch. The agencies involved in preparing and deploying our Airmen to Iraq or Afghanistan are serving not just the needs of the deploying Airman, but also assuring the success of the mission in CENTCOM by making sure that Airman is combat-ready as well. All of these are examples of providing customer service and great opportunities to demonstrate Excellence -- even when there's not a customer service counter. It's just as important to provide excellent service in these situations as it is when someone is establishing an allotment or getting a new ID card at a traditional customer service counter.
Providing outstanding customer service does not mean being a "yes" person. If the person pulled over at the checkpoint asks for a "warning" instead of a ticket, excellent customer service does not mean letting him or her off the hook. The electrician may have to tell the building occupants that they will have to wait on re-wiring that building because transformers at one of the substations need replaced. But it does mean delivering the service in a cordial, professional, and, yes, in an excellent manner every time, and that the needs of the mission will be met.
To help the wing focus on improving our customer service, we're developing an actual plan to get it done. An important aspect of meeting customer needs and expectations is to know what they think of the service they receive. To accomplish that, we will develop feedback tools, where they don't already exist, and ask customers to let us know how we're doing. We'll use that feedback to improve our methods for delivering service to our customers. Additionally, we'll invest in training for our Airmen who provide customer service. While the traits of good customer service may seem obvious, most of us can benefit from being trained on how to provide great service. And finally, we plan to recognize those who provide outstanding customer service around Vandenberg. You should look forward to seeing them highlighted in the paper or even at commander's calls.
We haven't finalized all methods for recognizing our customer service champions, but feedback will be an important aspect. So, as you receive or observe outstanding customer service, take the time to provide feedback and let the unit's leadership know what a great job their Airmen are doing. Likewise, if you have suggestions on how they can improve, provide that feedback too. Sometimes it's the fresh set of eyes that sees where changes can help a process or an organization.
Vandenberg AFB is the crown jewel of Air Force Space Command and the Airmen of the 30th Space Wing are second to none--no other base does what you do, or as well as you do it. I eagerly anticipate hearing about the great service we're providing and recognizing our people. But I'm even more excited about seeing our Airmen sharpen their customer service skills to enhance our Culture of Excellence.