Solving the Puzzle
An innovative program helps the City of Oshkosh bolster service to its customer base.
Customer service has long been a focus for private industry. For the City of Oshkosh, the goal is simply to provide its customers—its citizens—with the best possible experience when working with city employees.
Well aware of Fox Valley Technical College’s excellent reputation for workplace training, Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff contacted the college’s Business & Industry Services division to develop and provide a program that would sharpen employees’ customer service skills. “The training staff at Fox Valley Tech is fantastic,” he says. “The trainers understand our needs and developed a program that was exactly what we sought. We have a core of people who are doing great work, and we wanted that magic to travel throughout the city’s departments. We want to ‘WOW’ people with great customer service.”
The WOW Factor
Not surprisingly, the city calls its training program “WOW” (What Oshkosh Wants). It’s based on The Customer Service Puzzle, a program developed by FVTC Communications Skills instructor Sandy Eyler. “I customize The Customer Service Puzzle for specific groups,” she says. “For Oshkosh, it focused on identifying what city employees think good customer service is and building relationships with customers. Another piece is ensuring everyone is on the same page and has the same philosophy of delivering good customer service. It’s a shared vision.”
Eyler began training city employees a year ago, starting with a pilot group of 25 that Rohloff identified as already having a strong commitment to customer service. He knew they would provide feedback to fine-tune the program. “Their insights moved the program forward,” he says. “Sometimes customer service training is viewed as ‘we’ve done something wrong.’ I wanted to discuss what we’re doing right so we can learn from each other’s positive experiences.”
The program has provided additional benefits, according to Assistant City Manager and Director of Administrative Services John Fitzpatrick. “Plus-one service helps citizens receive more than they expect, and in turn provides increased job satisfaction for our employees,” he says. “Our employees like that all departments and all parts of the organization are involved.”
The second group consisted of supervisors and managers, who were equally impressed and recommended that the program be offered to every city employee. Hence, all 575 Oshkosh city employees will experience the program in 2010.
“Oshkosh employees are looking to do an even better job for their citizens,” Eyler notes. “They are delivering good customer service now, and yet, they are striving to do more. They have a great deal of pride and want to meet their citizens’ expectations.”
The program also has strengthened employee relationships. “It has given us a sense of family with more interaction between departments,” Rohloff says. “There is a renewed sense of optimism about what we do.”
Fox Valley Tech provides training and technical assistance that has attracted clients from throughout the United States. In fact, the college provides training and technical assistance to some 20,000 employees each year on such topics as agriculture, engineering, health care, manufacturing, marketing, and construction, and more.