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March Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Hall, 169th Communications Flight commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait, Jan. 27, 2014.   (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Hall, 169th Communications Flight commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait, Jan. 27, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- How would you define the difference between good and great customer service? Some of the more common answers are:

·Good customer service is treating customers with a friendly, helpful attitude.
·Good customer service means having thorough knowledge of your skills, experience with your products and services, and the ability to help customers make smart choices.
·Great customer service sets your organization apart from and above the rest.

But wait a minute, the defense of South Carolina and our nation is not a customer-oriented business, it's a calling, a dedication to freedom and a way of life! From a personal point of view, I agree. However, when you examine the ways the military has adapted its operations to deal with internally-generated threats like sequestration, furlough and shut downs, you see how the bottom line becomes a top priority.

Defense Secretary Hagel just announced a new defense budget that would cut the Army to its pre-WWII size, retire all A-10s, and reduce our benefits. Sounds like a business decision to me, and not an easy one to make. The service branches compete within the DoD for money, we compete within the Air Force for airframes and missions and we compete within the ANG for money and equipment to best accomplish our state mission. So what is the best way to remain relevant and ensure the Swamp Fox legacy endures well into the future? Think great customer service.

At the most basic level, customer service is an organization's ability to supply their customer's wants and needs. The first question one needs to ask is, who is my customer? It is a question many of our traditional Guardsmen answer at their civilian jobs every day. Quality customer service means repeat business. It results in customer satisfaction and loyalty, which means their businesses remain relevant and viable during economic downturns.

So who is the SCANG's customer, the Governor, the President, the DoD or the taxpayer? For support organizations, the answer is straightforward. What is the answer for those at the warfighter level of operations, maintenance or weapons? Is their customer the pilot, the crew chief, the bomb loader or even the F-16? I believe the ultimate customer for McEntire Airmen is the SCANG itself. Every action we take, every service we provide, every jet we launch supports the SCANG. But is that enough? Does simply doing our job ensure the SCANG remains relevant and resilient in the face of shrinking budgets? Organizations need to be able to adapt to changing environments, to be able to persevere in difficult times and always be able to perform the mission. The SCANG's outstanding past performance serves us well, from the Berlin Airlift to the first-ever Air Combat Command Certified Readiness Evaluation, we have always met the challenge. So how do we provide outstanding customer service and remain relevant? We continue to set the SCANG apart from and above the rest.

Have you ever gone into a store but could not find what you needed, nor anyone to help? Organizations can have all the elements of customer service in place, but if customers are not satisfied with the way their transactions were handled or its results, they won't be back. Perhaps a better definition is that customer service is an organization's ability to satisfy its customers, not just serve them. Bringing old customers back to the SCANG and attracting new customers through strong performance and reputation is also one of our core values, "Excellence in All We Do". The following sums it up beautifully. Excellent customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations. This ability is where McEntire Airmen must continue to excel.

This means expanding our thinking about customer service; each Airman must recognize that every aspect of performing our mission has an impact on customer service, not just those aspects of our business that involve face-to-face contact. Brig. Gen. Michael Hudson, Chief of Staff of the SCANG, said the young Airman who sets the fuze on a bomb, sets in motion a chain of events that can make or break the success of an entire mission. The success of each mission makes or breaks the satisfaction of our customer and affects the SCANG's reputation and relevance.

How do we ensure continued success? It means we commit to fulfilling our customer's needs and developing plans and processes to ensure we continue to do so in the future. We have many tools available to us to foster an environment for improvement. The Management Internal Control Toolset (MICT) program provides self-evaluation of organizational effectiveness and a means to address deficiencies on a continual basis, not just every few years when the ACC Inspector General rolls into town. Ms. Mimi Meriwether, the base Director of Psychological Health, is re-energizing our Community Action Information Board (CAIB), a process to identify and resolve issues impacting the readiness of SCANG members and their families. The wing is also implementing a web-based tool called Interactive Customer Evaluation System (ICE). It will allow McEntire customers to continually rate base products and services provided by our Airmen, offices and facilities.

The tenets of great customer service touch everyone at McEntire. How everyone treats you and how you treat everyone is relevant. It is the Golden Rule. It is how the young Airman can do their job - because the rest of us did ours. It is how the SCANG remains Always First!