Who's Our Competition?
Who's Our Competition? The City Beat

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    Who's Our Competition?
    (from a memo written by Fire Chief Roberto Rivera)

    I was leaving Village Inn after a nice supper a week ago. My family and I had spent a couple of hours enjoying the food and atmosphere of the popular restaurant.

    As I handed my check to the cashier, the manager came up to me and said, "One of our customers, who wishes to remain anonymous, recognized you and wants to pay ten dollars of your bill. He says he really appreciates what you do. He wants to say thanks for all the good things you do."

    I didn't know what to say.

    Of course, I wasn't the only one whom the customer wished to thank, but also the many people I represent, the entire El Paso Fire Department. The thanks was for the customer service we give to the whole community.

    In his book "Inside the Magic Kingdom", author Tom Connellan details how, in Disney World and Disneyland, the customers leave the parks feeling great about their visit and about the way they were treated by one and all who work in the park.

    Here are the seven key success factors of the Magic Kingdom:

    Competition is any business the customer compares you with
    Pay fantastic attention to detail.
    Everyone walks the talk.
    Everything walks the talk.
    Have multiple listening posts.
    Reward, recognize and celebrate.
    Everyone counts.
    Common sense? Of course, but too many of us don't see this. Common sense is not as common as we have been led to believe.


    911, what is your emergency and which fire department would you prefer?"

    Only one department, the El Paso Fire Department, will roll to any address in the city limits and even some outside the city. Who else would someone call to extinguish a fire in their home or to help with a medical emergency? We have no competition. We have no worries. Wrong!

    Mr. Banks calls Solid Waste Management (SWM) to ask if someone could come by to pick up his garbage can. He forgot to put it out at the curb this morning. Within a half hour, a SWM supervisor knocks on the citizen's door, gives him a cute refrigerator magnet that says "TRASH ON TUESDAYS" and empties the gentleman's trash into the SWM pick-up.

    A few weeks earlier, the same citizen had stopped at a fire station to ask about the requirements for portable fire extinguishers in his small business. The firefighter who answered the door said, through the screen door, "We don't do that here. Go to 8600 Montana and ask for the Fire Marshals Office." The door closed. The firefighter went back to his lunch.

    Back to the future:

    "Ladies and gentlemen, we are conducting these neighborhood meetings to get input directly from you, the taxpayer. We can buy a fire truck or a garbage truck but not both at this time." The city representative looks around the room for anyone willing to offer an opinion. Sitting in the far corner, Mr. Banks slowly raises his hand.

    Most things are not this obvious. The point is that the department is and will continue to be compared to anyone else who gives customer service. Everyone is our competition. Would we want to be considered the worst of 36 departments in the city of El Paso?

    During Mayor Caballero's tenure, I always felt him comparing me to Police Chief Leon and FD to PD. My response then was that we were not in competition with the police department. They were them and we were us. Again, wrong!

    Benchmarking against entities who have documented successes, against leaders who are perceived as customer oriented, is a positive. Why not learn from those who have been there and done that? All of us are in it for the customer, why in the world not learn from success stories?

    People go to any city department expecting service. If their concern cannot be resolved at the office visited, the worst the citizens should feel upon leaving, is that they will have to go elsewhere. Never, should they feel that it was their mistake or that it was a bother to a city employee. The specific office visited may have lacked what was needed, but the clerk, police officer, firefighter or tax office department head or whoever was there to serve the inquiring citizen, should do all things possible, such as putting the citizen in contact with the appropriate office at that very time.

    Although each department has specific and distinctive functions, all exist only because the citizens need and pay for services. The customer is the most important player in the whole scenario. In comparison to other organizations who deal with mutual customers, we are all in competition.

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