“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”— Kenneth B. Elliott
In 1946, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was formed in Geneva, Switzerland. This venerable group set standards for customer service. “The customer is always right” remained a popular adage until the 1980s. During the ’80s, agencies such as the Service Quality Institute began providing customer service training with seminars, books, and videos, and the first use of electronics as a training medium emerged. During the 1990s, the focus was more on giving back to the customer and surveying customer attitudes and needs.
In the field of educational facilities, things were changing as well, bringing additional concentration on service skills due to the proliferation of firms that outsource the facilities management function as a part of facilities management. In a time when college costs are rising rapidly, the days of in-house facilities resources as the sole option are past, and more and more frequently the facilities leadership is being asked to consider the business case for outsourcing. While outsourcing can be a viable option, most educational facilities professionals see value in an in-house capability.
As facilities professionals, we are responsible for the physical assets of our institutions and the physical well-being of the members of our campus community and their workplace. It is our responsibility to be constantly vigilant for new methods and techniques to communicate with our customers and to lead for a customer service culture. To accomplish this task, we must remember that “customer service is not a department, it is everyone’s job.”
By defining the customer, developing a functional strategy service strategy, and tasking the leadership with building and sustaining a customer service culture, an institution can establish a customer service plan that is sustainable for their organization.