Customer insight helps garrison to hone services

Customer feedback is a crucial part of doing business for L.L. Bean, USAA and Apple. It’s no different for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. While the garrison isn’t out to capture market share, it is striving to build a customer-centric culture using the voice of the customer, just like these top-ranked customer service champions do.

“We’re here to do one thing as a garrison — to serve the service members, civilians and family members who work in the Stuttgart military community,” said Col. Carl D. Bird, the USAG Stuttgart garrison commander.

“ICE allows them to tell me what they think,” said Bird, as he addressed garrison employees attending an Interactive Customer Evaluation, or ICE, training session Jan. 28. The ICE system is a web-based tool that collects feedback on services provided by various organizations throughout the Defense Department. Customers can submit online (or hard copy) comment cards to rate the service providers they have encountered.

The system is designed to improve customer service by allowing managers to monitor the satisfaction levels of services provided through reports and customer comments.With well over 100 service providers under his purview and an average of 650 comment cards received each month, Bird reviews customer input on a weekly basis.

“I read every ICE comment,” he said. He likened the system to an after action review, a process by which a team can capture the lessons learned from past successes and failures, with the goal of improving future performance.

“ICE is our AAR. Every week we have one. Our customer’s get to … tell us what we did well, what we did poorly and how we can improve,” Bird said.

Ilka Matzke is the ICE manager for the garrison’s Directorate of Public Works, one of the garrison’s most frequently and highly rated service providers. She said ICE allows a two-way flow of information between service provider and customer.

Customer input allows DPW to provide better service. “They bring to our attention areas that may have been overlooked, for example, an area that did not get shoveled. We respond immediately and contact the roads and grounds people, and within an hour or two, the sidewalk is cleared of snow and salted,” Matzke said.
On the other hand, ICE allows DPW to explain many of the directorate’s programs, such as recycling, she said.

Either way, “People seem to be very pleased with the services they receive,” Matzke said. DPW’s current 94 percent satisfaction rating (from Nov. 2010 to now), backs up her statement.

One of the best things about ICE is that it is immediate, according to Ed McCargo, the USAG Stuttgart Plans, Analysis and Integration Office director, whose office oversees the garrison’s ICE program.

“We get data from numerous surveys each year. They’re all statistically valid and great for planning purposes,” he said. “However, ICE allows for instantaneous feedback — for the customer and the manager.”

And it lets the garrison see its services and facilities through the eyes of its customers.

“When we see systemic customer service issues, as we did last year, we focus on customer service training,” McCargo said.

It paid off. “In July 2010, the garrison had a satisfaction rate of 67 percent. Now, it’s 89 percent,” he said.

To submit an ICE comment, visit and click on the “ICE” logo.