By Nathan Van Schaik, updated by USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs
Army garrisons aim to provide services to support service members and their families. But if those services either exceed or don’t meet your expectations, you can take action.
The Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE, is your online customer feedback form.
A written complaint is important because it formally puts your complaint on record and sends the signal to leadership that you’re serious about pursuing an issue, according to the Federal Trade Commission, an arm of the federal government aimed at protecting you the consumer.
But also, when used effectively, ICE has a uniquely democratic effect within the military in that it makes the garrison and its service providers responsive to the will of the community.
When dealing with a problem, first try to discuss your issue with a representative of that office in person, over the phone (phone numbers to garrison services are available online: USAG Stuttgart Phonebook) or via email. If that doesn’t work, submit an ICE comment. A director or facility manager designated as an ICE manager receives your comments, which are eventually routed up through the garrison command.
Be specific and avoid writing angry or threatening comments.
When drafting an ICE comment, describe the situation with as much detail as possible. Explain exactly what you want done and include names, times, dates and locations — all information ICE managers can use to substantiate your concerns to provide solutions.
The most effective ICE comments include the five-W’s —who, what, when, where and why.
“If you say, ‘your office is awful,’ and don’t provide details then there’s little I can do. But, for example, if you write an ICE complaint about an office not picking up their phone, I can fix that if you tell me the time of day you called, as well as the office and number you tried calling — it’s possible you called while we were closed or you might just be dialing the wrong number,” said Pete Ridilla, an ICE manager at USAG Bavaria.
When leaving feedback, remember the Army acronym SMART. Write comments and recommendations that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If you want a template, consider using the one provided by the FCC.
It’s also in your interest not to submit nasty comments. Often, you have every right to be dissatisfied. The person reading your comments, however, isn’t necessarily responsible for the problem, but is in every way the person who is going to help you resolve it.
Provide name and contact information.
The ICE comment card can be left anonymous. But you can also provide your name and contact information and request a response. This is particularly useful to you because it’s the gateway to one-on-one engagement with those decision-makers who can turn your comments into results.
Each ICE manager associated with a comment card is responsible for reviewing every submission received and responding within three business days. ICE comments with no name or contact information, though they are shared with the command team for review, are only added to reports that track trends within the organization. ICE trends are also shared with the garrison’s Public Affairs Office in order to message to trending community member concerns.
But if you leave your name and contact information, do you subject yourself to any retribution?
“No,” said Rosalinda Davis, USAG Stuttgart ICE program manager, S-3/5/7. “Information is released to the ICE manager within that directorate, and the garrison command team for awareness and tracking trends to improve customer services within the garrison footprint.”
Leave positive feedback, too.
The purpose of the ICE system is to enable DOD organizations to collect feedback to improve services, according to the DOD’s ICE policy.
“Positive feedback reinforces what we are are doing well and what we should continue,” said Davis. “It also motivates an employee to receive something positive about what they are doing,” she said.
Davis suggests leaving positive comments about actions, service or programs, no matter how small.
ICE comments — both good and bad — can reflect a trend, perhaps the greatest mover of change. A spike in complaints about a particular service, for example, may provide the justification for more funding or resources. Similarly, a trend in positive comments toward a service may strengthen its foothold in the community and prevent it from downsizing.