STUTTGART, Germany - Strong customer service is a business essential, even in a military environment.

That's why U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart employees and Soldiers attend customer service training.

"We're a service organization," said Ed McCargo, chief of the USAG Stuttgart Plans, Analysis, and Integration Office chief. "Everyone is either servicing a customer or servicing someone who is servicing a customer. We're trying to deliver excellent customer service, and one of the methodologies to do so is to have a fundamental customer service training program in place."

"We want to get the entire garrison on the same sheet of music," he added.

With that in mind, 200 staff members - civilian and local national employees and Soldiers from such varied offices such as Housing, Substance Abuse Program, veterinary clinic, civilian personal, Safety, Provost Marshall and dental clinic - attended the most recent four-hour training session.

The only garrison employees exempt from the training were those who work for the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "Our DFMWR employees are trained regularly in a customer service training system called Operation Excellence," McCargo said.

"You can have a great product or service, but if you deliver it with substandard customer service, it affects how the customer values it," said Pamela Robinson, whose company, Financial Voyages, based in Atlanta was contracted by the garrison to provide the training.

"Believe me, customers talk," she continued. "If we get really bad service, we talk and talk and talk."

Robinson was asked by garrison officials to develop a class that focused on building a foundation based upon Installation Management Command strategic goals.

The idea, she said, was to cover "the basics that every organization should have. We focused on three things: setting customer service standards, how to deliver value to the customer and how employee behavior affects customer service delivery."

Robinson said there is little difference between customer service delivery in the private and government sectors.

"The intent may be a little different, because in the private sector you're dealing with profitability. But as far as delivery is concerned, organizations must practice certain standards that everyone needs to follow," she said.

Without standards that may address responsiveness, reliability, assurance, empathy and tangibles such as facilities and equipment, Robinson continued, "everyone winds up doing their own thing." The standards must also be documented, "so you can share them with colleagues and your customers. That's important."

The course, while addressing external customer service, also looked at internal customer service. "This was also about seeing your colleagues as customers ... a lot of people didn't consider that the person they might give information to is a customer," she said.

Robinson's goal was to get employees to see, while they may not deal directly with an external customer, they do contribute to the garrison's value chain, and their actions do affect other people and the command.

The class was long overdue, according to Tyrone Dallas, a carrier for the Kelley Barracks Official Mail Room, who attended a morning session.

"A lot of people don't understand that the word "customer" also applies to your co-workers and supervisors," he said.

"Everyone who works here has the responsibility to give good service to the customers with whom they work with and work for."