FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — As part of a customer-focused workforce, the Army uses data gathered from the Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE, to help leaders make informed decisions aimed at making operations more effective and efficient — but to make ICE a productive feedback system, they need everyone’s input.
According to Mike Alley, Fort Leonard Wood’s ICE program manager, the Department of Defense established the ICE program in 1996, to serve as the installation’s “suggestion box.”
“In the last four years, we have had some really positive changes come from ICE comments,” Alley said.
Some of those include the addition of the dog park, the blue line directing family and friends to graduation ceremonies and the addition of new sidewalks in the cantonment area.
“Another one of them was the ID Card Facility. The office was getting some challenging comments. In the last two years, the comment we kept seeing referred to the DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) outages,” Alley said. “The ID Card Office came up with a process to implement when the DEERS system goes down. Because of the new plan, their ICE satisfaction level has risen by about 20 percent.”
Michael Vail, director of the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, said the ICE system should be treated like an AAR, or after-action review.
“Tell us what we need to sustain and what we need to improve. Sometimes as managers and leaders, we don’t look at things the same ways as our customers. We want to make things better and we need ICE comments to do that,” Vail said.
Alley said there are ICE QR codes that link customers directly to the organization they are being served at spread across the installation.
“They are on posters, desks, near cash registers and on tabletops in dining facilities,” Alley said. “Much like some restaurants have a bell by the door you can ring if you had good service, these QR codes serve as a way to instantly share your opinion with the organization.”
According to Alley, the current ICE system provides a real-time link to leaders and managers across the installation, tantamount to physically locating a supervisor to speak to.
“For example, at a dining facility, if somebody submits a comment saying the chicken isn’t cooked properly, that ICE comment immediately alerts management and they can go to the kitchen right then,” Alley said. “What a great tool to let supervisors know there is a problem.”
Alley added that when people go the extra mile, the QR codes provide customers a way to thank them for a job well done.
“If someone treats you with dignity and respect or helps you solve a problem, tell their boss,” Alley said.
According to Vail, the Service Culture Campaign — a U.S. Army Installation Management Command plan focused on establishing an environment where employees have engaged leaders, feel valued, are loyal to the organization and treat each other with dignity and respect — has his team working on three major goals for the ICE program here.
“One is to increase the number of comments, so that we become more statistically valid. We also want to increase the quality of comments − we are looking for constructive feedback. Lastly, we want to provide more useful data and analytics for our directors to make more informed decisions,” Vail said.
Vail added that the comments left on the ICE system are more effective if they are professional. Some guidelines for professional comments include being specific, avoiding unnecessarily negative language and offering meaningful and actionable suggestions on how to improve. Alley said the Service Culture Campaign designates the ICE system as a tool for day-to-day operations and as a way to look at strategic trends within an organization.
“There is a cultural shift happening. The DOD has always wanted suggestions from external customers, like our Soldiers and their families, but now they want to hear from internal customers, too. We are considering our co-workers and support organizations as our internal customers,” Alley said. “We are going to start having employees add their ICE link to their signature block. This isn’t for our external customers, it is for other DOD civilians, or internal customers.”
Alley gave an example of an internal customer ICE comment.
“For instance, if the Directorate of Resource Management helps you get your Defense Travel System form correct, we want to know about it,” Alley said. “Thank that employee for helping you be successful in your own job.”
When leaving a review, suggestion, complaint or comment, there may be a temptation to leave the submission anonymously, Alley said, but including contact information helps both leadership and customers.
“It’s frustrating to get anonymous comments, but we still pay attention to them. It makes it impossible to contact them for more information or to give them an update on their comment,” Alley said. “If you submit your name and contact information, you will get a response if you ask for one. We monitor that. Sometimes, even if you don’t request a response, you get one.”
Alley said the complexity of some issues can make it take longer to implement changes.
“Folks often times want an immediate response and sometimes it takes a little more investigation and research. Then, it takes a little more time to execute the changes,” Alley said.
ICE comments are primarily meant for offices that fall under IMCOM, not U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Alley said, but that doesn’t mean those concerns go unheard.
“The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence doesn’t formally have an ICE program. If we get a comment about training or a Soldier-related issue, we will engage the sergeant major, who, in turn, can contact the units,” Alley said.
The ICE program team on Fort Leonard Wood is trying to achieve the goal of at least 100 comments a week, according to Alley. To submit a review, make a suggestion or leave a positive comment, visit the Fort Leonard Wood ICE website.