FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Think of the time when you thought your customer interests were not served, for example at a restaurant, where you are marshaled in with great fanfare, napkins gracefully placed on your lap, but then you are neglected for a great length of time before the attendant takes your order.

Another time, you attended a work group breakfast, and the owner of the establishment greeted everyone with a big smile while personally pouring your first cup of morning java. The work group's opinion was that the food was splendid, but it was the owner's demeanor that made the difference.

Although dissatisfied customers are likely to tell others about their experience, satisfied customers will probably spread the word about the great service they received and, in turn, will generate repeat opportunities and new business.

Customer service is a common thread in many things we all do, assuming the meaning of the term is clear. But in reality, the question is, "Do we really know what customer service is?" What does customer service mean to those who provide it? Several answers can be derived from business strategies, training forums, and even from personal background.

We at the United States Army Signal Network Enterprise Center define being ambassadors of customer service as achieving high service standards in the field of information technology.

In addition to doing what is right, caring about customers also directly helps us in two ways.

First, people generally feel better when they are passionate about others' needs. It's the same feeling as helping the little old lady cross the street. When you are thanked for your effort, chances are you bust out with pride in feeling useful.

Secondly, to be there for customers, we need to take time for our own internal development. This includes always listening to the voice of the customer and conducting site visits on a regular basis as a tool that enables us to remain focused and energized about customer service.

To do this, we employ three basic concepts to achieve great customer service:

- First-class customer service depends on connecting directly with our customer base. We ask our customers what they need, and do whatever it takes to meet these needs. Despite challenges of limited operating funds and personnel shortages, we search for the best use of current resources to achieve our tasks. That includes conducting business efficiently, for example by determining a unit's 'top-five' requirements to ensure mission critical work orders are escalated and fulfilled.

- Although sometimes providing customer support may prove difficult, we always strive for nothing less than excellence in service. The key is to treat customer service as a culture and not a departmental job requirement. We do this by investing in our technical staff's training and preparation, by recognizing each staff member's talents and contributions that yield positive results and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

- We realize the importance of soliciting feedback from customers to let us know how well we are doing. This includes less than satisfactory feedback, which is used to raise the bar of our own performance while making corrections for improvements. Statistics show that dissatisfied customers whose concerns are addressed faithfully continue to depend on your services, whereas those whose issues are not addressed lose confidence. When you receive unsatisfactory feedback, thank the customers for their input and proceed to impress them with your remediation abilities.

The concepts above have yielded some major achievements, such as migration to the DoD Enterprise Email system and, currently, the transition to the Windows 7 platform. These successes are attributed to building solid networks of unit and organization partnerships, strategic communications, and promoting customer service as important and relevant to our mission objectives.

Clearly, there are many services and initiatives to name, but all we can say is, "Thank you," by celebrating your outstanding contributions at our Customer Appreciation Day April 12. This is our opportunity to show hospitality and warmth as we continue to strive toward being ambassadors of great customer service.

One team, one network!