"They're partners, but also customers," says Pamela Best in explaining why HUD Richmond's Customer First! Committee launched a customer service "close-up" series inviting organizations doing business with HUD to talk with HUD Richmond staff about their approach to customer service. "Obviously, they can tell us about what works and what doesn't in their approach and also give us some idea of how well we serves them."
HUD Richmond's hour-long, lunchtime Customer First! close-ups began in March 2006 as part of customer service month. "They're lunch-and-learns," comments HUD Richmond's Ronnie Legette who, like Best, serves on the Customer First! Committee, "that don't have a set agenda except giving us a chance to look at a variety of approaches to customer service."
This year, Customer First! close-ups have included representatives from the Virginia Mortgage Lenders Association, the Virginia Housing Development Authority, Virginia Supportive Housing, the Virginia Council of Churches, the Mid-Atlantic Affordable Housing Managers Association and the U.S. Small Business Administration/ Last year, the series hosted presentations by, among others, Rural Development, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc., the district staff of U.S. Senator George Allen, Circuit City and Ukrop's Supermarkets.
"You can always learn how to serve your customers better," comments HUD Richmond's Sharon Downs, also a member of the Customer First! Committee. "The close-ups afford us a chance to take a bit of break, listen to another point of view and reflect a bit on whether it will work for our customers."
Presenters are asked for examples of the best and worst customer experiences they've had. "Maybe the most shocking," said committee member Doris Nesbit Harris, "was when the woman from the Virginia Mortgage Lenders who's been in the field for 25 years said she was scared to death when she bought a house. A few jaws dropped when they heard that."
HUD Richmond staff who have served on the Customer First! Committee have included Cynthia Colvin, Wilma Henry, Rodney Moody and Pearl Peebles.
HUD Richmond's customer service month has also included grantwriting workshops for HUD staff to help them understand the information being sought by and provided to faith- and community groups, a Web-wise session re-acquainting HUD staff with what's new at HUD Richmond's Web page and the selection of HUD Richmond's Customer First! Employee of the Quarter.