Community First moves into its second phase

Count Greenwich fire Chief Peter Siecienski as a backer of a town initiative to improve customer service to its residents and businesses.

His department has moved to improve how it deals with its customers — including helping to cut approval time for permits — and Chief Siecienski credited that change to the Community First initiative.

“This came out of the program and we want to do anything we can to make service better,” he said. “Customer service is what we do.”

The initiative began in September 2012 as the town sought to improve how it served residents and customers, said Dustin Anderson, special project manager for the town of Greenwich. The first phase involved employee training on customer service skills tailored to job responsibility, Mr. Anderson said, and is nearly complete. He said the Police Department has yet to undergo training because of scheduling issues, but he said it will be completed soon.

The training was conducted by Rosalie Hakker, president of Contract Trainers Inc. Now, Mr. Anderson says, the town has moved into the second phase — setting and completing goals for customer service.

“Now that we have all this nice training, what do we do with it? How do we measure its effectiveness?” Mr. Anderson said in an interview with the Post.

The goals, created by the town’s departments, will help to provide that measurement, Mr. Anderson said.

“These goals are measurable and will be reported on at the end of the calendar year,” Mr. Anderson said.

The town’s commitment to improving its service isn’t short-term, he said. Instead, it will be a continuous process.

“It is ongoing, it is an organizational improvement initiative,” Mr. Anderson said. “We are going to attempt to make this just part of the way we do business internally.”

If a department fails to achieve a goal — or goals — that doesn’t mean there will be negative consequences for that department, Mr. Anderson said.

“The goal of this is to improve, not to punish,” Mr. Anderson said. “Say I want to run a marathon and I don’t run a marathon, I only run half a marathon, but you know that I am in better shape than I was before I started running even if I didn’t meet my goal.”

He added, “The fact that we are setting goals and we are trying to achieve these goals, I think, is a great step for the town of Greenwich. There will be nothing punitive if a department doesn’t reach their goal.”

Departments, like the Fire Department, are creating their own goals in order to serve their customers or in other cases reaching out through surveys or discussions with users to determine what should be done.

“These goals are not created in a vacuum,” Mr. Anderson said.

While improving customer service was always a focus even before the Community First initiative, Mr. Anderson said formalizing the process helps bring attention to the issue. It also results in town departments setting a benchmark and then seeing if they can achieve it.

“There is going to be a higher chance that those departments are going to work to achieve those goals if they set those goals themselves,” he said.

The Fire Department looked at how it could serve the public better, including staying open during the lunchtime hour, Chief Siecienski said. Closing from noon to 1 p.m. was a holdover from the day when the department’s senior staff were located at the Central fire station, the chief said.

“Even when we were closed there was always someone available to talk,” he said about the firefighters who were on duty. However, a few years ago, the senior staff moved out of the Central fire station and into new offices on Holly Hill. Chief Siecienski said they kept their former hours but, prompted by the Community First program, they took another look. He said by staggering employee hours they were able to ensure someone was always available, even though they don’t generally have many visitors during that time period.

Chief Siecienski said the program not only benefits residents and businesses who should see better service but it also benefits employees and departments.

“Any time you have professional training it’s a benefit. I think it’s a great thing.”

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