Customer Service: Behind the counter

  • Published
  • By Brian Schroeder
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Within the military, no one specific job is more important than another. Without one element contributing their piece to the overall operation, the mission as a whole could potentially be compromised.

One of these elements is the Customer Service ID cards section.

Customer service includes in-processing, leave and career development, which deals with promotions and outbound assignments, and force management, which handles awards, decorations and evaluations. However, those offices strictly deal with military personnel only. Tech. Sgt. Jessica Gray said, "the best way to know, learn, and adapt to all walks of life with every single customer is through ID cards."

According to Sergeant Gray, 72nd Force Support Squadron, customer support non-commissioned officer in-charge, the Identification Card Office is the gateway to starting the day at Tinker Air Force Base. Without customer service and the Airmen working in the ID card office, everyday operation on Tinker would come to a gradual standstill.

"Service members going to work utilize their CAC every single day," Sergeant Gray said. "They can't get their email and can't even get on base. If their dependent's ID card is lost or stolen, they cannot go to necessary doctor appointments because they use that to verify their identification. They are also not able to access the BX or commissary."

The ID card section of customer service not only provides assistance to all military members and civilians; they also work with retirees, dependents, and civilian contractors. Sergeant Gray said, "the ID card office tries to provide a smooth experience because we know that half of the spouses are deployed."

"When a dependent's active duty spouse is deployed, our main concern is to help them when their own sponsor is not here," she said. "With the dependent's ID they are given authorization to utilize the medical facilities and other facilities Tinker has to offer, such as the Base Exchange and commissary.

"The ID card office handles a diverse customer base," she said. "We get retirees that tell you stories that are not published in our history books. It's pretty unique having a retiree come in and being able to help them, and while in the process, hearing one of their unique war recounts. I remember we helped out a Tuskegee Airman a while back and at that point I realized that an individual from the history books had just been serviced in our ID card office. That is something that made my day."

The Tinker ID card office is the third largest DEERS office in the Air Force. The Tinker office serves an average of 70 people per day consisting of more retirees than active servicemembers.

Sergeant Gray said the most common complaint from customers is the wait time, but it is one aspect of their daily operations they are working to improve. Col. Bob LaBrutta, 72nd Air Base Wing and Tinker installation commander, championed a rapid improvement event earlier this year to address the lengthy wait at the ID card office. Since then, the courses of action have reduced the average wait time in the ID card office from 30 to 25 minutes. The office hopes to reduce the wait time to 15 minutes within the next month, Sergeant Gray added.

"I wish members would sympathize that this process is not just a five-minute process," she said. "Members don't understand how long it takes to create a CAC card. People need to understand they need to be patient and we will get to them as fast as we can. It usually takes 30 minutes from the time they walk in the door, get called back, wait for the certificates to load on the CAC card. Any other Air Force base will have the same wait time or longer."

One way to reduce wait time is to make an appointment online, which is accessible from the Tinker AFB homepage for members with CAC card access. Appointments cannot be scheduled on Fridays because Sergeant Gray said that is the day the office ensures civilian contractors receive their ID cards. However, the office has hours on the first Saturday of the month and limited hours on holidays when the rest of the base is closed. Despite the long and extra hours, she said the Airmen manning the CAC office remain vigilant and dedicated to their mission.

"Just because our doors are closed doesn't mean we are not helping customers," she said. "Our goal is to have a member at the CAC station at all times, including peak hours."

First Lt. Jennifer Nolte, chief of customer support, said she measures job satisfaction with customer response.

"A lot of our Airmen like helping people, and when they get a tough case, they like cracking the case and trying to figure out how to make it work," she said. "From the time the personnel specialists come in to the time they leave, they are always helping out a customer. They really work hard."

Lieutenant Nolte noted the ID card office is least busy in the mornings. She added two forms of ID is required for a new ID card. When an ID card is lost, it must be reported to Security Forces. The incident report is required before a new card can be issued.

"Knowing you made the process as painless as possible, especially for a retiree who has traveled from more than three hours away," Sergeant Gray said. "The self-gratification you get from a member saying 'Thank you. We appreciate all of your help.' That alone is what the Airmen strive for."