Did You Catch Your Employees on Camera?

Can you count on your municipal sewer and water employees to always act in a professional manner – even when “no one” is looking? 

Today’s digital technology can have unexpected consequences for those caught on camera. 

A case in point, five City of Monroe, La., employees were suspended last fall after video surfaced showing them taking pictures as water gushed onto the street and into a nearby home. According to news reports, a worker in a 7-foot hole escaped unharmed while three others were seen taking photos of the ruptured line and of each other. 

An investigation determined no policies were violated and the employees were allowed to return to work. 

How might your employees look in the public eye if their video was posted on the Web? 

Lance LeComb, manager of public information and spokesman for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, says MSD tackles customer service for employees in multiple ways, beginning with its strategic plan. 

“Customer service is one of five values that drive our allocation of resources and a business imperative for which we annually implement strategies and tactics,” he says. 

The district also provides employees with customer training at hiring and through ongoing programs – especially for anyone who will regularly come into contact with customers via phone and in person. 

Among the points of emphasis is a reminder that states:

  • Behavior is contagious.
  • The peer group sets the level of behavior.
  • What we tolerate will continue. 

To measure performance and the effectiveness of its training, MSD surveys customers each month and compiles quarterly and annual reports to note trends. Questions and responses include customers’ experience with field employees by phone, customers’ experience with employees who make a service call and satisfaction with the overall quality of service provided by MSD field personnel. 

MSD’s goal is to achieve an eight on a scale of one to 10 in all aspects of customer service. “We had some heavy rains last year, so we are below that number in a few places,” LeComb says. The district rated a 7.5 for overall field service for the third quarter of 2013. 

“We have done this type of surveying since 2005 and it is used monthly to identify where more training or closer management is warranted,” he says. 

Customer service and treating individuals with respect also are priorities at the Santa Rosa, Calif., Utilities Department, says Mark Powell, deputy department director. With 285 employees, it’s important that they’re caught doing things right, he says. 

Ethics guidelines emphasize doing the “right thing” at the right time and, and when in doubt, reminds employees to use the following list as a guide:

  • Is the action legal?
  • Does it comply with our values: service, integrity, fairness, respect?
  • How will it look in tomorrow’s newspaper?
  • Will I sleep soundly tonight?
  • Would I tell my children to react the same way?
  • When in doubt, DON’T.


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