I was watching an old episode of Seinfeld last night. It was the one about the Soup Nazi, where Jerry and the crew patronize a local soup kitchen, where the owner has strict protocols. A couple of lasting scenes from that episode was the “no soup for you” line and Newman hightailing it to get a pot for the free soup. Watching that episode brought back to mind the time a colleague gave me a nickname because of the strict protocols I had in place and adhered to regarding the Facility Managers Program at Joint Base Andrews during my time there. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Customer Service Nazi.
How I first came across this moment? It all started on June 2, 2010. I wrote about in Triumphs & Tribulations X. It was my 2nd official day in the office at the 316th Civil Engineer Squadron Customer Service Office. I was manning the Service Call Desk and I received a call from a woman in the 316th Wing headquarters building. In asking her all of the questions that I was taught way back when I was a young Airman 1st Class, I discovered she was the Facility Manager for the Air Force Office of Special Investigation’s National Capital Region attachment and her issue was a stained ceiling tile. She wanted someone to check out the issue immediately but I countered with the likely cause of the stained tile (rain penetrating through the membranes on the roof) and the likelihood of a CES response (the next rain event). She pressed with the “this is the wing headquarters building” speech but I stood my ground and explained to her the difference between routine, urgent, and emergency service requests. It was at this point that she relent ed and said “you’re really good” to which I responded with a “huh”. She then explained that she was also a 3E6X1…on a special duty assignment. In a roundabout joking manner, she said she was “testing” me. I didn’t appreciate that very much. When I took control of the Joint Base Andrews Facility Managers Program in October 2010, I went about closing off all of the areas Facility Managers had exploited before my arrival. I wanted to narrow the number of Facility Managers on the yard so I focused heavily on training and appointment letters. The 3E6 who was masquerading as a Facility Manager at OSI didn’t have a current appointment letter so I refused to take her non-emergency phone calls. Whenever she would call and I was on the Service Call Desk, I’d let her know this. She had friends in the office so she’d call their direct lines to get her work orders in. Eventually, after giving her like 8 opportunities to produce a new appointment letter, I removed her from the Facility Manager listing. She found out when our augmentee told her that she couldn’t take the call because she wasn’t on the list. Apparently, she got pissed and had some conversations with my co-workers. It came out in one of the office meetings that she called me “the customer service Nazi”.
What it meant to me then? Upon first hearing of this, I laughed. I immediately got the point that she was trying to make. I didn’t take any offense to it. I had been there before and got plenty of T-shirts. Hell, I was the reigning Airman of the Year based on how I governed a Facility Managers Program with an iron fist. Her saying I was a “customer service Nazi” meant nothing to me apart from what it really was…that I was doing my job and people noticed. And more importantly, people were being held accountable. I actually took pride in the label she tagged me with. Depending on who you ask from those 2 years I spent in the 316th/11th Civil Engineer Squadron Customer Service Office, my reputation as the Black Mamba started with her labeling me as a “customer service Nazi”.
What it means to me now? All of these years later, I’m still tough on people in this line of work. These days, I’m the Facility Manager though and I’m usually giving tenants and administrative contacts a hard time because they’re not following the rules. I won’t confirm or deny that I’m usually declared persona non grata wherever I’ve been involved in building operations since being branded as a “customer service Nazi”. But that’s the game. I’m not in this to make friends or be buddy-buddy with people…I’m in this to make sure the buildings work the way they are supposed to.