A Cleveland company that trains fast food companies is partnering with an Ohio law enforcement agency to coach them on their customer service skills.
The Westlake Police Department recently hired The DiJulius Group, a customer experience consulting agency based in Cleveland, to help incorporate customer service training into regular law enforcement training.
Westlake Captain Jerry Vogel said that the aim of the program is to improve police’s interactions with the public by equipping officers with the necessary tools to improve interpersonal interactions.
“We’re dealing with people who are calling the police department for a reason. We want to make sure we empathize with their problems and what they need and we want to provide that service for them,” Vogel said.
The DiJulius Group previously worked with law enforcement in 2020 after Charlotte, North Carolina, agencies reached out for help.
The majority of the company’s clients are in the fast food or hospitality industry and include Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and the Ritz Carleton.
Owner and President John DiJulius said that the key to good customer service in any industry is empathy.
“We’re not saying when anyone’s life is in danger, you should be saying ‘certainly’ and ‘my pleasure’ and ‘the customer’s always right.’ I’ve never agreed with that. You can be human first and professional second. You can show empathy.”
DiJulius said that he never expected to work with law enforcement until Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Chief Johnny Jennings said he wanted an outside perspective.
“He called me and asked me if I had ever worked with policing or law enforcement. I said, ‘No, we never had up till that point.’ But I said I could probably find just someone who has. He said, ‘No, you’re exactly what we’re looking for. We want someone with no law enforcement background. We want a totally outside, different perspective,’” DiJulius recalled.
Jennings said his idea was inspired by the renowned customer service he experienced at Chick-fil-A and decided to work with DiJulius to incorporate customer service skills into police training.
Jennings said that all CMPD staff take part in the training. Their motto is to “leave a positive impression and earn a genuine thank you.”
“In their minds, they should be thinking, ‘How can I leave this interaction with a positive impact?’” Jennings said.
In the first year since adding the training, CMPD’s “customer service rating” went from 43% to 84%. The department also recorded 1,600 positive community interactions recorded on body-worn cameras.
Ohio police now hope to take a page out of Jennings’ book.
According to Dr. Ronnie Dunn, an associate professor of urban studies and executive director of the Diversity Institute at Cleveland State University, officer demeanor was the chief complaint to the Cleveland Civilian Review Board.
“There’s research that shows when people are treated in a manner that they consider to be fair and where they’re heard and respected, they are more willing to accept even negative outcomes,” Dunn said.
Dunn is optimistic that by incorporating customer service skills into law enforcement training, police officers can build better relationships with the community, but noted that it would take time.
“The commitment is going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take a lot of effort. And if you’re not willing to do that, you’re not going to be successful,” he said.