GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The Army garrison here aims to provide services to support Soldiers and their families. But if those services either exceed or don’t meet your expectations, you can take action.


The Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE, is your online customer feedback form.


A written complaint is important because it formally puts your complaint on record and sends the signal to leadership that you’re serious about pursuing an issue, according to the Federal Trade Commission, an arm of the federal government aimed at protecting you the consumer.


But also, when used effectively, ICE has a uniquely democratic effect within the military in that it makes the garrison and its service providers responsive to the will of the community.


When dealing with a problem, first try to discuss your issue with a representative of that office in person, over the phone or via email. If that doesn’t work, submit an ICE comment. A director or facility manager designated as an ICE manager receives your comments, which are eventually routed up through the garrison commander.


Be specific and avoid writing angry or threatening comments.


When drafting an ICE comment, describe the situation with as much detail as possible. Explain exactly what you want done and include names, times, dates and locations — all information ICE managers can use to substantiate your concerns to provide solutions.


“The most effective ICE comments are those that provide details — who, what, when, where along with actionable requests and recommendations,” said Pete Ridilla, an ICE manager and former director of USAG Bavaria’s public works directorate.


“If you say, ‘your office is awful,’ and don’t provide details then there’s little I can do. But, for example, if you write an ICE complaint about an office not picking up their phone, I can fix that if you tell me the time of day you called, as well as the office and number you tried calling — it’s possible you called while we were closed or you might just be dialing the wrong number,” Ridilla said.


When leaving feedback, remember the Army acronym SMART. Write comments and recommendations that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If you want a template, consider using the one provided by the FCC.


It’s also in your interest not to submit nasty comments. Often, you have every right to be dissatisfied. The person reading your comments, however, isn’t necessarily responsible for the problem, but is in every way the person who is going to help you resolve it.


Provide name and contact information.


The ICE comment card can be left anonymous. But you can also provide your name and contact information and request a response. This is particularly useful to you the commenter because it’s the gateway to one-on-one engagement with those decision-makers who can turn your comments into results.


“I recommend that our customers provide us contact information in their ICE cards because it opens the dialogue leading to change,” said Audre Binder, an ICE manger and the director of USAG Bavaria’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation directorate.


Each ICE manager associated with a comment card is responsible for reviewing every submission she receives. But ICE comments with no name or contact information are only added to reports that track trends within an organization. Comments with name and contact information, on the other hand, require direct and immediate action on the part of the ICE manager. ICE managers are required to respond within three working days.


But if you leave your name and contact information, do you subject yourself to any retribution?


“That’s just not the case,” said Renate Neaverth, the USAG Bavaria ICE program manager. “The ICE system does not track information on an individual, though information such as and IP address can be retrieved for a criminal investigation.”


Plus, added Neaverth, the managers that respond on ICE are not allowed to use contact information to track down an ICE commenter to retaliate. In fact, the ICE policy protects customers and clearly prohibits retribution.


“Persons who view and/or use comments or contact information in an inappropriate or unauthorized manner assume the consequences for violations to privacy and their legal and monetary impacts,” according to the DOD’s ICE policy, dated July 31, 2009.


Leave positive feedback, too.


The purpose of the ICE system is to enable DOD organizations to collect feedback to improve services, according to the DOD’s ICE policy.


“While negative feedback helps us determine where we need improvement, positive feedback highlights what we’re doing well and what we should continue,” Binder said.


ICE comments — both good and bad — can reflect a trend, perhaps the greatest mover of change. A spike in complaints about a particular service, for example, may provide the justification for more funding or resources. Similarly, a trend in positive comments toward a service may strengthen its foothold in the community and prevent it from downsizing.


“When leaving positive feedback, remember to be specific,” advised Binder.

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