Marc Hamister is the CEO of the Hamister Group Inc., which has 748 employees and $47 million in 2011 revenues. The Hamister Group owns three assisted-living facilities and one home health-care agency in New York; as well as 10 hotels in Tennessee, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Elected officials who are the CEOs of their local government can learn some great lessons from Hamister in obtaining critical feedback from citizens and employees.

As reported in a Buffalo Business First article, Hamister takes the following steps to hear first hand what his customers and employees think of his company:

– When he visits one of the hotels, he’ll often ditch his tie, put on a driver’s cap and drive the airport shuttle van, thus turning his customers into a captive audience. He introduces himself as “Mark, your driver,” talks to them about their experience, soaks up their feedback and, at the end, hands them his card and reintroduces himself as chairman of the company. “It usually blows them away, and the customer loyalty we get out of that act is unbelievable,” Hamister says. “But I’m blown away by the input we get.”

– Hamister strives to instill Disney-like customer service in his facilities. He actually attended the Disney University program to learn about it. In his hotels, any time a staffer is within 15 feet of a customer, they make eye contact. Within five feet, they ask some variation of the question, “What can I do for you today?”

– When he stays at one of his hotels, he books the name under an alias. Before he arrives at any facility, he finds out who the new employees are and immediately visits with them, acting as a customer in a hotel or as a client’s family member in a health facility.

Recently the Mayor of Cincinnati Mark Mallory appeared on the TV showUndercover Boss. Mallory disguised his appearance and worked several different city jobs to experience first hand life as a city employee. Since filming the show, Mallory has filled potholes, picked up trash, done street sweeping, and rode along with police officers.

Elected officials can learn a lot by taking the time to experience what it is like to be an employee or a customer. Committing just a half day a month over a two or four year term to working along side fellow employees will give an elected official a great deal of insight regarding the reality of their government policies and procedures. Government employees and customers would love the opportunity to directly communicate their ideas and concerns to an elected official who takes the time to see and hear first hand.

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