After missing the No. 1 spot by two-hundredths of a point in 2022, the Cy-Fair Fire Department was at the top of the list for customer service among 57 similarly sized agencies across the U.S. in EMS Survey Team’s 2023 rankings.

In a nutshell

EMS Survey Team is a Michigan-based firm that distributes surveys to patients following their incidents and analyzes the data in a monthly report to participating departments.

Justin Reed, assistant chief of emergency medical services for the CFFD, said tracking patient experience ratings is optional for fire departments, but the data helps leadership understand what they’re doing well and potential areas where there is room for improvement.

The survey evaluates the department on more than 20 metrics, some of which include:
  • The helpfulness of the person who was called for ambulance service
  • The care shown by the medics who arrive with the ambulance
  • The skill of the medics
  • The extent to which medics cared for the patient as a person
  • The professionalism of the billing office staff
  • The likelihood of recommending the ambulance service to others
EMS Survey Team reported the CFFD exceeded the national average score in every category for 2023, and Reed said 86% of survey responses are the highest score in each category.

But even negative feedback can be beneficial, Reed said, as it presents training opportunities to improve the patient experiences moving forward.

“If there was a finding we need to improve on, then we handle that,” he said. “And I think that’s what helps keep us consistent in being the best.”

How it happened

Reed said the CFFD has used this customer service survey for many years, but he noticed an uptick in negative feedback in August 2021 as his crews were facing burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He sent the survey data to a customer service expert who then came in and trained the staff on how to address some of those metrics.

From there, the department’s customer service scores began to increase as a greater emphasis was placed on its mission to make a positive impact. Reed continues to share stories of positive impacts his employees make in the community at regular meetings.

These examples range from connecting food-insecure families to local resources to providing clothing and toiletries for children in need. Crews have ensured a senior’s air conditioning was repaired after she called for heat-related issues; and purchased and delivered gifts for the wife of a patient who injured himself while out shopping for her birthday, Reed said.

Reed said empowering crews to do what’s in the patient’s best interest sometimes means going above and beyond just transporting them to the hospital. This improves the overall work culture in the department as well, he said, noting the CFFD also saw the department’s lowest turnover rate for paramedics in 2023.

“As a leader, this is my proudest accomplishment that I have zero control over,” Reed said. “It shows that they care.”

Looking ahead

Moving forward, Reed said he hopes to continue this culture of care.

“We want to make sure that we recognize and reward what needs to be repeated but also maintain it,” he said. “So now that we're at the top, let's maintain that high standard; let's not get complacent.”