It can be hard to describe good customer service, but you sure know it when you see it. Last week, I was at — of all things — a baseball tournament in the greater Atlanta-metro area. The tournament wasn’t a small volunteer undertaking. The organization that sponsored the tournament is national in scope and has a great deal of experience holding these events. In this case, more than 100 teams were playing at fields all over Atlanta.
When it came to customer service these guys had it figured out. The staff, made up mostly of high school and college kids, was friendly and poised. In each interaction I had with one of the tournament employees, I walked away impressed.
One of my first interactions was with the employees who operated the booth where tournament merchandise was being sold. I couldn’t believe how extremely helpful they were. These young men didn’t come across as a bunch of disinterested kids looking to collect minimum wage. They pulled out samples, offered advice, and hunted for sizes. They were helpful without being pushy and came across as extremely professional. I walked away thinking that my experience at their booth exceeded most high-end retail outlets.
Then there were the umps. These are guys standing out in 90-degree heat hour after hour taking abuse from coaches and parents alike. Yet somehow they remained calm and friendly. Our team’s coach said that after introducing himself to the umpire crew at home plate before the first pitch, he was called by his first name in every subsequent interaction with the umps. Even more impressive, when our team encountered the same crew the next day, they remembered him and his name. That level of attention to detail is impressive and contributes to how smoothly the tournament runs.
My final experience with the tournament employees came on the last day and was really the icing on the cake. Our team ran into a bit of a scheduling problem that created a great deal of confusion and maybe even a little panic. When the coach asked at the front gate whom he needed to speak with about getting things corrected, the young girl — all of 17 years old — told him exactly where he needed to go and whom to speak with. In addition to providing a name, she went so far as to describe the person.
Arriving at the second destination, the coach immediately recognized the person he was to speak with; this time it was a young woman of about 20. By asking a series of questions, she gathered all the necessary information and got on the phone with the tournament director. She wasn’t rattled in the least bit and assured the coach that she would help get it figured out. After speaking with the tournament director, she offered a solution. When the coach asked whom he needed to follow up with, she wrote down her name and her number, telling him that she would be easiest to reach because the tournament director was swamped. The coach left, the problem was resolved, and I was left thinking I want to hire that young woman. She was professional and poised beyond her years.
To be honest, the entire tournament experience left me scratching my head. How can an organization that relies heavily on short-term, temporary help do such a great job of hiring and training their workers? Where do they find these helpful, mature young people who are so wonderfully friendly? I plan on asking.
My guess is that that they’ve become pretty good at hiring the right type of people for the work they will be doing. It’s likely that when they find a good one, they’ll employ them for a number of years as they move through high school and college. But in the end, they must do a great job of training their employees. There just is no other explanation for the consistent high-level of customer service from every employee. It’s apparent that providing a positive experience for their customers is job number one.
Think about the companies that you love to do business with. How many of them provide great customer service? My guess is that all of them do — otherwise you wouldn’t love doing business with them. I’m flying Southwest Airlines as I write this. In my mind, there isn’t an airline that comes close to the level of friendly service Southwest provides. I had the opportunity to visit an Apple store recently, another great experience because of the well-trained, friendly technicians I encountered. I’m sure you can rattle off a list like this as well.
An experience like I had last week is a great reminder of the importance of customer service. We, as consumers, want to do business with companies that provide great service. It’s what keeps us coming back.
And customer service isn’t rocket science. It takes savvy hiring, good training, and, most importantly, a commitment to provide a great experience for the customer. But yet so many companies fail to get it right. Why? I guess it’s because they lose sight of what really drives their business — the customer. It’s something none of us should ever forget.