“Customer Service” (A Lost Art)

By: Tom Phelps, @phelpsgs

There are many people who are sales gurus who have made quite good careers through books, workshops and informational shows. While people like Jon Spoelstra and the late Zig Zigler became house hold names through the art of the sale, there is a lost art that is often forgotten and can be just as important if not more to sales and that is customer service.

The following is an example of poor customer service. The author recently attended a college football game of a Power 5 team. At halftime of the game there was a weather delay. With the threat of thunder and lightning and with a driving rainstorm happening all the patrons were ordered off the safety of the concourse and to leave the stadium into the storm. While many people refused to budge the police had to be called and threatened with arrest any fan who tried to stay in the stadium. The thunder and lightning thankfully never materialized and eventually the stadium was reopened and the game resumed. Once I found out the game was back on my nine year old son and I decided to head back into the game. The stadium was half full to begin with and now had dwindled down to ten percent capacity but that still did not stop a game day worker from physically grabbing my young son upon his re-entry and demanding he produce a ticket (which incredibly he had held on to throughout the first half of the game and the weather delay ordeal). The ticket was water logged and melted but the very unhappy worker still allowed him to come into the game. The whole experience is not going to help make me want to go running back to one of their games any time soon. The fact that the team is not very good will not help matters either.

The following is a template on what can be done to provide proper customer service and leave a patron wanting to return to your team’s contests.

The path to retaining and creating a lifetime fan of a team or product begins even before a client has made the initial purchase. A sales representative’s duty is to inform a potential client about the product and all of the benefits that would come with a purchase. The reason for this is so a customer will know exactly what they are getting involved with through a purchase. A major reason for a person not returning is because the consumer found the product to be not what they had expected.

Once a customer has decided to become a patron by making a purchase it is important that they are felt welcome. As an example a simple note on a receipt order stating “thank you for joining the team” or “thank you for your support” show that the patron is now an important part of the organization. The next step in the customer service program occurs prior to the event the patron is attending. An email sent to the patron will help with what marketing calls the door to door experience, with an outline of all that is expected to be experienced by a fan while attending an event. As an example the email can be a timeline starting with which gate to enter for parking and what time the lot is open. The email will also state when important pregame events will occur. As another example the Naval Academy Athletic Association will email group ticket purchasers the week of a game with the exact time the brigade will march onto the field and when the military fly over is conducted. The idea of walking a fan through the event from beginning to end is to limit any surprises or frustration from an unknown issue and to help a patron know exactly what they can expect at an outing.

The next step in the customer service process occurs while the contest is being held. The sales representative should make an in game visit to the client who purchased tickets. Often a sale is conducted over the phone and this allows for the first face to face meeting between the sales person and the client. The goal with the meeting is to help put a name with a face and allow for the sincere gratitude of supporting the team to be shown. The meeting can lead to the next customer service step by asking questions about how the patrons are feeling about the event and solving any problems that may have arisen. It is very important to take any issue seriously and attain a quick resolution. The final part of the in game customer service is to take care of any benefits that the patron is owed. As an example if a group has their name announced over the public address system and shown on the scoreboard, it is vital to make sure the spelling and pronouncement is correct.

After the event, the next customer service step is to place a phone call to the patron. The goal of the phone call is not another sale but to thank the person for their support and see if they have any feedback from the outing. A nice gesture and another non sales touch point for a patron is the mailing of a non-denominational hand written holiday card. If a client is a large supporter the mailing could also contain a gift.

Once the holiday season has passed the next customer service step is a mailing of the team’s upcoming schedule. It is a nice gesture to the fan and it also allows them a time to start looking at dates and planning for a future outing. After the mailing the next customer service gesture is to invite a group leader out to an exclusive VIP event. Another step in the customer service process could involve a player or a coach in showing an appreciation for the patrons support. For example, the Fayetteville Patriots of the National Basketball Association Development League (D-League) during the last week of their season would have their players call the season ticket holders and top group leaders personally thank them for their support.

The process of sales and bringing fans to support an organization is important. The next step making sure a fan is happy with their investment is even more important. A good customer service program will lead to a high retention of patrons.