Customer base or fan base, they both deserve top customer service

One of the most common threads that runs through all businesses is the goal of building relationships that will endure between your front-line employees and customer.

If a business has a loyal customer base, it can probably say without reservation that keeping that client base is a top priority.

So it is with the business of baseball. Busch Stadium, the subject of this month’s Uniquely St. Louis feature, has been hosting Cardinal fans since 2006, and 21 million have attended Cardinals games there since the stadium opened.

While some may say the best measurement of satisfied customers at a ballpark is whether they keep coming back, it’s more complicated than that. Many factors can’t be controlled — weather, team slumps and player injuries, for instance.

But what can be controlled are the front-line customer service representatives who deal with the fans. Those representatives should understand the business of delivering customer service.  When there are problems, the representatives should know how to resolve them.

A CEO I recently interviewed offered this advice on how to find the right type of employees:

“You’re looking for good talent, people who have the ability to adapt and people who have the ability to learn,” he says. “When you interview people, look for who’s going to fit within the organization. You may not hire the person who is technically right for the job since you should be concerned with somebody who fits in.”

While that applies to front-line employees, a different approach is needed to bring results in your search for qualified management trainees.

The CEO’s experience showed him that recent college graduates are the preferred material for management trainees. On-the-job training offers senior management an opportunity to observe the would-be managers.

“Design a 24-month program,” the CEO says. “You rotate through, say, six different departments, four months per department, to get you to the 24th month. Then you slot them into a full-time job, something that they like that they’ve learned, for the first 18 to 24 months.”

The time spent in the program will serve to groom trainees for their specialty. Many new college graduates are malleable and open to career options.

“Look for somebody who can think on their feet. For any business, you need to go in and learn. We’re looking for good talent, where people have the ability to adapt, where people have the ability to learn.”

Make training a priority to ensure that your customer service representatives are capable of dealing with the most complicated customer issues. It is equally important to train your front-line representatives to effectively deal with people under the most delicate of circumstances.

You don’t need to be an expert to know that keeping loyal customers by delivering exceptional service is smart business. Customer service, however, isn’t a box that can be checked off a to-do list. New protocols and systems are not enough. Delivering remarkable service requires ongoing companywide commitment and continuous attention.

So, let’s play ball!