I deal with difficulty daily. I solve problems and make things happen, but it often isn’t easy. That’s pretty much what customer service is – dealing with difficulty and problem solving.
The thing that makes customer service so difficult, including sport customer service, are the emotions that are involved. You and I both have different emotions, history, perspective, and understanding of the world around us that affects how we view and interact with the world and its people. Those things are what make up what I like to call our emotional framework. Our emotional framework is who we are and how we naturally deal with problems. Sometimes a persons emotional framework is naturally aligned with problem solving in a customer service type of role, but often times it is not; it is something that must be developed and practiced. In that case, you’ve got to learn to not just deal with problems, but deal with people. You’ve got to have some understanding of human psychology and hope the mind works.
When you work in a sport customer service role, you must train your emotional framework to support the emotional framework of others, at least as far as it relates to the area in which you work – selling tickets, soliciting donations and serving donors, giving directions, selling hot dogs, scanning tickets at the gates, etc. When you understand the basics of how to deal with someone who is being more emotional than rational, you’ll be in a better position to help them calm down and get what they want.
If you don’t have what they want, you will at least be able to help them understand and be ok with the fact that they are not going to get what they want – you are effectively managing their expectations. I’m not an expert in psychology and am in no way certified in any human science, but I do know that honesty is always the best policy. Don’t say anything that isn’t true, don’t lie and don’t cheat, but don’t give away your credibility and reveal information that shouldn’t be divulged.
Here are a few tips on how to handle difficult conversations in sport customer service:
– Remember it’s not about you, as an individual; you do however represent something greater than yourself and should carry yourself and act in a befitting manner
– Listen intently and with empathetic body language
– Repeat what the customer is asking; be clear about what it is that they want
– If you don’t have an immediate answer, let the person know that you will find someone else who can assist them with their concern, then go do this right away
– If you do have an immediate answer, let the person know; offer the news in a compassionate way that lets them know you understand what they wanted
– Watch someone else handle a few customer service interactions if you are not comfortable with this conversation at first
– Ask someone to mentor you or observe you during your shift for constructive criticism and feedback
To be successful in sport customer service, you’ve got to care about what it is that you are doing and have a genuine interest in people and the organization for which you work. If you don’t, your intentions will show and it is likely you won’t have very many positive interactions with your constituents. Sport customer service is a skill that must be learned and continually developed by practicing the steps above. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but as your understanding of the organization and its policies grows, so will your confidence in being able to handle customer requests – which, let’s be honest, are sometimes completely irrational. Keep your cool, be honest, demonstrate compassion, and be a good resource for your fans. After all, this is sports – let’s have fun!
Here are a few other posts I’ve written on customer service:
SPORT CUSTOMER SERVICE
CUSTOMER SERVICE GOES BEYOND THE NAME TAG
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS AT THE HEART OF BUSINESS
DELIVERING GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE – A STORY