Great Customer Service

Happy campers are happy customers! © Can Stock Photo Inc. / mandygodbehear

Campers and staff thought they were getting a treat. Some staff members even approached Donna and thanked her for working so hard on the pancakes.

Words matter.

Another example of how words matter is the power of “yes.” While “yes” is certainly positive, sometimes we feel like we have to qualify that “yes.”

For example, a group has already informed the camp about renting the pool, the lake, the archery range, and the BB gun range, so the appropriate staff is engaged. Then, two days before the intended arrival, the group calls to ask whether the high-ropes course can also be used.

There is not enough staff to run all of these activities and the ropes course, so the first thought is to say “no.” Better customer service would be to say, “Yes, and if we do that, we will have to take out two of the other activities you asked for so those staff members can run the ropes course. Which activities would you prefer?”

In this example, you said “yes,” and the user group was able to make the choice. This feels much different than a flat “no.” Plus, using the word “but” is intentional. That word negates what was said before, whereas “and” enhances it. Again, words matter.

Exceed Expectations

Our camp hosts a large bike ride every year. The event starts at 8 a.m., and the gates open at 6 a.m. Bicycle riders have a habit of arriving early; in fact, there is usually a line of cars at the gate by 5:30 a.m. Because of this, we are very specific in helping with customer service.

The sign at the gate reads, “Welcome, riders! Gates open at 6 a.m.” We also post a staff member there to talk with riders and let in volunteers. When the cars pull up, drivers are reminded about the gate-opening time.

However, we set a goal to open the gates at 5:45 a.m. By opening early, we exceed the riders’ expectations, so they feel better about their wait. In order to exceed expectations, we had to establish baseline expectations that were realistic and clearly communicated. Success is in the planning, a step that is easy to overlook.

If your plan is to open the gates for check-in at 2 p.m., and you ask staff to arrive by 1 p.m., there may not be enough prep time. As a consequence of inadequate planning, you may run late, which is poor customer service.

Better planning might include an earlier staff arrival or a published check-in time of 2:30 p.m. With either choice, the gates can be opened 10 minutes early and thereby exceed expectations.

An Apology Goes A Long Way

A genuine apology helps people feel appreciated. I love going to places that are known for customer service and watching how the staff members react to a mistake.

On a family vacation to Disney World, we were charged double for a dinner. Because we were using the pre-paid meal plan, I didn’t realize the mistake until two days later as I was checking our account. I went to the front desk and explained what had happened.

The woman said, “I am very sorry, sir. We will take care of this.” Then she asked about the quality of the restaurant and the meal. Notice that at the point she apologized, she didn’t know whether the mistake was mine or Disney’s. She apologized anyway, which put me at ease. Eventually, my account was credited.

An apology can be beneficial, even if the agency is not at fault. “I am very sorry you feel that way. Is there anything I can do?” “I am sorry that was your experience.” “I’m very sorry about the misunderstanding. Let me see what I can do to make things right.”

A genuine apology—if only for an upsetting circumstance—is another cornerstone of good customer service.

In recreation and youth development, we spend a great deal of time focusing on quality programs. Great programs will get the camp noticed, but great customer service will bring people back.

Knowing who the customer is, being intentional about the use of words, exceeding expectations, and apologizing are all examples of superior customer service. The customer is not always right, but staff trained in customer service can make customers feel that things are right in the universe.

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