My wife, Sally, and I just returned from a three city baseball stadium tour.
We visited Cleveland's Progressive Field, Detroit's Comerica Park, and Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark, catching two games in each stadium.
It was a great trip. We're huge baseball fans, and each stadium offered a fun and unique experience. For instance, we got a stadium tour in Cincinnati where we had a chance wander through the press box and see the field from the home team's dugout.
One of the qualities that makes a visit to the ballpark special is service. Here are three lessons that really stood out that can be applied nearly anywhere.
The Grand Entrance
You can feel the buzz in the air as you approach a stadium for a baseball game.
There are welcoming sights, sounds, and smells everywhere. Vendors hawking programs and scorecards. Crowds of fans wearing their home team's gear. The smell of ballpark food inviting you in.
We were particularly impressed by how we were greeted in each stadium. The first people to interact with us were typically security guards and ticket takers at the entrance. They were all friendly, smiling, and said, "Enjoy the game!"
It felt like a big event.
First impressions like this are a huge part of customer service. When a customer visits your business or contacts you via phone, email, chat, etc., a positive impression creates the expectation that the experience will be a good one.
This actually works in your favor. Thanks to a quirk called confirmation bias, customers are more likely to view each subsequent experience in a positive light.
Customers like to feel special.
One area where we consistently felt special at the ballpark was the concession stand. In Cincinnati, we got the scoop on where to find local beer in the stadium and which brews were most recommended.
In Detroit, we learned about a stand that sold maple bacon on a stick. (Yes, it was as good as it sounds!)
In Cleveland, we joked with a concession employee (and a few fellow fans) about a hot dog that was garnished with pimento macaroni and cheese, bacon, and Fruit Loops.
These were all busy places, but employees there knew the secret. You can only serve one customer at a time, so give that person your full attention even if its just for a moment.
Manage Business Relationships
A baseball stadium is typically a complicated maze of business relationships.
Take those concessions, for example. In each stadium we visited, the concessions were run by a company called Delaware North, not the team. This meant each team had to work closely with their vendor to ensure a positive fan experience.
Here, I have some first-hand knowledge of how sports teams can build positive relationships with their vendors.
I was able to interview Nicolette Trobaugh from Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire for The Service Culture Handbook. Like the baseball teams I recently visited, the Chicago Fire relies on a vendor to serve concessions at its games.
Trobaugh and her team do something called Spark Training before every home game. They review fan feedback to look for opportunities for improvement. They then take that feedback to the impacted vendor and do a short, pre-shift meeting called Spark Training before the next game. The purpose is to share the feedback, discuss solutions, and identify best practices for creating a great experience.
- What first impression does your business make?
- How can you give your customers personal attention?
- What vendors play a key role in serving your customers?