When I was a kid I remember my dad taking me to the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown, New York and watching him catch a foul ball off the bat of Willie Mays. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Cynics can talk all they want about how sports are nothing more than a business these days and, to a great extent, that’s true. But there are no profit and loss statements that can explain what it means for a son or daughter to watch for the first time as Steven Stamkos scores a goal, or Anders Lindback makes a spectacular save. Those memories are priceless.
Several years ago I worked on a consulting project for the Tampa Bay Rays when Vince Naimoli owned the team. They had been ranked last in MLB when it came to guest satisfaction. Collaborating with one of their Vice-Presidents at that time, Jose Tavarez, we implemented coaching and training that focused upon four simple principles:
R = Respect every guest.
A = Anticipate their needs.
Y = YOU make their day!
S = Solve their challenges.
While it’s a bonus for NHL teams to offer meet-and-greets, puck-signings, and other player-centric functions, the average fan will tell you that they just want to go to a game and enjoy the moment.
How about an usher who smiles once and awhile or a pizza vendor who says, “How may I serve you today?” It doesn’t take much, really! Or, maybe just a security guard who doesn’t want your four-year old daughter to empty her kiddie purse so he can check for explosives.
Hockey fanatics are the greatest fans in all of sports; they’re passionate, intelligent, and unmistakably loyal. I’m appealing to all NHL owners to take a hard look at their teams before the 2013-14 season begins and ask, “Are we offering our fans the best possible experience for the dollars they invest in our team?”
And if the answer is anything less than an unequivocal, “YES!” — then re-shape your guest service initiatives because, without the fans, there is no team.