When you’re putting on a live event like a race, customer service can seem like a tricky beast. Whether it's questions about your online race registration, bib assignment or the parking situation on race day, support questions are an opportunity to have a positive interaction with your athletes.
That’s why we wanted to run through Customer Service 101: The Event Edition. Think of it as an insurance policy against unhappy racers and angry Yelp reviews. If you follow the 5 Golden Rules of customer service, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding a flock of flustered athletes.
Treat Others The Way You’d Like To Be Treated
This is also Life Rules 101, but when you’re interacting with your athletes, especially with any customer service issues they might have, you want to treat them with the same respect and empathy that you would want to be treated with if you were in the same boat.
Even if someone comes at you with his grumpy face, just be nice. Try to understand why he's frustrated and keep the conversation friendly and mutually respectful. You lose nothing by being nice. You have the potential to turn this into a positive interaction for both you and your athlete.
The best customer service happens when you empathize with another person's needs and you actually care about helping them solve whatever problem/frustration they have.
Put yourself in the shoes of your athletes (just figuratively, don't worry). Deciding to participate in an event is an investment. The registration, the gear, the training, the travel, and the clearing of the schedule for said things are all investments and potentially stressful events. Your athlete isn't just forking over some cash they found on a money tree and forgetting about you. When someone comes to you with a concern or problem don't try to just slap a band aid on it and shoo them out the dor. Dig in, find out what they really need, and do your best to orchestrate a genuine win-win.
Answer any customer service inquiries within 24 hours (ideally, much faster). This is especially true if you only offer email support. If you can get a response out to your athletes in under one hour, even better!
Adding an auto-responder to your support email account acknowledging that you received the email, and oh hey in the meantime, here are some answers to frequently asked questions gets a whole lot of folks a near-instant answer to their questions. No magic eight ball needed.
Show that you appreciate your athletes and value their time by getting back to them with answers to their questions quickly.
All Hands On Deck
You know that saying “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst?” I’m pretty sure whoever wrote that probably had put together an event or two.
The closer things get to event day, the more questions you are going to get. And when event day finally rolls around, you can pretty much guarantee that something will hit the fan in one way or another. And when it does, you’ll have some customer service collateral to deal with.
On event day, you need to have as many people possible on hand to address the inevitable customer service issues that will come when you have that many balls in the air. Have both event staff and volunteers stationed throughout your check-in stations, on the course and at the start and finish lines to squash any issues before they become a problem.
Own Up To Your Mistakes
Yes, sometimes customer service issues are completely of the customer’s making.
But other times, they happen because you dropped the ball. And if that’s the case, you need to dust that dirt off your shoulder, put on your big boy pants and own up to it.
There’s no worse way to handle a company mistake than to pretend it didn’t happen. Validate your customers’ concerns, apologize for your mistake and let them know how you’re going to make it right.
The real test of excellent support is how an organization handles itself in a disaster of its own creation. Owning up to your mistakes is not only the right thing to do, it proves to your athlete that they can trust you to be honest with them and proactively fix mistakes.
Customer service comes down to truly taking care of your customers. So do your athletes a solid and follow these golden rules of customer service.