A feel-good approach to your customer service

One of the 1980’s most iconic TV shows, “Cheers,” has a valuable lesson for every industry – the value of customer service. “Cheers” ran for a total of 275 episodes, spanning eleven seasons, and the show centered on the lives of a Boston bar’s patrons. The repeat customers at the bar continued to go back to Cheers not because of the menu, but because of the true sense of community, where, as the theme song mentions, “everybody knows your name.”

If you want to make your bowling center more of a feel-good locale that attracts repeat customers, there are only a few, very simple steps to take.

First, ditch the mechanical processes and approach to customer service. Customer service is about people and building relationships – not about routines and numbers. Have you ever brought in a staff training consultant to your center? These trainers provide invaluable insights, but make sure you and your staff don’t get lost in the mechanized processes. The consultant may have the best checklist for things to do (or to avoid doing) all day at your center, but what is of paramount importance is building relationships.

Next, lead by example. It is easy to get caught up in the process of training our staff how to implement better customer service practices, but far and away, the best way of teaching our staff is to lead by example. At my own center, I would go lane to lane as often as I could and talk to the customers and establish relationships. Make sure your staff members see this customer engagement, and they imitate it when you are not around.

In my center, I used to stand in the center of the lobby and greet customers as they came in for league bowling, or I would often stand at the customer service counter with the staff. After years of this habit, I knew my customers on a first-name basis, and even got to know their family situations.

As a result of my one-on-one interactions with customers, I was able to establish a very loyal customer base. I am confident that the loyal customer base, and the fact that I was able to turn customers into repeat customers, was due, in large part, to the efforts my staff and I made to treat customers like friends.

The third step is also the easiest – institute a smiling policy. It may seem too easy to be effective, but the very act of smiling goes a long way in establishing trust and rapport with your customers. If you notice that your employees are starting to become robotic in their interactions with staff, try to shake things up. Talk to your staff about changing their routine so they address the customers by their first names. The best part? A smile policy is free to implement, but pays dividends in the form of repeat customers and loyal customers who look forward to coming to your center.

Talk to your staff about the basics of customer service. Talk to them about the importance of smiling and knowing the customers’ names.  And when interviewing prospective new employees, avoid hiring individuals who don’t smile.

As you think about ways to improve your bowling center, consider doing a customer service audit. How are you and your staff implementing the “Cheers” method for building a center where you know your customers by name? Does your staff recognize the value of a heartfelt smile? What are you doing this week, this month, or this quarter to enhance your customer service by getting to know your customers better?

Yours for better bowling,

Jim Nyhan