Los Angeles Angels Customer Service Debacle Teaches Important Customer Service Lesson


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Regardless of how good your product is, if you don’t back it up with a strong customer service experience, your customers, when given the opportunity to buy from someone else, probably will.

But what if you’re the only game in town? Literally.

It seems that the Los Angeles Angels upgraded their team when they paid over $200 million dollars for Albert Pujols, perhaps one of the greatest baseball players of all time. The fans responded appropriately. There was almost a frenzy of people wanting to buy tickets for the upcoming season, and that’s when the customer service problem began.

Michael Hiltzik, writing in the Los Angeles Times (latimes.com/hiltzik), wrote about the customer service debacle that was created due to the way the Los Angeles Angels handled advance ticket sales. According to the article, there were about 7,000 packages sold to fans, and they were told to redeem their vouchers in person, as quickly as possible.

Well over a thousand fans arrived, many of them hours before the ticket office opened, to find that only half (and sometimes less) of the 14 ticket windows were staffed. Only a few hundred customers made it through the line before the box office closed at 5:30. The fans who didn’t get to redeem their vouchers were told to come back the next day.

Hiltzik’s article went on to describe the response from Angels president John Carpino as a “whadja expect?” position. Apparently, Hiltzik’s wife had experienced the problem, spending hours to redeem her vouchers and purchase tickets.

There is a business lesson here.

Customer loyalty and fan loyalty are almost the same. Neither a typical business or a professional sports team should take their fans for granted. The expression “fair weather fan” comes to mind. If the team isn’t winning, many fans don’t just come out.

A couple of the parallels between regular business and the sports business are:

If the product doesn’t work, the customer won’t buy. If the team isn’t wining, the fans don’t show up.

If a company treats customers poorly, customers find another company to buy from. If the sports franchise isn’t fan friendly, the fans will spend their entertainment dollars on other forms of entertainment.

And then there are loyalty programs. Sometimes customers seem loyal to a business, but they are actually loyal to the loyalty program. The airline business comes to mind. When the passenger goes through all of their miles, if they aren’t happy with the airline, they try a different one and start to build loyalty miles with them. When the airline takes away the free first class upgrades, the passenger looks to other airlines. For loyalty programs to truly work, the customer must enjoy doing business with the company first, and appreciate the perks second.

The acquisition of Albert Pujols is like a product upgrade or a big perk in a loyalty program. What will happen if Albert can’t play? What happens when he retires? Many fans will remember how they were treated when this perk goes away.

I could address a number of ways that the Los Angeles Angels could have improved the customer experience that day. All of them support my opening sentence in this short article, and it is worth repeating:

Regardless of how good your product is, if you don’t back it up with a strong customer service experience, your customers, when given the opportunity to buy from someone else, probably will.

P.S. Here are just a few ideas that could have made for a better fan experience:

– Better preparation. Someone in the Angels office must know how many fan interactions their ticket windows can handle in an hour. Be properly staffed.

– Have blocks of times the fans can sign up for on a website. This would give the fans choices and spread out the crowds.

– Do something nice for the waiting fans, like free soda’s or hotdogs.

– Apologize. Then tell the fans how you plan to make the situation better – and then do it!

So, what are your ideas?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


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