Why settle for processing guests when you can choose to serve them instead?


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When is the last time you experienced exceptional customer service at an arena or stadium? In my experience, employees at these venues regularly treat event guests like nondescript masses of humanity: processing them, each one like the last one, at various entrances before ushering them past overpriced concessions en route to their designated seating areas.

Over the weekend, I attended a Rockies game at Coors Field in Denver, CO. During the second inning, I stopped by the on-site SandLot Brewery. There, I stood in front of an empty section of a sparsely occupied bar to place my order. Directly in front of me on the other side of the counter, were four employees: three bartenders and, judging by his attire, a manager. I waited a full minute without being acknowledged and then, looking to my right, made eye contact with another bartender who was about 20 feet away tending a busy section of the bar.

Her facial expression seemed to ask, “Are you being helped? Can I get something for you?” I smiled and waved my hand to convey that it was okay. I was certain that one of the four employees directly in front of me would acknowledge me at any time. Remarkably, I was wrong. After another full minute passed, I proceeded to the busy section of the bar where I placed my order with “Red,” the redheaded bartender with whom I’d made eye contact.

As she served my IPA, she said, “This one’s on me. I’m sorry you had to wait.” What a breath of fresh air during an otherwise stagnant service experience. I thanked her before moving on to another part of the brewery, beer in hand, to order a BBQ brisket sandwich. A few minutes later, I was back at the bar in Red’s section enjoying my brisket sandwich and beer. As often happens with brisket sandwiches, I soon realized that I needed a fork. Red noticed too and promptly left her station to retrieve a fork and knife for me from another part of the restaurant.

When she returned, we had a nice chat while I finished my meal during which I commented on how refreshing her customer service was in an environment typically known for processing guests rather than serving them.


  • How likely is it that I would order a to-go beer from my new friend, Red, versus an unfamiliar beer vendor in another part of the stadium?
  • How likely is it that I would offer Red a generous tip to recognize her exceptional customer service?
  • How likely is it that I would choose to feature Red in a blog post recognizing her exceptional customer service?
  • When returning to the SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, how likely is it that I will look for Red and be intentional about occupying her section of the bar?

This quiz is not hard to ace, just as exceptional customer service is not difficult to provide. It simply requires a choice. Red chose to exercise initiative in the moment of choice and to expend discretionary effort in favor of her guests – even as four of her coworkers chose to focus elsewhere.

It occurred to me later that, even at a sparsely occupied bar with three separate teams of bartenders serving three different sections of the bar, Red’s section was the busiest. Are you surprised? I’m not. And if I had to bet on which bartender earned the most tips, established the most relationships with guests, and enjoyed the highest job satisfaction, Red would be the clear leader.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Curtin
Steve Curtin is the author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. He wrote the book to address the following observation: While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employers. After a 20-year career with Marriott International, Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.


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