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The Secret Weapon

Tuesday night my ten-year-old son, Frankie, and I went to witness the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars at the Honda Center. Frankie has been begging me for five years to take him early so we can meet the players before the game. Not knowing anything about hockey, and not trusting the word of a hopeful child, I never went early. But on this particular day, the timing worked out and we arrived at the game about two hours in advance. “What in the world do you do for two hours before a Ducks game?” you ask. A very good question indeed. We covered every inch of the arena, including the Team Store (hold on to your wallets!) and soaked in the rich history of the Honda Center sports, concerts, and events. (Did you know the band, KISS, has an arena football team that plays there? You’re welcome.)

At one point, we met a friendly usher who mentioned fans were permitted near the team bench to watch warm ups, which were beginning in about 20 minutes. We rushed down to secure premium seating, but the best we could get was eighth row on the rails of the tunnel used by the players when traveling from the locker room to the bench (and ice).

The players were about to come out when Frankie leaned over the rail, extending his ten-year-old arm as far as it could possibly stretch in order to high-five the players as they walked by. Unfortunately, because of his positioning, he didn’t receive any high-fives from the team as they took the ice. In fact, the players didn’t even know that arm was there, it was above and behind their heads. It was very disappointing for that hand to be ignored 25 times … and said disappointment was written all over his hockey-loving face.

For those who have not been to a hockey game, there is a lot of action when the Ducks take the ice before the game. Music is blasting, coaches are … I don’t know – they kind of pace around, security is doing a bunch of things, fans are screaming, limbs are waving, horns are honking. It’s utter chaos and excitement. But amidst that chaos, unbeknownst to me, one Ducks’ trainer was tuned in to my son and his experience. He cared that my son was disappointed.

After the Ducks are on the ice, shooting at the goal, skating around and determining their strategy, the energy shifts and the fans settle down a bit. They take a lot of selfies with their favorite player in the background and occasionally yell out a name, but it is otherwise pretty quiet.

In that quiet space, the trainer made his move. He walked over from the bench to where Frankie stood watching his team and yelled up at him, “Hey! Buddy!” Frankie looked down at him as the trainer quietly stretched out his hand and presented a game puck to my son. Frankie was dumbstruck, so the trainer urged, “It’s for you!” Taking the puck from the trainer’s hand, Frankie was so overcome with joy he burst into tears, falling into a ball on the gross, sticky floor of the Honda Center stands. (Yes, I started crying mom-tears, too, but that’s not the point of this story.)

puckSoaking in the majesty of the game puck post-cry.


My mind started swirling with all sorts of feelings and thoughts, chief among them was that based on my reaction I was certain the trainer thought we were a “Make-a-Wish” family, and I felt kind of bad about that. I kept looking at this trainer, getting his attention with the weight of my stare multiple times to clasp my hands at my heart and thank him through tear-filled eyes. One time (of the six times I did this to the poor guy), I just stared at him and shook my head. He walked over and said, “I wanted him to have a good time.”

“I wanted him to have a good time.”

I have to tell you, he did way more than that. Did we have a good time? Yes, of course! (If you can’t have fun at a hockey game, something is really wrong with you.) But he left a lasting impression on my heart. He exceeded our expectations, and we all know in customer service, that’s the name of the game. He surprised me, and we know that’s important. But what he really did was care. And that’s the secret weapon to an outstanding customer experience. He noticed one ten-year-old boy in the crowd, dying for the attention of his hockey idols and not getting it. He cared. He cared about my son’s experience at the hockey game, and in that moment he seized the opportunity to do something about it.

The customer’s experience matters. There are a million ways to look at customer service; Ritz Carlton says “surprise and delight” your guests; Southwest says, “customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit”; Disney says, “be assertively friendly”; Nordstrom says, “provide outstanding customer service, one customer at a time”. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is, you can’t get there if you don’t pay attention and care about the experience your customer is having. My challenge to all of us is to care.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I LOVE this blog! What a great story and the point is well written. Thanks for sharing!

  Mindy Sharp
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Thanks, Mindy! This comment made my heart happy!

  Carrie Polonsky
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Great post...maybe a few tears on my end too!

  Julie Still
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Thank you for sharing! I don't like to cry alone ... : )

  Carrie Polonsky
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Excellent post! Thank you for sharing.


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