How the Nationals’ Customer Experience Principles Can Be a Home Run for Agencies

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In June, the new Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) hosted Jonathan Stahl, Executive Director of Ballpark Operations and Guest Experience of the Washington Nationals, to share best practices on how to deliver a great customer experience. Below are four insights he shared.

Develop and Share Core Values

The Nationals’ core organizational values are excellence, performance and accountability. The core values are posted prominently wherever employees gather, such as break rooms, on the way to the field, and in offices. Job announcements also stress that applicants must uphold the values.

“These values set the tone in everything we do, help us succeed on and off the field, make a difference in the community, and provide the best guest experience in sports,” Stahl said. “Each person must commit themselves to these core values so that we can constantly move forward in the same direction—together.”

Enhance the Experience Through Feedback

Here are some of the ways the Nationals organization manages and acts on customer feedback:

  • Capture feedback from internal customers via comment boxes in employee break rooms. A team meets quarterly to review, discuss and respond to every comment.
  • Use the L.E.A.R.N. principle:
    • L: Listen to the customer to identify the problem
    • E: Empathize with the situation
    • A: Apologize
    • R: React by giving an efficient solution
    • N: Notify the rest of the team and ensure follow-up with the customer
  • Document all incidents. Everyone in the organization has access to the feedback to influence future enhancements.
  • Get to the root cause. Customers might say one thing but mean something else.
  • Listen to all voices, regardless of where they are coming from. “If you’re going to do something for an external customer you should probably be doing the same thing for your internal customer,” Stahl said.

Empower Employees to Help Customers

The Nationals developed a TEAM Service Playbook which has everything employees need to know about the ballpark in an easy-to-carry booklet. The Playbook contains an A-to-Z list of common questions, a map of the park and emergency information. It also highlights the Club’s mission statement, core values, and employee recognition programs.

Stahl said that the rule of thumb is to “do anything that is ethical and legal to take care of guests.” This attitude empowers employees to do any reasonable thing they can to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Rewards and Recognition Matter
Winning Team

The Nationals created a very visible recognition program so that employees would understand what it means to deliver world-class service. Sharing awards and recognition with all employees removes perceptions of favoritism because everyone can participate and be recognized.

They’ve also developed a Team Service Reward Program. Stahl knows that employees enjoy being rewarded in different ways, so his team offers many types of rewards, such as game day tickets, team jackets, autographed baseballs, plaques and more. Employees can also earn pins for providing great customer service, and they love wearing their lanyards and showing off all the pins they’ve earned.

These best practices enable the Nationals to deliver the best guest experience, win or lose.

Baseball and Government CAN Mix!

These gems from the baseball diamond can also work for government:

  • Hire customer service-minded people. Highlight your organization’s core values in job announcements, and work with your HR department to add standard customer service language. During interviews, ask key questions to identify customer-focused applicants. Apply these same practices when interviewing potential contractors, and incentivize contractors through customer-centric key performance indicators (KPIs.)
  • Empower employees with the right tools. The Nationals use the TEAM Service Playbook to help employees answer questions and respond to customer needs immediately. What processes or tools would help your employees more easily respond to customer needs?
  • Be creative with rewards and recognition. No, we can’t offer lunch with Bryce Harper as a reward, but there are “stars” in each organization who can spend time with “rising stars” and pass along wisdom and core values.

This was the first learning session hosted by the CX-COP, which is a collaboration platform for government CX practitioners. Register for our next event with Brenda Wensil from the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office, and join the CX-COP.

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