I was blessed with a beautiful day yesterday to take the family out to a baseball game at Coors Field. The Colorado Rockies had gone 17 Sundays without winning, and they had lousy luck in day games this year. However, they managed to pull out a game where they lead early, lost the lead until a 7th inning go-ahead homer, and then held on with key stops in the last two innings. That included both an incredible double-play from the pitcher (who almost had his head taken off by a line drive), and a diving stop by Chris Nelson to prevent a run scoring double.

I recently posted about enjoying a well turned double-play in baseball. Another one of my favorite plays is when a player lays his body out there for a diving catch in the outfield or stop in the infield. That will be our social media perspective for the day as we review this spectacular defensive play (so think customer service):

  1. Protects the Lead – Diving catches generally keep the runners from advancing and scoring runs. Now, imagine protecting your company brand’s lead in the market…or just protecting the precious momentum of a new brand trying to gain a toehold in a competitive market. Regardless of where you are in the organization, Customer Service is Everyone’s Job. That mentality creates a more agile organization able to quickly identify a threat to the brand and “stop it cold” by engaging before it can damage the brand. I really like John Jantsch’s perspective for Duct Tape Marketing regarding this topic. And check out the overwhelming numbers advantage for Integrated (vs Dedicated) Social Media staff in this infographic from SimpliFlying. What is your company’s strategy regarding customer service and social media responsibilities?
  2. Disregards Personal Comfort – It all happens in a second, but the great ones throw aside all concerns for personal comfort and safety to make a play for their team. We’ve all dealt with confrontations, and many of them can deteriorate into personal attacks. An irate customer may question your personal integrity, intelligence or self-worth because of frustration over your brand or perceived slight in customer service. First of all, reaffirm to yourself that you are a “10″ in regards to self-worth. Then bear the brunt of the customer criticism and lead them with questions to ferret out the cause of their pain. If it’s easily resolved, great. Otherwise, give them a timeline for when you can provide answers or resolutions. You may not win them over in the first round, but a persistently positive attitude that is solution-focused can frequently take the edge off a customer’s frustration. And even if you lose that particular customer, you will know you still “did right by your company”. Great players do not win every game, but they set themselves up for memorable careers.
  3. Wins Praise from the Fans – What happens when you witness a spectacular play? You applaud. What happens when you see the play live and in person? You want to jump out of your seat and show your appreciation with an ovation. There is a reason why companies like Zappos, Southwest Airlines and Apple are superstar companies: they excel at customer service. They understand the value of the customer and that it is better to retain customers versus combat customer churn. I thought Olivier Blanchard just wrote a great post about calculating and nurturing/growing Customer Lifetime Value. We need to use metrics like this to justify training all of our employees to carry that Customer Service banner for our company and win that praise!

Are you an employee that actively protects the lead, disregards personal comfort and wins praise from the fans…your company’s clients? If you are an employer, what is your “profile hire”? Personally, I always put a premium on communication skills. It is a lot easier to “teach technical” than it is to teach soft skills and customer empathy. I would love your input.