A New Age in NC State Athletics: The Customer Always Knows Best

“The Customer Always Knows Best”

I’m not sure how many people have heard of the old adage about the customer knowing best, but I’ve heard it and seen it in stores many times throughout my life.  When you stop and think about it, the saying really is quite true.  In our capitalistic economy, the customer is king.  If I go into a business and try to purchase their services, my decision on whether or not to pay to begin with, or to acquire their services again, mostly hinges on their customer service.

I love Wikipedia, so naturally they provide one of my favorite definitions of customer service.  Wikipedia says,

“Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”1

I like this definition because it defines customer service as a continuous process.  It goes on before, during and after a purchase.  It’s not just something that you do to make the sale; you have to continue it throughout the life of the product.  If not, then good luck getting the customer to come back.  This easily translates to the athletics industry with season ticket sales and donations.

Pearson Higher Ed, the wonderful publishers of many of our textbooks also offers a great definition of customer service,

Customer Service refers to the identifiable, but sometimes intangible, activities undertaken by a retailer in conjunction with the basic goods and services it sells.”2

What a fantastic definition.  Customer service is filled with intangibles.  You can’t really set a group of SOP’s for customer service.  Sometimes you just have to wing it.  Although not majorly, it’s different for every customer, as no two people are the same.  You can usually tell when you’re interacting with a customer if they’re digging what you’re saying and doing.  You change your approach to best fit the situation and customer, thus proving the identifiable aspect of customer service.

Ok, so it’s pretty obvious from both definitions that customer service is pretty important in the business world.

Now before I continue, I’m not saying that our University or Athletics Department doesn’t practice or value proper customer service, I’m saying that no one can say that their customer service is adequate, or “good enough” in the ever evolving nature of the business.

This brings us to my first charge to the NC State Athletics Department as it moves forward into the Yow era of leadership.  The department needs to become, at least, the conference standard for customer service.  Our department, and university, needs to heed the saying, the customer always knows best.  When dealing with all aspects that involve fans, or customers, we need to say, “what is best for the fans?”  I know that the bottom line and the difference between being in the black or red is a top priority as well, but there is no reason the two can’t go hand in hand.  We should say, what is this going to do to our budget, but we should also think about which would have the best impact on fans.  After all, our fans are our customers.  Students, alums, and fans are the ones who buy the tickets to watch teams play.  Fans are the ones who continuously pack the stands to watch the ‘Pack play, win or lose, but as you can tell from my last post, mostly the latter.

First of all, all problems would be solved, essentially, through winning ball games.  After a winning atmosphere is created, that’s where fans concentrate on having the best amenities and atmosphere for themselves.  I ask, why can’t you do both at the same time.  It’s not that you have to invest a fortune to better service customers; you can do so just through a few small steps.

Improving Customer Service: As Easy as 1,2, 3

  1. I believe that the most quintessential aspect of creating a better atmosphere of customer service is through promoting fan involvement.  Obviously, that would not carry over to coaching decisions, since all fans are “arm chair quarterbacks” and we should let the coaches, who are paid to coach, coach.  I’m talking about letting customer opinions be heard, and most importantly, felt heard.  This area is one in which I believe our new athletic director, Debbie Yow, is going to do a better job.  Honestly though, you can’t do a much worse job than our previous administration.  Debbie Yow has already said that she have an email account created for fans to email suggestions, critiques, and compliments (I’m going out on a limb and betting there are going to be few of those).  She has said this before she even started her job (her first day is July 15).  There we go… one step in the right direction.  The next one is following through and having those emails answered.  Every single legitimate email…
  2. The second area in which I think we would be able to improve customer service, is through increasing communication.  I’ll write more on the topic later, but I definitely think we have missed the ball on communicating with our fans for the past several years.  The Wolfpack fan base is such a passionate, information hungry group, why not quench that thirst and have them more invested in the program? By generating more frequent press releases and creating better relations with local media, NC State will be able to give its fans what they want, more access.
  3. I do believe that our Athletics Department does a good job with some of its promotions to fans, but we could do better. I am by no means a marketing expert.  I’m not even a fan of the subject, but I, as well as any business person, will admit that marketing is one of the most important aspects of business. Self-promotion gains more business and good products retain business.  We need to start with the beginning of that equation.  Our self-promotion is hit or miss.  This includes marketing and media relations.  Once again, I’ll expand more in another post about our marketing and SID needs, but one idea involves allowing court access to fans after basketball games similar to Cameron Indoor at Duke.  However, for my point, if we run the right promotions to bring in fans and show them a good product on the field, you can pretty much guarantee that they’ll (the fans) want to come back.

1 – Wiki definition of Customer Service

2 – Pearson Ed definition of Customer Service


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