Some people just need a high-five

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Posted by Administrator at 02/25/2018

Picture3"Mr. Roth, your admission policy is awful.  Do you know who I am?  I'm the Dean of (a local university)." "Mr. Roth, what are you going to do, call the police on me?" "Mr. Roth, how dare your lifeguards yell at my child.  They're racist, and so are you!" "Mr. Roth, I drug tested my daughter and it came up positive for THC.  You're her boss, what are you going to do about it?" "Mr. Roth, the spray features in your pool keep hitting my child!" "Mr. Roth, you should be fired!" Ahhh the public.  Don't get me wrong - the vast majority of the people we serve are wonderful citizens who are generally grateful for the facilities and programs that they are able to utilize.  The VAST majority.  I tell my staff that out of 130,000 visits to our pools in a given summer, we'll have about 20 really unhappy patrons.  That's 0.015% unhappy visitors - or on the flip side - 99.985% success!  That's pretty darn good. So WHY do the unhappy ones cause us so much grief and take up SO MUCH of our time?  Some patrons are just hot and tired, and some, well some just like to argue.  Some just want something free - and have learned that if they make enough noise they'll usually get it! We often struggle to effectively respond to customers when we feel that we are right, and /or when the customer is an idiot.  I'm using idiot here in lieu of several other words. Is the customer always right?  If you're working in a for-profit industry that may be an easy answer.  For tax-funded facilities or programs it may be more complex.  Oversight of these may need to consider:

a. Can we just give away free stuff to make a problem customer go away?  Some tax-funded entities may not be able to do this.

b. Is there a slippery slope - if I give in to one customer, do I have to do the same every time this happens?

c. Professionally I KNOW I am right and the customer is wrong.

d. Is anyone's safety at risk - or is there any liability exposure to a decision either way?

In the long run we as professionals need to realize that these issues are not likely going away.  We can tweak policies and procedures each year to try to minimize them, but we'll need to have some strategies to help.  Here are some ideas:

1. Recognize that it's not personal.  You're just the face of the organization.  Keep the emotion out of it so that you can calmly and rationally work through the issue.  (I recognize that this may be a phenomenal challenge in the heat of a discussion).

2. Keep your overall goal in mind.  Safety should always be #1.  Responsibility to your company, department, brand, and tax-payers are next.  Giving away free stuff may not always be the most responsible course if you rely on tax dollars for funding, but there will be times when it is the most effective way to resolve the situation.

3. Have a social media response plan.  Unhappy customers will bash you anywhere they can.  Have procedures in place to handle that.

4. Keep the value of your time, and your staff time in mind.  Are you or your staff spending an hour of their time (let's say at $10 or $20 per hour) to resolve a $4 issue?  Or are there some issues that are worth fighting for, regardless of the cost?

On the flip side - understand that at some point you may be threatened with legal action.  Legal fees typically START in the $2,500-$3,000 range, just to sit down with an attorney.  Is your resolution of an issue worth that? Every situation is different.  Every customer is different.  Over time, and with help from our fellow professionals, we can hopefully find strategies to work through them.  For the record - the quotes at the beginning were all real and each came with a wonderful story, and each was resolved in a different manner.  In each case, when it was resolved, I went to the pool, took a deep breath, and found my solace in seeing that vast majority of people - who were just happy to have a great swimming pool to enjoy on a sunny afternoon.