Create Exceptional Customer Service

By Craig Dishman

My family and I recently visited Disney World, and while I went with high expectations of experiencing magic, I did not come away with an incredible feeling of exceptional service.


We can all learn lessons about loyalty from our dogs! Photo Courtesy of Craig Dishman

Don’t get me wrong--we had a great time, and we will go back, but I did not leave “wowed.” Instead, I left thinking that my staff members and I can do a better job and focus on exceptional customer service.

Throughout my life, there have been three important figures that served as examples on how to provide a magical experience--my dog, my best man, and the most important female in my life … my mother (after my wife, of course!).

Create Loyalty
My wife and I recently put our eight-year-old golden retriever, Pete, to sleep. Golden retrievers are incredibly loyal. No matter what they do or don’t do, their aim is to please.

Pete only wanted a few things each day--attention, food and water, and a few treats. After he achieved all of those “goals,” he found a warm place to sleep and did not bother anyone for a couple of hours.

Treating customers well--giving them attention and offering the right program--will produce the same results. They will maintain loyalty and return to the people they have come to trust.

Pete had a conflict with a possum one night as he was trying to protect our small back yard. The possum gave him a scratch across his nose. Afterwards, when the possum came around, Pete still protected the back yard, but usually from the back door.

But don’t keep your distance from challenging customers. Sure, we have all had the customer we wish would move to a neighboring city, find another league, or join a different gym, but get to know that person. Once you do, he or she may become an agency’s biggest advocate and fan.

Build Trust
Building relationships with customers is more important than ever. The best man in our wedding was my youth-ministry leader in high school. The relationships and trust that he formed with students, parents, school administrators, and community leaders was one reason the ministry was successful.

Several friends and I associated with him often during the week. Even if we were out late at night, our parents knew we were in good hands because he took the time to develop a connection with them and build trust. Every time he connected with a high-school student or parent, he was building a bridge. He left an impression that will last forever.

What type of bridge are you building with participants? In a business, one must create trust. Think about the place you frequent for an oil change. You trust the employees to work on your vehicle because they are friendly, or give you a break on an expensive repair.

Why do some people drive hours back to their hometown for a haircut when there are hundreds of salons nearby? Because there is a trust that the friendly stylist and familiar face will do their hair the way they like it.

How do we develop that trust? By being friendly and creating a “wow” impression. Being friendly is imperative. Friendly service creates sales and repeat business.

Jeffrey Gitomer in "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless" describes several steps to achieving a friendly environment:

• Create friendly benchmarks
• Train staff to be friendly
• Create a friendly atmosphere
• Survey customers on the friendliness of the organization.

Leaving participants “wowed” is a great feeling. A past supervisor had me hand-deliver a refund to a participant’s home, so she could register for another program with another organization without a late fee. She was impressed with the service!

This past summer, we offered free coffee in the morning and free lemonade in the afternoon. I wanted staff to see how going above and beyond creates a “wow” impression.

Gitomer adds, “To separate yourself from your competition and everyone else, you must take memorable actions.” We need to do the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. We need to engage and connect with customers in order to leave a lasting impression.

Provide Exceptional Service
My parents raised four boys and did a good job training us on what to look for in good service and products. We learned at a young age how to help around the house. We had to do it right the first time, or Mom made us do it over.

One restaurant we often ate at was the local pizza place. My mom was often asked to evaluate the service and, in turn, they would reimburse us for the meal. She evaluated the location’s cleanliness, taste of the food, and service. We would not have frequented that place for years if it did not have a good product.

Many of my mother’s requirements for services and products can be applied to customers as well. They want reliable service, assurance of capable staff, and proof that the intangibles are just as important. It is imperative we provide accurate and dependable service.

If customers cannot rely on us, they will not trust us. We have all messed up with incorrect information being printed and distributed. Take the time to do it right the first time.

One area that can make or break an operation is part-time staff. We hire workers between 18 and 22 years old and expect them to be the best first impression of our department. All staff members must provide exceptional service or the pizza-restaurant survey will not receive high marks.

We, as parks and recreation professionals, need to be setting the trend in fitness classes, equipment, etc. We have to prove we can bring in additional revenue and provide a service that is needed, despite the economic challenges we face.

Although our organization is constantly striving to provide exceptional, magical service, we hope that those who do interact with us receive excellent service and come back for more!

Craig Dishman is a Recreation Services Superintendent for the city of Mesquite, Texas, Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at