By Ethan Honaman
There are many variations said by many different people that all convey the same message, that “everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, be a caring and kind person.” This is a message that our more than 400 strong guest relations staff here at Sports Authority Field at Mile High try and remember while interacting with every guest. From the gentleman who screamed at me for five minutes for something that I had no control over and didn’t fall into the category of customer service to the wonderful lady who wouldn’t miss a game all season and who just went back into cancer remission but lights up like we won the Super Bowl when I stop by to simply say hello, this is the art of guest relations.
Before I had the ability to work for (and I may be a bit a biased) the best organization in sports, you could find me at the friendly confines of the neighborhood Target. A more accurate representation would specifically be in the Produce department. It would be in this mix of vegetables and fruits that I learned more about the set of circumstances that put people into different situations. I witnessed families in a hurry caught up in the hustle of the holiday season and the ever-important vegetable tray that was a must for all family gatherings getting into arguments because they were already running behind. Sometimes, families would be in an all-out war against each other just as they passed through, grabbing a bundle of apples before moving on to another department. Life that day just wasn’t treating them well and they snapped back at me when I asked if I could help them in any way.
There was also the nice man who was on the first day of his diet, motivated to change his life for the better and looking for advice on health food and grateful for any knowledge I might have. Yet all three examples to the normal observer would suggest they were all simply shopping at Target because they were out of produce and needed more for whatever reason. Comprehending the differences of frustration at myself for the situation at hand or a lingering issue in the background helped me progress into a future role for the Broncos.
Fast forward to Section 520-521, formerly known as Thunder, Colorado, in our upper sections at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It was a two-year stint that I held as a part-time usher taking care of some of the greatest fans in the world. From the casual greetings, remembering names and faces, to simply talking sports that I learned one of the biggest takeaways and to which I enjoy the aspect of Guest Relations so much.
When patrons walk through our gates and see the field for the first time or returning for the big Sunday Night Football matchup, all problems are forgotten. People come to our venue to escape life’s little issues for four hours at a time and, hopefully, enjoy a Broncos’ victory. Having the perspective as an usher introduced me to these stories and have kept me in touch season after season. I still remember an elderly couple that drove multiple hours through all wintery conditions in the mountains to make each game just because it was a tradition together as a couple. I have my handful of regulars that I try and make it up to see each season. I regret to say that it doesn’t happen as much anymore, but when I do see those smiling faces, it’s like no time has passed and we catch up. There is a catalyst; all those problems eventually do come back. It is at this point when interacting with fans that you must decipher when other key contributing factors that you don’t know about take hold. Knowing these fans individually taught me this important trait.
The purpose of a Guest Relations staff is to take care of the fans at each game. We are that smiling face, that person to answer questions and direct fans where they need to go. We report information, good or bad, for the betterment of everyone attending the event. We reiterate as much as possible to take care of the fans. We encourage fostering relationships and creating memories. We enable our staff to make the best experience possible.
As you walk into our office, we broadcast our intentions. However, we are not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Nevertheless, having the ability to connect to the fans and dealing with guests with the understanding that life may be effecting their activities will only better everyone’s interactions and make Mile High Memories. What do you do in your facility to make each experience unique for your guests? How do you convey the message that the issue may not truly be the issue at hand and how do you handle it? For our staff, if you can alter a guest’s experience in a positive way and make it enough to have a great time regardless of the outcome on the field, you have mastered the Art of Guest Relations. Just always remember, “everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, be a caring and kind person.”
Ethan Honaman is Guest Relations Assistant Manager at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado.