Running And Customer Service — When Two Passions Converge

Yours truly with Bart Yasso, CRO from Runner's World Magazine.

Yours truly with Bart Yasso, CRO from Runner’s World Magazine.

This past Sunday I had the privilege of running 26.2 miles (a marathon) for the fifth time in my life.  This iteration was an amazing stretch of the California coastline from the redwood forest to the coastal town of Carmel.  The Big Sur Marathon is such a quick sellout that I registered for it nearly ten months ago.

Following each race, I always pause to evaluate whether or not I achieved my goals, and reflect on any insights gained along the way.  Having ended my very first half marathon in the hospital, my goals are as follows and are ranked by importance:

1. Don’t end up in the hospital or die.
2. Finish the race.
3. Run the entire race without walking.
4. Enjoy the race.
5. Achieve a time goal or personal record.

I was fortunate enough to accomplish my first four goals but my time of 4:13 was twenty-three minutes off my personal best.  Given the added bonus of running with my two older sisters and the fact that this was by far the most difficult marathon course I’ve completed (2,100 feet of elevation gain), I am thrilled with the result.

When customer service and experience and the running world converge, I naturally get very excited.  Here are a few observations from the race that enhanced my experience.

A Fantastic Display Of Volunteerism

I am a fairly emotional person and that seems to be magnified at races.  After running long distances, I find myself grateful and even sentimental.  The number of people that lined the course to helps us stay hydrated and offer encouragement and aid was really a beautiful thing.  Do a Google search for quotes about volunteerism and be inspired.  Here’s one from Albert Schweitzer:

“The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment the soul requires.” 

Better yet, move past yourself and give of your time and resources without expecting anything in return.

Meeting A Running Legend

I had the privilege of shaking the hand of Bart Yasso, running legend and Chief Running Officer for Runner’s World Magazine.  I apparently lose my inhibitions after 26.2 miles so I had no problem asking Bart if I could take a picture with him.  Having read many of his articles in the magazine, this was truly a highlight.

Furthermore, as a reader of the magazine he works for and therefore a customer, I was thrilled that he would take the time to congratulate his customers as they cross the finish line.  May I suggest that finding ways to help your customers achieve their goals and congratulating them when they do so is a wonderful strategy for creating loyal customers.

Adventures At The Baggage Claim

I went to pick up my bag after the race and found that the only belongings it contained were a pair of underwear and my favorite hat.  Uh oh.  My bag had exploded!  I reported my issues to the people working the baggage claim and the head of the whole operation came over and personally sifted through the lost and found until they found my shorts, shirt, sunglasses and house key.  The only outstanding item was my commemorative race shirt.

They gave me the email address of someone who could send me a new shirt and told me to contact her.  I did so and received a response within twelve hours indicating a new shirt would be mailed to me.  Of all possible responses, that was the best and I’m truly pleased.

As I sit here counting all of the muscles on my body that are sore, I find myself completely grateful.  I’m grateful that I have the ability to complete a marathon and an amazing family to run it with.  I am also a grateful customer who is already strategizing for the next Big Sur Marathon!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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