Customer Service Lessons from Goats

September 21, 2011 4 Comments

Customer Service! Everyone has a customer service story. So do I. However, I hope to give you an angle that you may not have encountered.

Understanding the Problem

My brother, Warren, and I were managing a western amusement park in California. We received a call that there was a guest complaint at our petting zoo. When we arrived, there was a woman by the entrance with her husband. We approached and asked how we could help. She turned to the side, pointed down her leg, and said, “Your goat ate my dress!” Warren and I looked down and saw that she had a gapping hole in her flowered dress from her knees to her upper thigh.

Remember Your Research

To handle this goat versus dress problem, we recalled our education about goat behaviors. Goats have no upper front teeth; instead, they have a tough toothless dental pad. Goats do have teeth on the top and bottom of their jaws far back in their mouth, which help them to chew. So, goats cannot sharply bite down in a quick, tearing motion. While goats will not actually eat inedible material, they are inquisitive and will chew on and taste just about anything in order to decide whether it is good to eat. This is why they investigate items such as buttons, camera cases, or clothing by nibbling at them, occasionally eating them. Tests done on goats show that they can distinguish yellow, orange, blue, violet and green from grey shades of similar brightness. Who knows, maybe the movement of the dress and bright colors looked like some edible plant. Regardless, it took awhile for this goat to gnaw a large hole in this dress.

Using Your Research

Warren asked the woman to explain what happened. The woman said that she and her husband had entered the petting zoo and immediately a goat ran up to her, ate a hole in her dress, and then ran away. Warren took some time with the woman and explained how goats operate. He told her that she had to have known that the goat was there and the goat was tugging and gnawing at her dress. She said no, the goat ran up, ate her dress, and ran away. The husband said nothing. The woman did all the talking.

Warren tried to reason with the lady, stating that she had some responsibility for standing there while the goat gnawed away at her clothing, but she stuck to her “the goat ate it instantly” story.

The Basic Philosophy

Warren and I knew that in the customer service industry, unless you are 100 percent sure you are 100 percent right, you need to make some accommodation when a problem arises. There was no witness to the event, and Warren was not 100 percent sure of the facts of the incident. We knew that this guest would not assume any responsibility for what happened, so Warren would need to provide closure to this incident. Warren gave the guest his business card and told her to send us the receipt for a replacement dress and we would pay it. Interestingly, we never heard from her again.

The Deeper Philosophy

OK, using the philosophy of being 100 percent sure that you are 100 percent right before you reject any guest accommodation is an interesting angle. The lesson that managers will learn is that even after offering an adjustment, many customers get busy in their daily lives and fail to follow up with their claim. Often, family or friends will calm down the aggrieved person, they come to their senses, and let the issue drop. When you ask the aggrieved party to take a follow-up action to allow them to receive satisfaction, they often drop the ball or forget about it. The percentage of customers who actually follow up is low.

Side Two of the Story

To be fair, we need to consider the goat’s viewpoint. Maybe the goat was thinking, “There were flowers on the dress. I saw blossoms so I ate them. Besides, it was an ugly dress. I did the world a favor by destroying it!”

Links for Customer Service Ideas:

http://recmanagement.com/200307gc01.php

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/187167

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/242042

Need More Information On Goats?

http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/4H/meatgoats/meatgoatfs11.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat

Allen F. Weitzel has spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and is safety and training manager at a California amusement park.

Back
4 Comments to “Customer Service Lessons from Goats”
  1. mat says:

    Now that is a funny story! I can imagine you and Warren explaining how goats eat things to some woman at the petting zoo. Too funny!

    • Mat,

      I guess our reputations precede us. Whether training employees or explaining how things work to a guest, Warren has always been as cool as a cucumber.

      It’s the old management trick of staying calm in the line of fire.

      We’re glad you liked the Blog. Thanks for checking in.

      Thanks for your support.

      Best,

      Allen

  2. J. Douglas says:

    Great article! Certainly never a customer service situation I’ve ever seen arise!

    • Jay,

      Thanks for the compliment. I can’t say that my brother and I have seen them all; sometimes Guests still surprise us. However, that was a unique one, but Warren stayed with it to the end. A less experienced manager might have just thrown up his hands. Warren worked it out step-by-step. A good lesson for young managers.

      Thanks for your continued support of our work and the TAP website.

      Warm regards,

      Allen

Sponsors

Qubica

Sells capital equipment to bowling centers.

Money Tree - ATM

ATM machines.

Poly Products

Tables, benches and related products. Green products for a green world.

Nieco Corp

Nieco automatic broilers.

Hoffman Mint

Tokens, medals, coins and key tags.

Harris Miniature Golf Course

Design and construction of miniature golf courses and water rides.

Klopp International, Inc. (Playmeter)

Quality coin counters and sorters.

Flagship Carpet

Custom carpets and rugs.

Chestnut Identity Apparel

Uniform supply, embroidered apparel and flag manufacturing.

Hamilton Manufacturing Corp.

Manufacturer of unattended entry systems and change machines.

Zebec Water Sports

Large variety of waterpark needs

Gerber Manufacturing, Ltd.

Outdoor furniture, benches, picnic tables and grills.

Splashtacular

Manufacturer of waterslides

Extreme Engineering

Industry leader in zip lines, climbing walls, jumper systems and adventure products.

Knight Equipment

Drive cables for ferris wheels, Tilt-A-Whirls, Rock-O-Planes and many others.

West Coast Netting, Inc.

Experienced netting manufacturer on the leading edge of innovation.

Ride Development Corp.

Electric floor, gas and battery-powered bumper cars.

Broaster Co., The

Food programs and food service equipment.

Water Wars (T&D Enterprises of Brainerd)

Water Wars water balloon game, portable or startionary.

Jane Farrell Turf and Carpets, Inc.

Commercial carpet, printed and decorative patterns, loop and cut-pile construction. Wall coverings in fluorescents, Class A fire rated. Colored turf, both traditional and neon colors.

Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM)

Premier entertainment consultants.

Belson Manufacturing Co.

Park and recreation outdoor furniture and equipment.

Challenger Industries

Sports surfaces, carpets and mini-golf surfaces.

American Changer

Bill and coin dispensers and counters, ticket machines and more.

Rides-4-U, INC.

New and used rides, kiddie, family, major and thrill.

R&R Creative Amusement Design

Designers of unique themed parks, attractions and environments for the entertainment business.

Rio Syrup

Over 250 flavors, syrups and concentrates for shaved ice, sno cones, shushes, food colors. Now featuring Hawaiian Flower Cups.

U.S. Bowling

Award-winning independent company brings bowling to your venue.

Adventure Golf

Miniature golf courses, consultants, architecture and design.

Xtreme Inflatables

Repair and service for all inflatable products.

Action Lighting Co.

Lighting supplies.

Look Solutions

Fog machines.

Empex Water Toys

Aquatons Water Toys

Tear Repair

Tear-Aid industrial strength patches to repair holes and tears.

Price Chopper, Inc. Wristbands

Admission, financial equipment and wristbands.

Sippers By Design

Design and manufacture of specialty custom-shaped drink containers.

Funovation

Laser maze challenge

International Special Events (ISERA)

Risk purchasing group, a better way to purchase liability insurance, specializing in inflatables and much more.

Enchanted Castle Studios

Fiberglass statuary and figures for restaurants, mini-golf, theme parks and other attractions.

Gold Medal Products Co.

Concession equipment, foods and beverages, popcorn, pretzels and snack foods.

Thomco Insurance (Fun Pro)

Fun Pro is an insurance program especially designed for party planners and party rental businesses.

Master Pitching Machine

Batting cages and pitching machines.

Perfect Fry

Innovative and simple-to-operate countertop deep fryer Perfect Fryers.

Wisdom Industries, Ltd.

Amusement ride manufacturer, new and used rides.

Lakeshore Merchandise (Smart Vending)

Premier vending supply for all of your vending equipment and supply needs.

SnowMasters

Evaporative snow systems.

See Coast Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Coin-operated binoculars and telescopes.

Spectrum
LMap Powered by Silvercrest
Extreme Engineering
Funovation