A Customer Experience Lesson from Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova become the Wimbledon tennis championship at the age of 17.

She held her first tennis racquet at the age of 4, and has been hitting tennis balls over the net since then.

In short, Maria served a 13 year apprenticeship before she achieved her first major breakthrough. I can’t imagine the number of times that she hit the ball over the net during these 13 years.

Maria was at a post Wimbledon press conference. A reporter asked whether she ever got bored practising for all those years during her childhood. She replied, “Not at all! I treat every ball as if it’s my first.” In other words, she hit the thousandth ball with the same energy as she had hit her first. 

I found these few words, uttered by a young 17-year-old, to be extremely profound.

In the customer-facing service environment, employees can deal with large numbers of customers every day. Think of employees in call centres, banks, retail shops, ticket counters, movie theatres, supermarket checkouts…and the list goes on. I am sure that the large numbers of customers that these employees face every day seem like tennis balls coming over the net. They just keep coming. You serve one customer, then another, then another…and this happens all day.

So what can we learn from Maria Sharapova?

The simple lesson is this. 

To have employees stay at the top of their customer service games, build a mindset of “every customer is my first.”  It’s easy to be smiling and friendly to customers when employees are fresh at the start of the day. The challenge is to treat every customer – up to the last one for the day or the shift – to be your first one as well

Let me share with you a great example of this principle in action.

I am a regular visitor to the offices of Astro. I park my car and head to the security post. And I know that, without fail, I am going to be welcomed back by the members of the security team that have given me my visitor’s tag countless times before.

Being in security, they definitely have an important job to do. Apart from this role, they are also the first face of Astro. They give visitors their first impressions of Astro. They do this so well by treating the last customer with the same energy, the same freshness, as they did the first.

So here is the simple message. Develop a culture of “every customer is my first” and you will do two things. First, it will keep your customer service people energised right throughout the day. And second, it will contribute to a more positive, engaging customer experience. Energised employees and engaged customers…this sounds like a pretty good recipe for success…

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