In my first internship with an orchestra, my supervisor explained that the work of the Operations department is to create an environment where each musician can perform at his or her best. I never forgot what she told me and after several years, I now understand more fully that the musicians’ environment is not only onstage but backstage and includes the environment around written or verbal communication. A musician’s ability to perform can be aided or hindered based on how well we provide accurate information to musicians/staff, anticipate conflicts and troubleshoot issues as they arise. Therefore, excellent customer service must be a core value for the Orchestra Operations department.
At a very basic level, good customer service starts with a professional demeanor: maintaining a calm presence, being approachable and following up to messages in a timely fashion (no more than 24 hours). A more advanced level of customer service begins when you can develop relationships with your “customers”. For instance, I noticed trust was built with staff or musician colleagues when I was reliable, honest and responsive. Trust opened the door more deeply understanding the needs of my customers and relationships were formed. I felt more connected to my customer’s success and so I worked hard to secure it.
Relationships require daily or weekly maintenance through regular dialogue. When mistakes happen or conflicts arise, lasting solutions can be found if you remember to seek out the perspective of your customers through dialogue. Set aside enough time to hear everything they have to say and seriously consider their opinions or concerns before making a decision. Once you’ve made a decision about how to resolve a conflict, provide a follow-up to your customer that gives them insight into your decision making process. The minute I’ve cut someone out of the decision making process in haste, that is the precise point of trust might have been eroded. Trust will make a stronger team and also a more positive work environment for all.