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Athletics Director Offers Top 10 'Musts' in Customer Service

July 17, 2013

Man in a black business suit

Jim Donovan was appointed director of athletics at Cal State Fullerton in December.

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On the flight from Hawaii to Southern California, Cal State Fullerton's new athletics director, Jim Donovan, started jotting down ideas on customer service that he thought could apply to his new role on campus.

"Previously, I had participated in Disney training where customer service is a cornerstone of all they do," the former AD for the University of Hawaii at Manoa explained. "I realized we could probably use a similar approach at Fullerton.

"And here's the thing about exceptional customer service — it doesn't cost a thing."

So Donovan came up with his list of Titan Top 10 Musts. They are:

  1. Customer service is paramount.
  2. Our customers are student-athletes, students, Cal State Fullerton faculty and staff, ticket purchasers, corporate sponsors and donors.
  3. If I disrespect a customer, I disrespect the University.
  4. If a customer has a concern or complaint, we will employ the Disney LAST approach—Listen, Apologize, Solve and Thank.
  5. We will outwork our competition.
  6. We will focus on the "cans" and not the "can'ts."
  7. We will do things the "best way," not necessarily the way "it's always been done here."
  8. Anyone can point out a problem. We will suggest and implement solutions.
  9. There is no reason we can't win a championship in every sport — every year!
  10. Everyone on staff has a role in customer service, marketing and fundraising. What can I do?


Once he had the ideas, Donovan had to sell them to his managers who, in turn, would explain them to their staff and student assistants.

"Things aren't always going to be perfect but these are goals we can strive for," he said. "Numbers 1-4 really focus on customer service, Numbers 5-8 and 10 focus on developing a positive attitude, and 9 is really what we, in Athletics, are here to do."

Since the Top 10 Musts were launched, they've been well-received by staff members. In fact, other areas of the campus have asked for copies so they can adapt them to their own areas. The list also is posted throughout athletic facilities and in the offices of the staff.

"The interesting thing is that if we really implement these steps, it's more likely that donations and support will follow," he said. "We need to stop and listen to our customers and act appropriately."

Not long after Donovan arrived, he took Senior Associate Director Steve DiTolla down to the baseball field where a game was just starting.

"We stood just inside the gates and thanked everyone for their support," he said. "It was a small thing and cost us nothing. But people felt welcomed and appreciated. We stayed there until the start of the third inning and probably reached about 95 percent of the attendees."

When employees come to Donovan with an idea, they can expect to be asked, "Is this the best way or the easy way?" And if it isn't the best way, it doesn't get green-lighted.

"I want folks to know that excellent customer service is an expectation, not an option," said Donovan.

By: Valerie Orleans, 657-278-4540

Tags:  Athletics