The Road to Vegas – Part II: Common Interactions

I re-read my previous post.

I had intended it to be a simple how-to for a worst-case-scenario. Instead, it read like a manifesto for panic and disarray. ARM YOURSELVES WITH MY KNOWLEDGE AND YOU SHALL SURVIVE THE HORDES OF UNRULY CUSTOMERS WITH THEIR ANGER AND ANGST! RING THE BELLS RING THE BELLS FOR THEY ARE COMING!

The truth is, 99% of your customer interactions will be pleasant. After all, we are all one family bonded together by our love of the competition, recreation, flavor, and fun of Magic: The Gathering.

General Interactions

Here are some general tips for interacting with the players, visitors, and fellow staff at GP Vegas 2015.

1) Smile:

Smiling is a simple gesture. However, smiling is also one of the most powerful things you can do. Smiling is the universal gesture of warmth and welcome. Smiling to a customer while talking with them is the easiest, but most powerful, thing you can do. To show you the power of a smile, try it. Seriously. The next time you greet a friend, flash those pearly whites.

Smiling is more than an interpersonal way of saying, “Hello.” Smiling is also a beacon to others and signals that you are approachable. It’s a message to the players, the parents, and the paparazzi that you are a representative of customer service and you are here to help.

Smiling not only helps the person you are speaking with and the people watching. It also helps you! Smiling releases endorphins and reduces stress. Skeptical? Check out this 2012 blog article from Psychology Today:

2) Children

At the Pro Tour, we often have parents and children come by. They drift by from other events in the venue halls. For the most part, they don’t know what Magic: The Gathering is… but they’re intrigued.

GP Vegas may not have a high number of these “Walk-bys,” but it may happen occasionally. It’s more likely that we will have children whose parents or siblings are playing in the event. Still, our interactions with children can be rewarding and fun.

For children (and parents) who have no idea what Magic: The Gathering is, a quick spiel is helpful. It can be about how you summon enormous monsters to fight each other, it can be about the five colors of magic and which type they identify with, or it can be about your favorite Planeswalker! If you have any spare lands or cards, they make a great gift.

Note: When it comes to giving cards to children, I’m a bit of a conservative. I try to avoid giving Swamps because… well, how would you feel as a parent if a stranger gave your child a piece of cardboard with a skull on it?

I also try to avoid cards with excessive gore or violence for young children. Sure, Magic: The Gathering is a game with battles, even entire wars, in its storylines. But knowing your audience is important. The cards you give a five-year-old and the cards you give a twelve-year-old may vary greatly. Trust your judgement and be sure to read the parent’s reaction. Don’t be afraid to show the cards you intend to give to the parent first to gauge their appropriateness.

The Babysitter

Occasionally, you’ll end up being an unwitting babysitter. This happens often at local game stores, where a child will be dropped off. If this happens, be sure to let the parents know we cannot actively watch their child. This may occur when a child and parent walk up together, and the parent needs to “take a call” or wants to “check in on the tournament.” A simple reminder that we can’t watch children is helpful.

3) Conversations and Interruptions

The Magic: The Gathering community is a worldwide phenomenon. As such, the largest gathering of Planeswalkers in the history of the multiverse will no doubt include us running into old friends. We’ll be catching up with old friends. And that’s fine… as long as it doesn’t interrupt your duties.

A common occurrence I’ve encountered involves speaking with a friend/customer. I’ve answered their question and now they want to shoot-the-breeze. Another customer comes up with an immediate need. When this happens, you’re stuck in a situation. Do you abruptly halt the conversation with Customer 1 to help Customer 2? Or do you have Customer 2 wait while you finish your conversation with Customer 1?

Considering Customer 1 has most likely already had their need met, Customer 2’s need is fresher and more immediate. Asking Customer 1 to wait for a second while you address Customer 2 both acknowledges Customer 1’s presence while ensuring Customer 2 that you will be with them soon.

Stay tuned for Part III, when we’ll talk about phones, grooming, and other keys to customer service.

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