Customer service is a powerful thing.
With the advent of social media and advancements in technology, sometimes it seems like we’re living in an age wherein we’re constantly inundated with customer service horror stories because the voices we hear belong to the individuals who complain the loudest.
This isn’t one of those stories.
Recently, a friend of mine, 'Gary', had a customer service experience involving the Ottawa Senators and I was asked to share it via this blog.
This friend has penned an open letter and you will find it below. For the purpose of protecting the identities of the individuals involved, names have been changed – with the exception being those that belong to Senators employees.
So without further ado, here’s Gary’s letter:
Let me preface this story by saying I’m a huge Ottawa Senators fan. I’ve always purchased tickets, the merch, my Dad used to take me to the skills competition, waited in line-ups at Ticketmaster before the invention of the interwebs for the best seats, and love to talk hockey amongst friends.
After I started my career, my friends James and Daniel and I were fortunate enough to have the financial flexibility to afford mini-game season tickets packages in the 300 level. This year would mark our third year in buying a multi-game flex pack. Every fall we would get the schedule and discuss over hilariously long email threads on what teams we wanted to see, who we wanted to bring with us as our +1’s, what seats worked best, and who would get to see which games.
Last Fall when season seat ticket holders were contacted to renew their seats, James, Daniel and I bought our ticket package based on December 1st’s home game against Daniel Alfredsson’s Detroit Red Wings (…that still looks weird). This was our one game that we were looking forward to the most, and probably the most sought after ticket this season. To say we were excited as a bunch of Sens fans was an understatement.
Shortly after we purchased our ticket package that included December 1st’s game, I had a medical appointment at the General Hospital here in Ottawa. It was there that doctors found an “abnormality” while reviewing a CT scan that I had from what I thought was a recent pre-existing condition. I was diagnosed with a rare type of potentially cancerous tumor called a Pheochromocytoma. This tumor develops from the adrenal gland, on top of the kidney and like most tumors, is never a good thing to have. The longer it goes untreated, there is more likelihood of the tumor metastasizing into different parts of the body, which in my case it did. Scary stuff to hear as a young person, and I was in disbelief of the entire situation.
During the 3rd week of November of last year, I had massive surgery to remove the tumor. A team of 13 medical professionals removed essentially everything on my left side: including the orange sized tumor, left kidney, adrenal gland, a hematoma the size of a mango, amongst multiple other possible infected organ tissue and tissues. It was and will be a life changing time in my life for sure. My younger brother Nathan flew in from overseas to see me, to help take care of me along with my family and partner (bless her heart!).
While I’ll spare your readers all the details of my surgery, I learned what they say is true – being in hospital and recovery is half mental (the other half is awesome drugs!). I’ve always thought of myself as being a strong person, even when I could not move for seven days post surgery and having to make different life choices I thought I was pretty strong. My weakest day was December 1st when I knew that I wouldn’t be able to attend arguably the most important game this season as I was on day twelve of twenty-four (!) in hospital. I was lucky enough that my “plus one” ticket would be going to my friend Nichols who as an avid Sens fan and blogger, knowing that he would appreciate the game, and my own ticket would be going to my little brother Nathan, who as mentioned had flown in from half way around the world to see me. He also had not seen a regular season game in seven years since he moved away.
When next year’s season ticket drive recently started, I replied to my ticket manager Matt Jardine to let him know that I would not be renewing on the basis that it would not be financially responsible for me, seeing as I am now on short term disability and have a loss of income. The Senators organization emailed me again, and again, and a short time ago sent me a glitzy ticket purchase package via snail mail. Again, I consulted with my friends, James and Daniel, to make sure we would not be renewing, and that we would go to games as tickets fell into our laps. The ticket purchase package made its way into the recycle bin, and we did not give it another thought.
Last week after leaving a follow-up appointment from the General Hospital, I received yet another email from the Senators organization, this time from Paul Beirne, Executive Vice President of ticketing. The email spoke of the benefits of renewing, the savings, the choices, etc. In the middle of the message in bold it read, “If you are leaning in the direction of not renewing your seats, I'm interested in hearing from you. Please feel free to respond directly to this email with your feedback and/or call me directly at the following number”
I gave Mr. Beirne a call back, and he asked me why I would not be renewing my mini-game pack with my friends. The conversation when something along the lines of me explaining that I got sick (and it wasn’t a cold/flu type of sick), and that it wouldn’t be smart for me to attend. He stopped me and very upfront said to me “Gary – what can the Ottawa Senators organization do for you?” – I was a bit taken aback by this…I replied “well, nothing at the moment I suppose, I am getting better, every day a little stronger and life is kind of returning to some sense of normalcy for me I suppose”.
He continued “Well, did you get to make it to any of the games you purchased with your friends?”
I told him that yes, I did get to go to a few games, however the biggest game for me, and the entire point of the package was for me and my friends to go see #11 play, perhaps for the last time. I said that I was lucky that I had a friend and a brother to take the tickets off my hands, and that they appreciated the game. Again, the Senators representative stopped me and said:
“What are you doing next Thursday?”
I responded, “I don’t think I have any plans yet, why?”
“Well, I want you to call James and Daniel and tell them you guys going to the game to see Alfie play, a gift from the organization and me, to you for being a loyal fan and strong in your fight”
I have to admit, I had a mini-breakdown whilst on the phone. Perhaps it was just really dusty outside, or someone was cutting onions nearby, but I was really emotional and taken aback by the kindness, generosity and genuine concern for me not as a ticket purchaser, but as a person. I thanked him, and my ticket manager Matt Jardine for the unforgettable gift and he said it was his pleasure. He even mentioned that he didn’t want me to see this as a token of “buying me off” as he knows that me being a repeat customer is a no-go next year because of finances. He thanked me for being a Sens fan, and said he was going to meet me at the game to say hello.
When I got home from my appointment, I checked my email. In it were 4 tickets from Capital tickets via Paul Beirne, in the 100’s section. Probably the best seats I’ll ever have, and ever not be able to afford. In the end of it, I’ll get to go to the Detroit game to see Alfie play, which makes me tremendously happy.
So, to end this – a very grateful thank you to the Ottawa Senators organization for making a once sick guy feel pretty normal again. Your kindness and thoughtfulness will go a long way with my friends and me. Thank you so much and a special shout out to Paul Beirne and Matt Jardine – you guys are real beauts.
Cheers and see you at the game,