By Scott Robbin
Paul Turner, Director Event Operations & Security, Dallas Cowboys and Cowboys Stadium, a past speaker at Argyle Executive Forum’s 2013 Customer Care Leadership Forum (Dallas), discusses the tactics and strategies the Dallas Cowboys use every day to deliver top notch customer service to their fans.
[Scott Robbin] Being the Director of Event Operations at Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas, what do you feel has been the hardest task you have faced thus far?
[Paul Turner] The biggest challenge was our opening event. The stadium was still under construction, so our event day personnel (ticket takers, ushers, security staff, concession workers, etc.) did not have access to the building except for one, three-hour session two days prior to the first event. We did all of their training in a hotel ballroom two miles from the stadium. The staff had to work their first event with little familiarity with the stadium and it was a tough event. I am very proud that so many of those staff members stuck it out and they have been with us ever since.
As you seek to give every Cowboy fan the best experience, what tactics and strategies are in place that can be used to help other businesses enhance their culture of service?
We keep things simple for our staff. We teach them our Service Mission Statement and our Cowboys Five Points (our values). We rely on the staff to use these key elements of our culture guide their actions. We cannot burden our staff with a lot of policies and procedures. We hire for attitude and we surround them in an environment that reinforces the right behaviors (that lead to exceptional customer service). Our promise to our staff is to provide them with adequate and competent supervision. The front line is much more confident and engaged when they know they have the support and guidance of a skilled supervisor. We are not perfect, but the feedback we get is consistently positive. My advice would be to keep it simple, keep the environment consistent and take care of your people every opportunity you get.
Hosting a small gathering and watching football games at home has become a worldwide trend, how are you working to continue to make in-stadium attendance THE WAY to experience a live event?
Cowboys Stadium was designed to deliver the very best of the live sports experience and the comfort, convenience and amenities of watching the game from home. We have developed an innovative traffic mapping system for our fans that helps them get to and from the stadium with ease. We present special attractions and live entertainment in the two outdoor plazas that cover over seven acres of space. Our massive video board brings the action close-up to everyone. Add to that the roar of the crowd, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and it is so much more than you can get at home. We listen to our fans through surveys and focus groups and adjust to the changes in their wants and needs on game days. We don’t take anything for granted. We know that we have a remarkable venue, but we also know that it takes hard work each and every day to make the crowd keep coming back.
"My advice would be to keep it simple, keep the environment consistent and take care of your people every opportunity you get."
With an ever-changing staff, as each season brings on new employees, how do you train them with the correct skills to provide exceptional customer experiences?
While each year our turnover in staff is reduced, we do have a number of new personnel that start with us each year. Our new-hire training process is very focused and basic so that we don’t overwhelm a new staff member. We teach them our Service Mission Statement and our Cowboys Five Points and we let them use that as their guide. We follow a teaching model of TALK, DEMO, DO, LISTEN where the trainers TALK (tell the staff about the task/behavior), DEMO (show them how to do it), DO (give them a chance to try it), and LISTEN (ask the new staff member questions about what they just learned). By keeping our trainings basic, focused, intuitive and behavior-specific, the new staff members understand what is expected of them and exactly what they need to do to provide exceptional experiences for our guests.
What is the most exciting aspect of being a Director of Event Operations for the Dallas Cowboys?
I get to create opportunities for others. For our guests, I get to help influence the way they will experience the stadium and help create memories that will last a lifetime. For our staff, I get to give them a chance to apply their talents, grow their skills, and use what they learn from their job at the stadium to improve their lives outside of the stadium. For our players and other event participants, I get to help give them the finest environment for them to compete and perform. My job is much more than football on Sundays and I am so grateful that each day at work is filled with variety, challenge, and a chance to make a difference for others in so many different ways.
The Cowboys Service Mission Statement
“We are service professionals at the world’s finest venue creating exceptional experiences for our guests in a safe, clean and friendly environment.”
The Service Mission Statement is full of powerful meaning. As part of our training, we break the Service Mission Statement down into its component parts and explain what each word means. “Safe, clean and friendly” serve as our service standards and are in order of importance (safety being first). The staff then understand what is important to us and what specific behaviors they need to display to uphold our service mission.
Cowboys Five Points
Integrity: Having a strong moral code based on honesty and trustworthiness.
Respect: Placing a high value on others and treating them with dignity and appreciation.
Teamwork: Working cooperatively with others so that we can succeed together.
Commitment: Honoring your work assignments and actively contributing through individual effort.
Excellence: Always trying to exceed expectations and improve our organization.
The Cowboys Five Points has important symbolic meaning. Each term is matched with a point on the Cowboys Star. The star, being a symmetrical shape, has not true up, down, left or right. Each point is equal and each is necessary for the Star to be the Cowboys Star. It follows that each of the five values (Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Commitment, Excellence) is of equal importance and must be present for the model to be complete.
Paul Turner is the Director of Event Operations and Security for the Dallas Cowboys and Cowboys Stadium. He is responsible for event management and public services for all events at Cowboys Stadium. He joined the Cowboys organization in 2008 and was part of the stadium planning group for the last year of construction and the inaugural season of events. In his 24 years in the public assembly facilities industry, Paul has developed and led numerous customer and event services operations in performing arts centers, arenas and stadiums. He has previously held positions with the Philadelphia Eagles, Portland Trailblazers, Theatre Projects Consultants and the City of Cerritos, California. Paul is well known for developing industry best practices for customer service operations and he has created many training and development programs. Paul has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication from California State University, Long Beach. He lives in Grapevine, Texas with his wife, Jackie and their daughter, Riley.