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A lesson in customer service, not on the agenda, at the CMAA Leadership/Legislative Conference


Tammy Tassitano, a partner at McGladrey and a professional who has dedicated her career to serving the private club industry, recently returned from the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) Leadership/Legislative Conference, held this year in Boston, Massachusetts. For those who are unfamiliar with this annual event, “the Leadership/Legislative Conference (LLC) features sessions focused on the education and training necessary to have an immediate impact on volunteer management and chapter members. As the LLC is designed to emphasize leadership, legal and strategic thinking, this education conference provides CMAA members, specifically chapter officers/directors/chairmen and national committee members, with the education and training necessary to successfully accomplish chapter and related leadership goals.”

As someone who attends numerous board and management meetings at dozens of private clubs every year, it was an experience in customer service during the course of the conference that Tassitano could not wait to share with professionals in the industry.

“It was another great conference organized by CMAA,” says Tassitano. “Ironically, as valuable as the education was for leaders in the industry, there was one lesson that was not part of the formal agenda that stands out to me,” she says with a laugh. The joke about “standing out” will be made clear as Tassitano recounts her adventure in Boston.

“On Thursday night, I packed for a quick weekend trip to be filled with great education and networking events,” she starts. “I decided to pack light, so a recent delivery of shoes ordered from Zappos.com was perfect—which, incidentally, is a must-visit website.”

While Zappos is well-known as a company that embodies a customer-centric philosophy, and Tassitano is all too ready to regale fellow shoe lovers with descriptions of past purchases from the online retailer, her endorsement really is incidental, as she continues her tale.

“My new plum suede pumps were ideal. They had a great look, and I could see wearing them with several outfits throughout the weekend. I wore the pumps to my Friday morning client meeting, running errands en route to the airport, dashing through the airport to catch my flight and speeding from Logan Airport to the hotel to change my suit before the Friday evening preconference dinner meeting,” shares Tassitano.

While beginning to visualize yet another typically quick-paced day for Tassitano, readers might reflect on the equally hectic days had by many of the professional female members of private clubs around the country.

“At last I made it to my room,” she says with a sigh. “When I took off my pumps, I was horrified. Blisters on both heels! My husband went to the shop in the hotel lobby for Band-Aids, alcohol swabs and antiseptic ointment, and, $30 later, he returned to find me in tears. There was no way I was going to be able to wear these pumps tonight and probably not for the weekend.

“My husband quickly mentioned that the hotel was attached to the Copley Place Shops, and if we hurried, I could buy a new pair of shoes. My thoughts about an upside to the situation were short-lived when I realized that it was September in Boston. What were my chances of finding open-back pumps during winter season? After two failed attempts, we ventured into Tory Burch, which, even before this experience, happened to be my favorite store, and I immediately saw the sign. ‘Sale on summer shoes!’ I ran over quickly, wearing my Sketcher slip-ons, which undoubtedly looked fabulous with my evening dress, and was greeted immediately by a smiling sales associate.

“I explained my painful situation,” continues Tassitano. “Not only did my smiling sales associate immediately take it on herself to find options in my size, so did the other unoccupied sales associates.  While we were waiting, my husband and I were offered water, soft drinks, beer, wine or sparkling wine. Shortly after the adult beverages arrived,” says Tassitano with a smile, “several less painful and better-looking shoe options were tried. A consensus among the entire group was reached—navy blue slip-on wedges were just what Dr. Burch ordered. My sales associate quickly found me in the Tory Burch computerized customer database and completed the sale on her iPad.”

Feeling the weekend was saved, Tassitano enjoyed the conference without the agony of closed-back shoes on blisters.

“Later in the week after coming home, I found an email,” Tassitano says, while unfolding a printout.

She reads aloud:

Dear Tammy,

I just wanted to take a moment to reach out and thank you again for stopping in to shop with us last week. I'm sorry that the blisters on your feet are what promoted your visit, but it was great to meet you. I hope that the shoes offered some relief and that your feet have healed up! Enjoy your shoes.

Sales Lead
Tory Burch Copley

“The email made me think,” reflects Tassitano. “Do private clubs treat their members with such personalized service? Do they send such genuine messages to members after a purchase in the pro shop? If not, maybe this is one lesson best learned through experience.”