Larry Bowman
Melvin Russ is in his seventh season with the Atlanta Braves. Fans enjoy his entertaining actions, such as dancing the jitter bug or sliding through a moonwalk, during games.

He is 73 years old and an usher.

Hazel’s Haven is on the upper deck at Turner Field. There, fans receive smiles, candy, flowers, or perhaps handkerchiefs on the hottest of days. These gifts aren’t offered officially by the team, but by Hazel herself, also an usher.

Willie, a ticket-taker supervisor, often regales fans with trivia and games as they enter the gates.

It’s these kind of frontline all-stars, Larry Bowman says, that don’t only spark fan demand but inspire so many more of the staff to make customer service a personal and unique offering.

[fm_sidebar] Learn More
Larry Bowman will be a keynote speaker at IAVM’s 2015 Academy for Venue Safety & Security and GuestX conference, speaking on best practices for managing safety, security, and the guest experience.

Visit www.iavm.org/GUESTX/GuestX-home for complete details and to register.[/fm_sidebar]

“Our security personnel, as a team, consistently received customer service scores in the high 90s and on many occasions led all staffs in customer service scoring,” Bowman says. “These frontline all-stars don’t only spark fan demand but inspire so many more of our game staff to make customer service a personal and unique offering.”

Fostering Safe Environments

Bowman is the vice president of stadium operations and security for the Atlanta Braves. He oversees ballpark budgets, supervising hundreds of employees, and implements Major League Baseball policies and procedures, among many of his other job functions. One aspect of his career, though, that he’s never lost sight of is how a great guest experience relies on a solid safety and security plan.

“We live, work, and play in an age in which you cannot separate the guest experience from safety and security,” Bowman says. “The level of comfort (i.e., self and family safety and security) is as much a part of the decision matrix as ticket prices, amenities, etc., when it comes to a fan deciding whether to patronize our venues. Fans will not return to a venue where they do not feel safe. A security plan that incorporates the tenets of the guest experience enhances its viability, funding, and success.”

In fact, fans don’t want to assume a venue is safe and secure as possible. They need to know this.

“A proactive, well-trained staff and well communicated policies speak volumes in terms of the safety and security of your venue,” Bowman says. “They, the fans, come to know these things by us communicating them. A strong commitment to communication is key.”

Enumeration not important, he says. It is the degree to which the frontline personnel are equipped and motivated to personify a security/safety program.

“Through screening metrics, we select those who best fit our organization’s profile,” Bowman says. “Through training, we give them the message. Thorough recognition and reward, we give them a sense of value and worth as communicators of the safety/security program. Through drills, we give them the level of comfort with the message. Face it, frontline personnel spend the most time with our fans/guests and have the highest degree of fan interaction. The degree to which we educate them, prepare them, and empower them is the same degree to which our customer service best practices will succeed and be reinforced.”

Must, Not Should

Bowman believes that operation and security managers should never be satisfied with where they (and the industry) are now, but driven by where they will be next and then beyond that.

“The challenges that we face as an industry re-new constantly, so professionals in our industry must be prepared to likewise re-new constantly,” he says.

Challenges facing safety and security professionals—particularly those responsible for sport and entertainment venues—will continue to not only exist but multiply, morph, and grow more complex.

“Specific challenges abound—whether a cyber-attack (imagine the impact of a hacked Jumbotron displaying a fear-inducing message in front of a sold-out venue), a lone-wolf active shooter, the individual actions of an over imbibed patron, a lost child, or anything else along the continuum of worst-case scenarios and undesired outcomes,” Bowman says. “Consideration of this myriad blend of challenges can be numbing. However, as daunting as the statement of the challenges may be, the statement of the recommendation for meeting those challenges is appreciably simpler. It is also aptly illustrated in the principles of the Academy for Venue Safety & Security. We must continue to ‘equip each and every [venue safety and security professional] with the best practices, resources, and tools needed to face the evolving challenge of providing a safe venue for everyone.’”

Venue professionals must, he says, do that without regard for agency affiliation, point-of-idea origination, or pride of ownership.

“We must simultaneously address the needs of the current venue professionals while preparing the next generation,” Bowman says. “Through the resources at our disposal—experiences of venue management professionals, industry organizations, public safety and law enforcement personnel and their resources, the academic community, and others—we have the means by which to craft living strategies that focus on training, planning, and preparation to protect people, safeguard infrastructure, and preserve the venue experience. It is not what we should do. It is what we must do.” FM

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