Gainesville Police Officer Plays Basketball, Customer Service Lesson

What the Gainesville Police Officer Teaches Us About Customer Service

Last week a video of a Gainesville, Florida police officer following up on a noise complaint went viral.

Gainesville Police Officer Plays Basketball, Customer Service LessonWhen Officer Bobby White arrived on the scene, he found a group of young kids playing basketball in the street.

What he did next is a lesson in human relations, community policing, and even customer service.

He played basketball with the kids.

He talked to them. He established rapport. He connected with them.

And only after he had connected and played ball with them, did he say, “I have no problem with y’all playing basketball in the street, just, if you can, try not to be too loud.”

Fortunately, the interaction, caught on the police dash cam, was posted by Gainesville PD and went viral.

Perspective in Customer Service

Officer White had perspective about what was important. He obviously considered not just the noise complaint but the relationship between the community and the police and how he could best interact with these kids.

In customer service, many interactions fail because of a lack of perspective, both on the part of the customer and those in the organization. It is a lack of perspective that…

  • …causes customers to expect unreasonable demands to be met.
  • …causes frontline reps to take customer complaints personally.
  • …causes leaders to judge a frontline rep for not following procedure without asking why.

Perspective matters across the customer journey. In fact, one could argue: it is what matters most.

Of course, we can’t control our customers’ perspectives (though we can help influence them); however, we can control our own, and we can also encourage broader thinking from our teams.

Here are five questions you can ask to make sure your perspective is more balanced.

5 Questions to Gain Perspective

  • What is my preconception of the situation? (Be honest with yourself!)
  • Where did that perspective come from?
  • What might the perspective of the other party be?
  • Is there another way to look at this situation?
  • What is really important here?

As mentioned in Chapter 63 of Be Your Customer’s Hero, your environment is framing your perspective all of the time. The police officer could have accepted the frame that came in over his radio — loud unruly kids, likely adult taxpayer being disturbed — and arrived on site with his outlook already set.

Be Your Customer's Hero

Instead, the officer arrived at the scene and understood that these kids could be doing a lot worse than making too much noise playing basketball.

“I’d rather see you out here doing this than causing trouble,” he says at the end of the video.

Officer White of the Gainesville Police Department is a shining example not just of great community policing, but of the power of shifting one’s perspective and serving others — even customers. By opening his mind to the larger picture, he created an experience that touched millions across the world.

Every organization can learn a thing or two from Officer White.

Bonus: Shaquille O’Neal Joins the Gainesville PD

Did you see the follow up video to the Gainesville Police Officer video?

After it went viral, Shaquille O’Neal found out about it. What happened next is guaranteed to make you smile.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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