You Can Hear Helen Smile

CATEGORY: Starlight

Helen Negretti has been answering box office calls across Kansas City for more than 30 years, and she’s lent her talents to Starlight Theatre for the past year and a half.

From the Kansas City Ballet to the Lyric Opera, Renaissance Festival, Sandstone Amphitheatre, Benjamin Ranch Rodeo and many more, Helen has spent countless hours selling tickets and responding to customer questions and needs. “I was a single mom when I started doing box office work as a part-time job, and I’ve been at it ever since,” she recounts. “I like people, and I like to help people have the best ticket-buying experience possible.”

Helen knows box office staff are typically the first point of contact that a member of the public has with an arts organization. So, she works hard to ensure that first impression is a positive one!

In a November editorial submitted to The Cass County Democrat Missourian, Starlight season ticket holder David Coffelt held up Helen as a stellar example of “good old-fashioned service.” He wrote:

Last week it was time to renew our season tickets to Starlight Theatre.

Now, I’m not averse to using the online option for services like season ticket renewal. I have made numerous purchases by using Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon and others. However, while online I made a decision to take advantage of the show swap alternative being offered. I could have probably figured out exactly which steps needed to be taken to do so, but decided to make the phone call instead.

I have dealt with many companies in the last few months by telephone, and it isn’t always a pleasant experience. Once the auto-attendant begins giving instructions, my patience begins to grow thin. I have called one company several times, gone through the entire number-by number routine to finally have the privilege of leaving a recorded message that will promptly be ignored.

You can imagine my wariness as the Starlight recorded message directed me to select two for ticket services. I was gradually building myself up for more frustration and disappointment. And then it happened: ‘Good morning, this is Helen, how can I help you?’

For years, I have told those in my employ that you can hear a smile over the telephone line. I have always believed that, I know it’s true, and last week Helen proved it to me once again. As soon as she answered that phone call, my spirits were lifted. Hope was restored.

I explained to Helen what I was attempting to accomplish and that I was too old to fight with computers and online services. She countered with a gentle laugh and said, ‘David, I’m probably older than you are, but let’s see what we can do.’

It didn’t take long for me to surmise that Helen had probably retired from a job where she had performed very well. She was now giving of herself by being an excellent ambassador for Starlight Theatre.

While she worked on her computer, making the necessary changes that I had requested, we chatted. We talked about cell phones and cell phone service, young people texting rather than calling and grandchildren. Within a matter of minutes, the mission was accomplished, and I received email confirmation before hanging up the telephone.

I thanked Helen. It has since occurred to me that I didn’t really explain to Helen what I had thanked her for. Funny as it may seem, I was first thankful that she was a person, not a machine. There are still things that need to be done by people, and by people who care about what they are doing.

Secondly, I need to thank this wonderful lady for caring about helping others. I have the distinct feeling that she has this type of attitude in everything she does.

Finally, a big thank you goes to Helen for reinstating my belief in good old-fashioned service. Each of us, as consumers, have experienced a time when we have just needed a little bit of help. All we are looking for is someone to answer a few simple questions, perhaps straighten out a misunderstanding, or handle an issue with the product or service in question.

Good service should not be old-fashioned. Too many companies are focused on growth or the bottom line rather than on the best way to get there. The management of these companies needs to remember that the Golden Rule still applies and that, thankfully, there are still the Helens of the world to help them do just that.

David Coffelt is a Harrisonville area resident and CEO of Coffelt Land Title, Inc.