Ponder’s hospitality plan

There’s little the job description of new AD for external operations Stephen Ponder doesn’t touch. He’s responsible for all of the athletic department’s outward interaction with the public.

The fact that Ole Miss doesn’t have the budget to spend its way to success requires a different plan. For Ponder it’s this: Be nice.

“Ole Miss is known for hospitality, nationally it is, and we just want to make sure our own fans who see it every day experience it at a ballgame as well,” Ponder said.

So, Ponder has set about making sure that everyone involved with Game Day — from ushers to ticket takers, from concession workers to security — understands that manners matter.

Ponder wants to hear feedback from fans if they’ve had a poor experience with a Game Day employee — and if they’ve had a positive experience. Part of the messaging inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium includes a scroll at the bottom of the north end zone video board encouraging fans to note the badge number of stadium employees and relate their experiences in an email.

“What we’re trying to do, we’re starting with the positive. We’ve talked to everyone involved on Game Day from ticket takers to ushers, police, everyone that’s there on our staff to be at the gates and say ‘Welcome to Ole Miss, thanks for being here,'” Ponder said.

“Fundamentally, as you know, in dealing with as many people as we do we’re going to have issues. We just want to make sure that if people do have a specific issue … a compliment, we’d love to compliment our staff that does a good job, or if there’s an issue where we can improve to say, ‘Hey, Badge No. 21, they did a great job, or they might have some room to grow.'”

There has been good early feedback.

“We’ve gotten that people feel welcome, that (our) people are doing a good job of saying hello. Specifically, in the Rebel Club on the east side, we have a young lady that works right when you come out of the elevator, and she’s phenomenal. You feel like you’ve just met your best friend, and she’s never met you before. It’s that type of welcoming attitude that we want.”

More on Stephen Ponder and the athletic department in Sunday’s Daily Journal.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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