Tools of the Trade: Training Employees to Provide the Best Customer Service

November 5, 2010 No Comments

November 5, 2010

There is no denying that compelling attractions and/or programs play a key role in attracting visitors to leisure entertainment facilities. However, the quality of guests’ experience there has an equally strong bearing on whether they will return and, quite possibly, what they will tell others about their visit. While excellent customer service goes far towards cultivating repeat business, most employees do not have the innate ability to provide it. That’s why good customer service training is a “must” for all types of operations, from mini-golf and go-kart courses, bowling alleys, roller skating rinks and arcades to amusement parks and museums.

For many leisure entertainment facilities, proper customer service training begins with setting expectations and conveying them in written form. “We only hire people who seem to understand what good customer service is, but we cover our expectations very specifically in a handbook that we distribute to all new employees,” noted Christopher Moore, manager of Funtasia Family Fun Park in Edmonds, Wash. For instance, the handbook contains verbiage for employees to use when describing ticket packages, attempting to steer groups to group pricing options, keeping ticket sales traffic moving to prevent upsetting guests without rushing others who appear indecisive, and more. Standard responses to frequently asked questions are also given. A “cheat sheet” that features the latter is kept at the front desk, and staff members are reminded regularly to refer to it when necessary.

At Oasis Bowl & Family Fun Center in Fallon, Nev., assigning new hires to “shadow” employees who already know the customer service ropes reinforces verbal messages about customer service expectations communicated during staff members’ first few days on the job, reported Milton Wallace, manager. “Many times, seeing it is easier than hearing it,” Wallace asserted. Family Fun Center in Tukwila, Wash., follows much the same strategy. Individuals who have just come on board observe their colleagues as they interact with customers while selling tickets, distributing prizes at the prize desk and manning attractions.

However, sources said, owners and managers of leisure entertainment facilities must realize that good customer service training is not finite. “Good customer service skills are not natural for most people, no matter what their age,” asserted Gregory Smith, president of human resources and workplace management consulting firm Chart Your Course International.  Consequently, “effective customer service training must be reinforced and taught on a recurring basis.”

Indeed, rather than merely telling employees during the orientation period how guests should be treated (i.e., saying, “The customer is always right”) and leaving it at that, savvy operators regularly demonstrate and reinforce the appropriate principles. For example, Go Kart World in Carson, Calif., holds monthly meetings at which supervisors discuss common customer service-related issues, such as complaints, questions and even unreasonable requests, and demonstrate, via role-playing, how they should be handled, according to Bob Harris, owner.

Similarly, once each month, employees of Family Fun Center attend a meeting during which various operational aspects are explored in detail. Very often, these have a customer service focus, be it how to help visitors determine whether a special promotion is right for them, reiterating how to tactfully request that guests observe the center’s rules, or something else. The more reinforcement employees receive, the better the customer service they are able to provide

One of Smith’s clients has amassed a list of “customer service commandments,” which range from courteously volunteering to find the answers to guests’ inquiries instead of claiming ignorance or “pawning them off” on an equally clueless co-worker, to remaining calm when fielding negative comments from unhappy guests. Before each shift begins, supervisors conduct daily “line-ups” where one commandment is reviewed and practiced.

Smith also recommended that proprietors and supervisory personnel at leisure entertainment facilities improve customer service training by periodically eliciting visitor feedback about customer service. This can be accomplished through anonymous written surveys guests can take home or online via facilities’ Web sites. “For every complaint you receive, there are “at least 10 more that visitors “just didn’t share,” but may be very valuable, Smith said.

One fun center operator in the Northeast tried this strategy, with positive results. Through an online survey in which guests were asked to later participate as they entered the facility, he learned that some employees were not being sufficiently proactive when it came to answering questions about different admission packages. “A few people said there was too much standing around and talking to each other, and not enough noticing that guests needed help sorting things out,” he concluded. “Now, that’s a part of our orientation.”

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Tips

  • Don’t simply tell employees how you want guests to be treated. Show them, through role playing exercises or asking them to “shadow” their more experienced co-workers.
  • Provide reinforcement of concepts learned through meetings and other types of refresher courses.
  • Ask guests to suggest areas where your facility’s customer service approach could use some work, and incorporate these recommendations into your training program.
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