Six Reasons to Train Collaboratively

guidesI recently stood for several minutes at an information desk at a park waiting for one of several workers on duty to notice me and ask to help. They were deeply engaged in personal conversations. Their uniforms indicated that some were employees and others were volunteers. At any park, zoo, museum, historic site, forest, aquarium or community there are people working for different organizations but doing the same work. Many organizations have volunteers, friends group employees and staff working together on information duty or making reservations for tours or programs.

Our uniforms, logos, and other insignias are not clear communication for tourists and guests at most recreational settings. They see an official outfit or insignia and attach it to the organization that seems most obvious. If you have partners, volunteers, concessionaires, and front-line employees in places where they meet your customers, your guests, they must deliver consistent messages and services. The customer will not understand who served them poorly.

Here are six things to think about when planning to train your front-line:

  1. Every employee, volunteer, concession worker, etc. deserves the opportunity to do the right thing the first day at work. They have to be trained before the first day on the front line for this to work. An orientation or host course starts each new worker with a basic understand of mission, job responsibilities and customer service. Letting your front-line do the wrong thing because you didn’t have time to train disrespects the customer and the employee.
  2. Every conversation with a customer or guest is a chance to help have a special experience and connect with the place, the story. Guests may make a lasting connection with your site or see it as “been there, done that,” as an experience. You can equip every employee with the skills to make a difference in every conversation through host training.
  3. The organizational mission is job ONE for every person meeting the public. Each employee has a job description, but the mission is overriding. If we do not work at achieving the purpose of our organization every day, we may be degrading the brand. The mission should be brief, memorable and easily remembered by each worker.
  4. Training in the same room at the same time with varied partners, volunteers and employees with different functions will build relationships. You should want security, cashiers, drivers, receptionists, and maintenance workers to see themselves as part of the team, working together to achieve the mission. They will know each other more quickly and have some respect for each other’s job roles if trained together. And they will have a basis for solving problems through their personal relationships.
  5. The customer should come second, not first. If we treat employees with respect, train them and equip them to respond to all situations effectively, they will treat customers with respect. We cannot yell at staff, mistrust them and hope they will treat guests better.
  6. Training is never as costly as mistakes that hurt guests, steal their money or mislead them and ruin an experience. You never get a second chance to make a first impression in customer service. Great customer service organizations invest time in preparing staff to meet the public. We should invest no less than two or three days and ideally a week or more. Initial orientation training must include organizational rules and procedures, but should also cover customer service and informal interpretation.

Front-line workers chatting with each other instead of turning to help a guest is a very normal thing to do, but with training they will know why their attention needs to be with the guest first and our colleagues in free time. We can improve uniforms, insignias and logos, but people will still confuse them if they work at the same site. Help them all deliver a quality experience and represent their organizations in the best possible way. It’s worth the investment.

We train with the Certified Interpretive Host (CIH) course from National Association for Interpretation, but can also customize host training to a specific site if requested. Let us know if we can help you craft and deliver the right host training for your staff.

– Tim Merriman

Published by heartfeltassociates

Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman are married and serve as Principals of Heartfelt Associates. They write fiction and non-fiction, raise miniature horses and consult with parks, zoos, museums, historic sites, nature centers and aquariums on heritage interpretation and visitor experiences.They live on the Big Island of Hawaii on a small Kona coffee farm overlooking Kealakekua Bay.

One thought on “Six Reasons to Train Collaboratively

  1. Every word of this is true, on many levels. In times of restricted staff and less (or no) funding for training and in a culture of hiring few full time workers and many part time workers, proper training is critical to having the mission made clear to everyone. As a part-time state park employee, I was fortunate enough to be able to fund my own CIG training and continuing education and it has made all the difference for me, and countless visitors with whom I interact.
    The quality of experience for any visitor that I meet, while properly representing my park and my state is a point of pride for me personally.

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