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Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Train Camp Staff in Customer Service Techniques

In many cases your camp counselors are also your camp's customer service reps. They're the "face" of your camp, the front-line people your families deal with on a daily basis. That's why it makes sense to devote a portion of your staff training time to teaching them about customer service and other reputation management skills.

I'll bet your orientation schedule is already filled to the brim, so don't go overboard on the marketing discussion front or you might not fit everything in. Instead just pick a few important topics and cover the main points.

Here's a few ideas to get you started:
  • Customer service
  • How to handle angry parents
  • What to say to parents, and the general public in the case of an emergency

Let's not kid ourselves, seasonal camp counselors usually only work for you because they enjoy working with kids, not because they're interested in helping you promote your program. So if you're gonna teach staff about customers service, you need to keep them engaged and buy into what you're doing.

One approach that's worked well at my own camp is this:
  1. Breaking staff into groups;
  2. Assigning each group a marketing topic (like customer service); and then
  3. Having each group make a presentation to everyone else about their respective marketing topics

Counselors seem to enjoy this training method because it breaks up the potential monotony of a marketing "lecture" and instead morphs into a fun, hands-on role-playing activity. Not only that, it's an easy way to learn and the added benefit is that it spreads your camp's marketing message across your entire team.

Now the one caveat when doing marketing training with staff is this: you don't want to give away so much information that it hurts you later. If you've got a killer marketing secret that works like crazy for you, it should probably stay that way. Coca-Cola's not sharing its secret soda ingredients with its employees and neither should you. You don't want some rogue camp counselor getting a job with a competitive camp down the road and sharing your marketing plan with them. That's why you need to focus on generalities, not specifics, as you train your staff in customer service techniques.

One more thing to consider. Don't forget the potential marketing windfall you might be missing by not asking your staff for marketing ideas of their own. What if your counselors are sitting on a goldmine of marketing ideas, but you never even knew it because you didn't think to ask? Even a small idea from a counselor you might never see again could turn into a tremendous promotional advantage for you.

Here's the bottom line on this one. Considering how fast word spreads from person-to-person these days, you don't want your counselors giving misinformation to parents or kids. You want them promoting a trustworthy, professional image that makes you look good. Your customers (including kids) will form positive or negative impressions of camp by how your staff interacts with them. They'll share these views with their friends, too, which explains even more why training your staff in the basic principles of your marketing program is only a net gain for your camp.

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