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Guest Column - July 2009

Customer Service:
Developing Customer Service in Collegiate Recreation Facilities

By Renee Adam, Abigail Thrine & Peter Titlebaum


n the business of collegiate recreation, student employees are an important product being marketed to the members. Their customer service skills are not only essential but are the lifeblood of the organization. For any organization to be successful, including collegiate recreation centers, the whole staff needs to understand and buy into the organization's philosophy. Staff must believe that customer service is an attitude and be ready to gain real-world experience during employment.

Successful customer service comes from well-trained employees. Customer service is a product being sold to facility members. When members come into a facility, most of their interaction is with the student employees. The student employees have different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, which make them unique in a way that gives the members a new visit every time they enter the facility. In order for all of the members' visits to be valuable, the student employees need to have the same understanding and training about what is acceptable customer service. Part of this acceptable customer service is creating a welcoming atmosphere for all members and for anyone who enters the facility at any given time.

"Customer service is not a way of doing things—it's an attitude." Ed Tock discussed the customer service attitude at fitness clubs in "Do Clubs Offer Customer Service or Lip Service?" published in 2006 in Fitness Business Pro.

Simply put, customer service is all about how student employees view their job and how intrinsically important they think it is. No amount of training can force someone to have the attitude that customer service means everything in the recreation business; it is something that student employees need to come in having.

Many others feel that customer service is an essential part of not only a recreational building but business in general. In an article titled "The Service Encounter," published in the book Recreation Programming in 2003, J. Robert Rossman states that "regardless of the type of service being offered, how it is offered matters." This includes the face-to-face interactions made between the customer and the employee.

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