Guest Column - July 2009
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Customer Service:
Developing Customer Service in Collegiate Recreation Facilities

By Renee Adam, Abigail Thrine & Peter Titlebaum

No matter the industry, customer service is something everyone should understand and, more importantly, appreciate. If student employees do not understand that they are an important part of the facility, they will not appreciate what their customer service offers to members. Student employees need to understand that the interactions they have with customers are often first, and lasting, impressions.

In order to achieve the customer service that most recreational centers strive for, a training program should be built into student employment requirements. In a recent article, "Make Your Club Stand Out In an Overcrowded Market" published in Fitness Business Pro in 2008, Ed Tock, a partner at a marketing and sales training consulting firm, said that "club owners must train their staff to meet and deliver on customer expectations at every critical interaction."

Student employees must understand that no interaction is too little to make an impression on someone, and they need to know that every action they take in the recreation center is a direct reflection of the training and expectations that are put forward by the recreational staff. The recreational staff also needs to establish expectations that are reflective of the department's mission statement and vision of quality customer service. Student employees who believe in customer service help make an organization run smoothly.

In a Reader's Digest article printed in November 2008 titled "What If You Said Hello to Everyone in Your Path for a Month?" author Joe Kita went around doing just that. "Hello" is one of the easiest words to say, but adults use this word very seldom. In today's society, many people are unaccustomed to being acknowledged by others, so it may catch them off guard when someone says hello. This simple address is an easy way to get the attention of members and to help them remember the student employee staff in a positive way. Being polite and saying hello is such a simple task for anyone to do; the student employees just need to understand how important the small task is.

The author also found that saying hello to everyone can boost productivity. By paying attention to all members entering the facility, student employees will become more productive and ready to answer any questions or concerns. Hello is also a sign of respect, and hopefully respect will be returned. If every student employee said hello, members would feel as though they were a valuable part of the organization, and in return would show the student employees respect, making their job feel valuable. When student employees see their job as a valuable asset to the organization, they gain more intrinsically than if they think it is a simple job that anyone can do. This intrinsic gain can also help the student employees understand the deliverables that come from working in a collegiate recreational facility.

By working in a customer service field, student employees are gaining multiple deliverables that they will be able to carry on to future careers and job opportunities. Many student recreation employees will have some part in successfully operating a multi-million dollar facility, from opening and closing the facility to setting up a volleyball court. These skills might help student employees stand out when compared with other job applicants in the future.