MONCTON– During peak tourist season at Fundy’s Cape Enrage, the employee guests talk to the most isn’t who you might expect– the landscaper.
“One of the most talked-to staff is the guy who mows the lawn because people just want to ask him questions,” says Annick Butland, managing director of Fundy’s Cape Enrage. “He’s walking through the restaurant to get his lunch and 45 minutes later he’s still talking to the same people because they are so intrigued by how locals live and what they like to do, what their way of life is.”
The landscaper hits it off so well with tourists that Butland has decided to expand his role at the Cape.
“I’m hiring him to work some of the evening special events because he has that great spirit and great personality,” she says. “I think at some of the events he is going to be one of my key storytellers.”
To help employees like him learn the ins and out of customers service, Butland is sending some of her staff to take the new Skills Gain training program being offered by the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB) this spring.
Skills Gains is a course that offers training either online and in-person for workers in the tourism industry to hone five critical skills: critical skills such as customer service, professionalism, interpersonal Skills, communication and thinking skills.
TIANB president and CEO Carole Alderdice says the idea for the program came from feedback from the association’s members.
“We went out and asked industry about what they were lacking and what they were looking for training wise for their employees. This Skills Gain program was developed with feedback from them,” says Alderdice. “It’s basically a five-module customer service kind of training. The great thing about it is it allows the operator to actually asses their employees to see if they need all five modules or they only need the one. Or if they want to do it online or if they want to do it offline.”
The course is offered to members and non-members of TIANB. Pricing for the course varies based on membership and how many modules you plan to take. The first in-person Skills Gain course took place in Saint John on Wednesday.
“Customer service is key to tourism. You can only have a first impression once. It’s very important for the first impressions of our members or of any industry, whether it’s tourism or not, be positive,” says Alderdice. “This training concentrates on the customer service to make sure that they know how to greet people and how to provide the customer service that the visitors are expecting.”
That’s why Butland is also sending her younger staff to take the course. Though many will only be working at Fundy’s Cape Enrage for a summer or two, she says it’s important to give them an opportunity to learn these skills, because they might not elsewhere.
“I would be pretty naive if I thought all of my 30 staff are going to stay with me forever. They probably aren’t,” she says. “But they’re going to grow into really great careers and I find that when we’re employing the youth, we really have a responsibility to make sure that the skills that they have are great for us as a place of employment, but also something that will carry them through later as well, because it reflects good on us afterward.”
A lot of the basic customer service skills may seem like common sense, but Butland says that’s only if you been working in the industry for a while.
“We really want to avoid some of the mistakes they may never know unless they’re told,” she says. “Things like you’re not going to call a customer ‘dude’ and that your body language is really important, some of those things that just go such a long way and after you work in customer service for so long you understand that it’s second nature, but not everybody does. Especially if it’s their first job that they have worked at all.”
As summer approaches, Alderdice says TIANB will be promoting the course both to business both inside and outside the tourism industry.
“A lot of our operators are business owners who have one or two people including themselves, so anybody could attend it. I would love for anybody who has anything to do with tourism to attend,” she says. “Because the people at Walmart, the people at gas stations, taxi drivers, anybody that deals with the public should really go through a customer service types of training. It’s important for the province, it’s important for the image we project when visitors come to visit us.”
Butler views the course as investing in one of her businesses greatest assets.
“From an employers perspective, never underestimate the value of your staff. They are your best marketing, your best sellers, your best first-impressions,” she says. “They are everything for the first five minutes if not more. They need to know what they’re doing. They need to feel confident, invested and that you value them.”