Last week we talked about how to be intentional about customer service and we focused on being relational. I was thinking about how that skill is sometimes easier for some than it is for others. Some people come by it naturally when others have to work at it. We recommend instructing your staff and maybe even role playing how to implement this quality. Let’s face it. Some of our guests make it very difficult to be relational. Confrontational maybe, but not relational! But our response to difficult situations will set us apart from the competition.
This week I want to focus on the second aspect of intentional customer service. While it is crucial to be relational, it is just as important to be professional. This is somewhat hard to pinpoint, but let’s walk though what it might look like.
I would say that the first thing to remember is that rural does not mean “hick”. As quaint and homey and comfortable we make our venues, we should not neglect the organizational and the professional. In other words, our Agritourism business should be known for its friendliness and memorable atmosphere, because we run it with complete care and preparation. Your guests may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will respond well to a well run business. Here are some examples:
Buildings and structures should be built well and permanent structures when possible. Don’t cut corners on quality.
Your grass and your grounds should be neat and well taken care of. That means every night after you close or every morning before you open, you make it as clean as it was the day before. Don’t let the grass and weeds become a distraction.
Restrooms/porta-potties are clean, well-stocked. We were forced to use the porta-potties in one of our venues and this was one of the most difficult part of the visit for some guests. Some even drove to a nearby gas station so they didn’t have to use them. So remove as many objections as possible by keeping them clean and pumped out!
Make sure your staff are dressed neatly and look professional. That has more to do with how they wear than what they wear. We do recommend that they wear the same thing so that they are easy for your guests to spot.
Make sure every part of your venue is done as well as possible. Signs should be printed and hung neatly. Cords, electrical and other modern signs of civilization should be hidden. Maintain the allusion whenever you can.
Jamie talked about this in a previous blog, but we feel that the first exposures to your venue should be relational and professional. It begins with parking for sure, but we strongly encourage the use of information boards. Not just for your guests to read, but information boards that become part of your welcome and greeting. Boards that are staffed and are a very intentional part of your identity.
Ever go somewhere, maybe another venue, and wonder what you’re supposed to do and where you should go? We found that when there is not the initial greeting and instruction, that a certain group of people will get all of the questions. That’s right, the people that are taking the money! And when you have a day when hundreds or thousands of people are entering your gates, your people at the register cannot be answering a lot of questions. So here’s what we do:
*We create two or more 4x8 boards that contain all the important information your guests will need to know. The boards are positioned near the entrance but don’t impede the flow of traffic. (Click Here for a video on how to build these)
*We greet the guests who walk up and invite them to listen to a short set of instructions. We include things about the maze, an aerial picture, how you find your way through it, what else we offer, restroom location, hayride specifics, etc. At night, when we run our haunted maze, our information is different. We can usually get 10-20 people at a time before they enter to pay. It is at this stage that we answer any questions they may have.
*When the day is less busy we only staff one board. When things are hopping we have two staff members with two identical boards. This allows the process of moving people from cars to farm to run much more smoothly.
The big parks do this but often use more high tech solutions. Like televisions and video productions. That is also an option, but make sure you remain true to your mission and purpose. Watch our “how to” video for more info on the info boards!
The bottom line is quality. Professionalism just means you do what you do with attention to every detail. Visit other Agritourism venues and learn from others. And keep up the good work!