Can Geelong cope with what the Christmas Tree brings?


By Cate Schreck - Service Excellence Coach

Like it, love it, loathe it or light up because of it - it's here for 3 more years at least. Geelong Council's new Administrators have said the floating Christmas Tree stays. Last year, I along with many others had an opinion about the tree and its cost and benefits etc, but that's not what this blog is about.

I want to know what the influx of tourists who came to see the tree and spent their time and money in our wonderful businesses, thought of their interactions with our people. What impression did our customer facing employees give the influx of "out of towners"?

I wonder if the customer facing staff were given the steps to leave the visitors feeling like Geelong is more than a tree - it's the location of superior food, wine, products and services. Did our visitors leave feeling like Geelong is a place to come to have your expectations exceeded? Isn't that what we all want our customers to feel?

Maybe like me, you too have travelled to a destination to experience a free visual delight, but the spectacle was marred by interactions with local businesses. Years ago I went to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and whilst having a coffee in the park, a bird dropped a lovely "present" on my back. The staff showed little or no care for my "sloppy" situation and one employee suggested with a wave of her hand, that I change in my car. No offer of a cloth or serviette, no water or use of their staff toilet. No empathy for my situation. Infact, I was made to feel like an interruption to her day.

When I came back from changing my top, I sat down and my friends, once they had stopped laughing at my messy situation, agreed that the dismissive attitude of the staff, like the bird,  left a stain. That was over 15 years ago and I still remember it. Frontline customer service staff can do that to a tourist.

I know many Geelong CBD businesses work hard to provide their customer facing staff with annual people skills refresher programs or training. I know many want to help their staff cope during peak periods and show them how to deal with difficult people. They do that because they don't want their staff to feel overwhelmed or stressed, but also because they know the power their customer facing staff have in their business.

Soft Skills (people skills) refresher sessions are like first aid for the brain. If you've got a first aid qualification you know that to keep it, you have re-attend training to prove you still have those skills. We use our soft skills everyday but how often do we step back and refresh those skills? I wonder if we could make a dent in workplace stress and anxiety if we reviewed and refreshed our soft skills more often?

No. I don't wonder. I know it makes an incredibly positive difference when staff have the soft skills to interact with each other and their customers like Customer Service Professionals.

To take Geelong to the top of the tourist destination tree, we need every single tourist to leave feeling like they want to come back and bring their friends and family with them. How do you do that? Well sure, free visual spectacles are a great enticement but if visitors hear locals moan about the tree, moan about how busy it is or don't treat them like respected guests,then the tree really is a waste of money.

So come on Geelong, like it or not, people did and will travel to see the tree - give them more than they expect - give them an experience that lights up not only their eyes but their hearts and minds too.

People do that better than trees.

OtherCate Schreck