In an age of constant communication, when e-mail and texting have the nation all
a-Twitter, communication with members and guests continues to be an
area that needs the most improvement. For the most part, the age
group that safeguards the guests at our aquatics facilities
believes that they are a generation of master communicators, but
nothing can be farther from the truth.
These days, customer service skills are just as important for a
lifeguard — and the long-term health of your facility —
as their ability to scan your water and perform rescues. As the
public deals with the recession, it is more selective with leisure
or fitness purchases. The competition for a family’s
discretionary funds is fierce. Everyone and everything now matters,
more than ever.
Many operators have developed in-service training programs that
work well to develop lifeguard and staff skills when it comes to
rescues, scanning and crowd control. But how do you develop well-
rounded guards who can also be “goodwill ambassadors”
at your facilities? Gossip, bad information and teenage speculation
can set back your customer service, marketing and bottom line.
In-service training in areas of customer service should be a vital
part of your staff’s education.
Throughout Europe and Scandinavia, cross-training exists that
creates an aquatics center employee who can potentially work all
areas of the facility, from lifeguard to maintenance, front desk
and restaurant. This gives the employee an understanding of what it
takes to make a facility successful.
OK, don’t get excited! I am not suggesting that we follow
that model here in the good old USA, but it does give support to
the concept of “everything and everyone matters.” Our
job as supervisors is to constantly prepare our employees for
advancement. Understanding how a facility operates is essential to
the development of our future industry leaders — and
providing top-notch customer service.
How often have you had to “undo” the comments of a
young lifeguard? How many conversations have you had to have with
members or guests when teenage speculation on the reason for a
policy went far afield from reality? For example, first aid
policies that prohibit the application of sprays, lotions and
antibiotic cream could be translated by a seasonal employee as
“we don’t have anything in the first aid
cabinet.” Imagine a mom hearing that one from a lifeguard!
You’ll spend weeks explaining away the gossip around the
Customer service/in-service training that teaches guards how to
deal with the public effectively and accurately can reduce or even
eliminate such problems. Drills about “on deck” issues
such as bullying, arguments, “rubberneckers,” Code
Browns and angry guests are imperative in today’s high-stress
climate. Tests, drills and flash-card sessions on the rules,
regulations and policies of your facility and the
“whys” behind them are vital training tools and
In this age of litigation, many operators hand out huge staff
manuals and staff expectation agreements. But how many of them are
For those working in seasonal environments, by the time you
recruit, train and uniform these employees, you get a few weeks
with them and then off they go to sports and colleges. So keep in
mind attention spans, memory overload and sleep deprivation —
and make these drills fun and challenging for your staff.
Trivia contests on your policies with prizes can work.
Incentives for those who consistently provide good customer service
also help. Use the “salami” effect with the
information: Provide it “one slice at a time.” Use
overcast and rainy days to have discussions about your policies and
the reasons for them. This will pay back tremendously.
Today, image is everything. A well- dressed, well-groomed and
alert team speaks volumes about your facility. Professional
lifeguards will command respect when they treat their jobs and
physical environment professionally. Members and guests notice
everything, from uniforms to signage to cleanliness.
Many of today’s teens and twenty-somethings have never been
taught simple social graces such as eye contact, handshakes,
“Yes, ma’am,” “No, sir.” This needs
not only to be taught, but imitated. Take a look at your own
behaviors, appearance and professional attitude on deck and
throughout the property. These skills can be taught through
repetition and making everything a “teaching
moment.” If you believe that everyone and everything
matters, eventually your staff will, too.