Courtesy Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training

As a newer facility, Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training puts a big emphasis on customer service — so much so, in fact, that the facility refers to its front desk staff as customer service specialists.

“My philosophy is that anybody who comes through with any problems should be heard,” says Gemma Fleming, director of programs at Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training, or FAST for short.

Fleming recalls one incident where a customer drove two hours to the facility and was told she couldn’t swim because an impending storm rendered swimming outdoors unsafe. After hearing her grievance, the team responded by adding the local weather radar to the FAST website. This way, customers could see if the pool would be open before making the trip. It was an easy fix that had a large impact from a safety standpoint, says Kinley Rogers, marketing representative for the facility.

FAST has only been open for a year and a half, so it’s still evolving, explains Kevin Milak, its director of business development and training. He expects client input and requests to continue guiding this development, at least in part. For example, the facility adjusted its café menu based on visitor suggestions. Management also opened the gym, previously available only for swim team use, to all members.

Responsive approach

This feedback often is collected face-to-face at the front desk or through Instagram, which the team monitors closely. If the staff needs to look more deeply into the situation or explore possible solutions, customer service staff sends an email to the appropriate party – usually management or maintenance.

Every concern and bit of customer feedback is heard. However, the staff can’t act on all of it. To prioritize and determine what is appropriate, the leadership team looks at requests and asks which are needs and which are accommodations. They then decide what’s doable in terms of health, safety and risk management. Some requests may be discussed during a staff meeting as well.

“We should always be able to provide what the customer is asking for, unless it’s going to hurt the company or the people who work for you, or we just can’t swing it financially,” Fleming says.

Sometimes a customer-service issue can be resolved with education or an explanation. Rogers recalls a social media request from an older customer, asking for accessible stairs into the outdoor pool. Such an alteration could potentially damage the pool lining, so it couldn’t be made. But Rogers found out that the customer didn’t know about the electronic chairs for accessibility. Once she the client aware, the problem was solved.

Prepared staff

Part of having an excellent customer service response is training your team on how to handle difficult situations.

For Fleming, it was crucial to know what the staff can and cannot do. She trained her employees not to give a yes right away, but rather to tell the customer the team will look into the request or complaint.

Milak stresses that if you have to say no, always give the customer a reason. They might not understand why you’re saying no because they don’t know all the safety protocols you have to consider. Explaining the rationale can help smooth things over.

“Everyone sees things from their perspective, so education goes a long way,” he adds.

He trains his staff against using one phrase: “I don’t know.” Instead, he tells customer-service staff to respond with, “Let me get your information, and we’re going to follow up with you.”

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