Customer Service Tips From A-Z

What makes for outstanding customer service in parks and recreation departments? Follow some of these alphabetical tips to provide high quality service, along with a dash of fun for participants in your programs.

A: Anticipate: Plan ahead for possible “snags.” Do you need extra staff on a busy weekend? Is rain predicted the night of your outdoor luau? Anticipating problems saves you headaches later on.

B: Balance: Maintain a balance between your personal and professional life. It’s easy to get so caught up serving customers you forget to take time for personal relaxation and recreation.

C: Create: People come to your programs for a unique experience. Be creative in signage, programs and even in naming your paddleboats. Instead of assigning a family to “Canoe #4”, tell them to get into “Shamu’s Toy.”

D: Donate: Foster positive community relationships by donating products or services. Offer a free monthly swim pass to silent auctions or community fundraisers. Offer to loan your road run pylons to an elementary school planning a sports festival.

E: Exceed: Exceed customer expectations. Do that tiny bit of extra service that leaves people with the feeling of, “Wait till I tell my friends what happened at that family carnival!”

F: Fun: Isn’t that what you are all about? Add elements of fun for participants. Give a free ice cream cone to every 25th customer signing up for soccer. Hold raffles for gag gifts. Have staff dress in costumes for various events. Offer half-price admission to people wearing pink or white at the Valentine’s Party.

G: Go Green: Many people want to do their part for the environment. Provide recycling bins. Sponsor a recycling carnival where you use empty cans, newspapers and egg cartons to construct carnival booths.

H: Help: Help your staff have a positive attitude. Your smile and upbeat personality help them cope with the stresses of the day.

I: Innovate: Take a risk and try new things. Encourage staff to give input about registration or ordering supplies. Their new ideas might provide better customer service.

J: Juggle: Hire a professional juggler to teach juggling skills to participants if they have to wait in lines for your programs.

K: Knowledge: Even though you feel there’s never enough time, try to learn some new skills. Read a book on something besides recreation management. Take a class in an area that’s new to you.

L: Lead: Often, the leader of a recreation department determines its success. Develop your own style of management. People see when you are sincere, instead of trying to lead like Colin Powell.

M: Make Memories: Some families have limited time together. Do what you can to create a time of positive memories for them. Compliment them on their child’s swimming ability. Plan programs for families to enjoy being together in a relaxed setting.

N: Names: What sounds more appealing, ”Parent Child Hike” or “Wiggles and Giggles on the Trail”? Advertise your programs with fun titles.

O:Organize: If organization isn’t one of your strengths … get help fast! Participants immediately notice when a program is organized. Make checklists, have supplies on hand, and have a backup plan.

P: Participate: Take part in activities so you see things from a participant’s point of view. Eat the hotdogs sold in the snack bar. Participate in miniature golf and see how long you wait to get your clubs. Better yet, ask your mother to participate in a few programs. She’ll certainly tell you where you need to improve!

Q: Quality: Customers expect high quality when dealing with your programs. Return phone calls and e-mails within 24 hours. Handle complaints in a professional manner. Provide a small bouquet of flowers in the bathrooms.

R: Resources: How can you stretch your entertainment budget? Invite local cheerleaders practicing for a competition to entertain at your community event. Ask Toastmaster groups to visit for a storytelling session for day campers. Ask a local high school for the decorations after the prom. You’ll get great themed items!

S: Surprise: Add that unexpected element of surprise for your customers. Call them by name. Thank them for participating in past programs. Take their picture when they participate in the talent show and give it to them.

T: Train: Ongoing training is essential to keep staff motivated. Use role playing and small group discussions at staff meetings. Invite a customer to share their personal experiences, so staff has insight into customers’ opinions.

U: Uniqueness: What makes your programs unique? Is it the quality of pre-school programs? Extra-clean restrooms? Unusual games and activities? Highly trained staff? Find something that makes your programs stand out from the rest.

V: Versatility: Try cross-training staff so they become more versatile. They’ll also gain an awareness of the various duties required to keep the recreation program running smoothly.

W: Whims: Add a touch of whimsy to your programs. Learn to use a nose kazoo at the evening campfires. Wear two different shoes as you lead a children’s program. Use bright-colored paper cut in unique designs when passing out notices.

X: Xylophone: Learn to play the xylophone so you can perform at family get-togethers. (What did you expect from the letter “x”? Install a coin-operated X-ray machine?)

Y: Young At Heart: Don’t forget those inter-generational programs. Grandparents enjoy spending special time together with grandkids.

Z: Zaniness: Let loose and get silly at times! Participants enjoy seeing you have a good time. They’ll remember watching you wrestle the inflatable alligator in the pool or leading a synchronized swim performance with your staff.

Silvana Clark is a professional speaker and author, helping recreation leaders add creativity and professionalism to their programs. Her sessions are filled with humor, audience participation and lots of wacky props. For more information, contact Silvana at, 615-662-7432 or