Ashlee Phillips usually spends her days serving snacks in places such as Finley Stadium, Warner Park, Tivoli Theatre and the Chattanooga Market. But Tuesday, the Family Concessions employee found a seat in the Chattanooga Choo Choo's Centennial Theater that wasn't behind a concession counter.
She spend an hour-and-a-half at the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau's 2013 Hospitality Training, learning how to provide high-quality customer service to the Scenic City's tourists.
"Last year they had a program on how to be nice to customers, which was great," she said. "You learn how to work with the rude people and just be nice. You always have to smile."
The tourism industry employs about 8,500 people in Hamilton County, and the annual free training is aimed at Chattanooga's front-line workers, said Bob Doak, President & CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The idea is to help the city's hotel desk clerks, parking attendants, police officers, taxi drivers, restaurant servers and bus drivers -- the people who come face-to-face with tourists every day -- know how to best sell Chattanooga and interact with visitors.
"We know through research and common sense that guests who have a positive experience and great customer service are more likely to return to Chattanooga and tell their friends what a great experience they had," he said.
A record high of 1,400 people attended the training this year, Doak said. Sandler Training's Lisa and Dan Nausley led the sessions and discussed several aspects of customer service, including how to make a connection with tourists, how to communicate effectively and what characteristics create great customer service.
"The goal for today is mostly good reminders," Lisa Nausley said. "Obviously they're already good at what they do, but today is to just a chance to hit the pause button and let them become focused and intentional about creating a good customer service experience."
Each participant in the training also walked out with a Hospitality Training Pass -- which gives the holder free admission into 18 area attractions.
Doak said the relatively short training session can have a far-reaching impact.
"Having a staff that's energetic and well-trained is a very effective way to get a huge return," he said.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6525.