Ruby Newell-Legner - 7 Star Service
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Turn Your Employees Into Experts

Wild Wadi Water park EmployeesMy first visit to Dubai was in June 2005, to provide training for Jumeirah Group. Leaders at that company understand that to create a service-oriented culture, they need to foster a successful learning environment. A perfect embodiment of this principle is the staff at Wild Wadi Water Park.

Located in Dubai, Wild Wadi is the largest water park in the Middle East. Covering more than 12 acres of paradise, it is located just offshore Jumeirah Group’s Burj Al Arab, which is frequently referred to as the only 7 Star hotel in the world.

Wild Wadi employs 800 staff members representing 44 nationalities. Every staff member is hired for his or her friendliness and “smile-ability,” and it shows. What’s more, when Wild Wadi hires, each employee must commit to a plan that includes attending six hours of paid training sessions per month. As a reward for this extra training, managers strategically monitor the park’s customer service ratings and base employee bonuses on their scores.

Here are examples of what Wild Wadi does to create a positive learning environment:

  • Require attendance at frequent staff training sessions. Some sessions include courses in guest services and languages such as English and Arabic.
  • Choose to create an environment conducive to learning. Sessions are scheduled with a large number of attendees in an auditorium equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. Participants can easily see the presenter on the stage and enjoy comfortable seating. For smaller sessions, Wild Wadi provides a special training room at the park.
  • Make learning fun. When I was training staff at Wild Wadi, it was just prior to the “hot” season in that part of the world. Daytime temperatures in Dubai can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, we customized the program to prepare staff to deal with the relentless heat. Our program was called: “Stay COOL: Create Ongoing Opportunities to Love your colleagues, your guests and your job!” We infused penguin pictures and stories throughout the program to give participants a “Staying COOL” visual. In keeping with the theme, I even wore a penguin apron.
  • Reward performance. Create customer-service champions who put guests first. To continue this message beyond our initial training session at Wild Wadi, we created a “Penguin Award” to be passed on from colleague to colleague every 24 hours. The colleague who receives the penguin is responsible for seeking out a different colleague who has demonstrated exceptional customer service. When the penguin is passed to the next employee, the previous winner presents the award by saying, “I saw what you did and appreciate your extra effort!
  • Set, clarify and monitor specific, high guest-relations standards for each position. Wild Wadi measures and tracks everything that affects the guest experience, including speed of entry, speed of service, and ease of locker systems and use of changing rooms. Park staff also monitor every aspect of operations, from admissions to concessions, from lifeguards to security.
  • Treat employees the way supervisors want them to treat customers. Your staff will only treat your customers as well as you treat them. The staff at Wild Wadi embraces training. All staff members approach each session as a gift.

In a previous program at Wild Wadi, the facility’s director of human resources developed a simple yet effective way to emphasize how having fun in the workplace affects each person and his or her interaction with customers. The program consisted of two words: “yeah” and “baby.”

Ruby Newell-Legner, Wild Wadi Water Park TrainingAll that supervisor needed to do when acknowledging employees she saw in the park was greet them with an enthusiastic, “Yeah, baby!” The response was a thunderous “Yeah, baby!” and it reminded themselves and their coworkers that they are each responsible for making the park a great place to escape the heat.

Although most organizations set their Customer Satisfaction Index goal at 75 percent, Wild Wadi has its goal set at 90 percent — and it consistently exceeds that. Why? Because of the learning environment Wild Wadi has created. Every employee is an expert!

About Ruby Newell-Legner

As a Fan Experience Expert, Ruby helps leaders in sports, leisure and entertainment build strong teams between front line staff and management, and make exceptional customer service a way of life. She has consulted with and designed customized training programs for more than 60 sports and entertainment venues, 80 leisure facilities and 29 professional sports teams. From the only 7 Star Hotel in the world to Convention Centers, from Denver to Dubai, Ruby brings unprecedented expertise and insight on how to create a service culture that motivates employees and promotes customer loyalty and retention.

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