“My job is to create experiences”. Debra Foster, Carver Center, Program Specialist I-- Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PRCS)
Creating Memorable Experiences for Your Senior Program Patrons
Adriana Carr, MPA, CPRP
Senior Resource Group Co-Chair Elect 2019
Lee Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation
Instead of looking at how you provide good customer service, think about how you might develop meaningful experiences with your programming. I will explain. Look through job sites such as CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster.com for customer service jobs and you will come across such titles as Customer Experience Manager, Customer Experience Specialist or Customer Experience Director. Customer service, as a field, has evolved. Now companies want to know how you feel about their product. They want to make your purchase decisions easy. They want to keep you. So instead of looking to improve customer service, many companies have moved forward with the goal of creating a great customer experience. Two examples I can think of are shopping at Wegmans or going to a theme park such as Disney World.
This approach is also relevant to those of us who are recreation professionals and work with older adults. With increased competition from local library systems, post-secondary institutions, senior living communities, mall and meet-ups, to name a few, it is crucial that we find a way to differentiate ourselves. The way to highlight the important services and programs we offer is to create experiences for our patrons. There is a lot of value in what we do every day. Let me tell you about four amazing ways to bolster customer experience.
A robust travel program is always going to add value to your offerings. Here in Arlington, trips were the first programs in the history of Arlington Senior Programs. Devoting as much time as you can to developing a schedule of interesting places is going to be worth your while. If you are a one-person operation or even two or three, it can be challenging. It’s not insuperable however, because our own Senior Resource Group Chair - Cheryl Wheeler and Member at Large - June Snead brought a Trips and Tours Workshop to Berryville, VA. Attendees learned the basics of planning quality trips from experts in the Travel and Tourism industry. If you were not able to attend, please contact Cheryl for additional information.
Offering a Senior Citizen Police Academy is one way to strengthen the connection between you and your community. A Citizens Police academy, which is usually offered to the general adult population, can be repurposed to give older adults the same educational experience. Tammy Caldwell Supervisor of Senior and Special Populations of the Christiansburg Department of Parks and Recreation in Partnership with Officer Phillip Townley of the Montgomery County Police Department designed and implemented a successful one. To find out how you can bring a similar program to your jurisdiction, plan to attend the Senior Police Academy session at the Senior Resource Group Conference this coming October or send a message to Tammy.
Camps. They aren’t just for kids anymore. Our Senior Resource Group Chair - Cheryl Wheeler and her fine colleagues at Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services took the camp concept and adapted it to the preferences and interest of adults. Participants hiked, took part in educational and experiential sessions. This program is in its fourth year and it continues to grow. To learn how you can plan and implement a camp for older adults contact Cheryl Wheeler.
You should also check out Kathy Blevins (Mature Adult Recreation Programmer) of Vienna Parks and Recreation. Her program was featured in the NRPA Healthy Aging in Parks blog. Learn how she and her team builds big community in a small town by creating vital connections and valuable experiences. Check out their Mature Adult Adventure Camp. I am certain it is quite successful.
A good experience always leads to a strong relationship with your customers. Who better to create a superior customer experience than a parks and recreation professional?
Tell us about your process of creating positive experiences for your customers.