Have you ever done any volunteering?
Given your time for free or low (financial) reward?
I only ask because it’s something I got back into recently… and there is so much learning from it.
Learning about people and teams.
Learning about communications.
Learning about positioning (for your business).
Let me explain.
Oh, and there’s a reason for the high vis jacket in the photo.
I have to wear it for my voluntary work… the jacket that is, not the photograph.
It’s part of the uniform a Station Ambassador is required to wear when on duty for one of the UK’s train operators.
The role is part of the company’s drive to make people’s experience of travelling by rail a better one.
At various stations on Sundays, certain routes, the Station Ambassadors can be seen on the platform wearing their badges and bright orange high vis vests.
They are clearly visible.
They are not security but are there to play a part in keeping people safe.
They are not staff yet have been given the same type and quality training offered to employees.
They are not an emergency service but will help to deal with things should an emergency arise.
And here’s the smart bit.
The train company could have said to its volunteers, “Just stand on the platform and if someone needs assistance try to help.”
But, as the name suggests, they want their Ambassadors to be representatives of the brand and reinforce its reputation for great customer service.
So passengers experience something a little different at the station.
They get greeted with a smile and a friendly “Hello”, ” Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon”.
They are given a “Welcome to…” greeting as they step off the train.
They are offered help with information like train times, where to stand on the platform for a particular coach of the train, and even with luggage.
They are advised to keep well behind the yellow line – especially when high speed trains come hurtling through without stopping at 125 miles per hour.
If you’ve ever been on a platform when this happens you will know just how shockingly quick these services whip by the platform.
Why Ambassadors Work So Well
The Ambassadors are trained with the skills and knowledge needed to do the job well.
The Ambassadors work as a team – keeping in contact with other stations along the line and rail network controllers.
The Ambassadors are highly visible – passengers, family or friends can easily see them.
The Ambassadors communicate with each other.
The Ambassadors keep their eyes and ears open – an added layer of safety and security for the public.
All things a good business should be doing.
And here’s another smart thing this rail company is doing.
It could have said to its volunteers, “You’re only there to help our passengers – not those travelling with another rail operator”.
But it didn’t.
It’s Ambassadors also offer help to passengers on other services where they can.
How smart is that?
What will people remember about their journey (assuming it’s on time or reasonably close to being on time)?
They will remember the warm welcome on the platform, the assistance they were given, the conversation they had with a friendly Ambassador who showed interest in their trip and their wellbeing.
I’ve only just started doing my turn in this voluntary role.
But even on my first day on the platform it was soon obvious that passengers liked the idea of Ambassadors.
People were curious…
They wanted to know who we we were. What we were there for.
They enjoyed having a conversation. They liked the fact someone was taking an interest in them.
They were pleased to know there was someone who could assist with information or let them know where their coach on the train was likely to stop (I could help with this because of communications with other Ambassadors at neighbouring stations down the line about the type, size and arrangement of the incoming train).
They felt reassured.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your business was like that.
People curious to know more about you and what you do.
People who have questions for you.
People who seek you out for information or an outcome.
People who love your customer service.
People who value your brand.
People who see you embrace the competition with confidence – you even do your little bit for them.
People who will tell others about their experience with you.
That’s real high visibility.
If you would like a bit more visibility or your marketing message is simply not arriving at the station (or on time) you might find it worth a conversation.
Like voluntary work, a chat is free.
(By the way, if you already have some marketing material that’s not working you can always ask about my review, critique and tweak services… sometimes a little revision is all it takes to change the result).