Park Spy – Summer 2019


The Question: “What kind of training do your guides go through?”

Anytime you hand over the keys for your health and safety to someone else, you want to know that they are ready to handle that responsibility. So we called a few parks to ask what kind of training their guides went through. Some handled this question really well, others…we’ll let you read for yourself.

Park #1, IA

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: So, all of our guides go through a training program under the supervision of the course manager, and they run through all of the skills necessary to run a tour. They talk about how to hook a guest up, how to brake, emergency procedures, all of that.
API: OK, so how do they get approved to work with customers after they talk about those things?
Staff: We test them on the course to ensure that they have the skills necessary to run a tour.
API: OK, so it’s possible we could get a guide that has never led a tour before with actual guests?
Staff: Our guides work in teams, so at least one is an experienced guide who acts as the lead guide and is in charge of the tour.
API: OK. What qualifies someone to be an experienced guide?
Staff: Just the number of tours they’ve done or seasons they’ve been with us. There’s more in-depth info on our website about training if you want to dig deeper.
API: OK, I’ll check that out.

Score: 7

Comment: This was certainly a workable description of training, albeit a little thin. Same goes for the operations training information on the website, so it would have been better if he took an extra minute to explain things to me on the phone.

Park #2, VT

First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Ummm, so our guides do about a week of training.
API: Just a week?
Staff: Well yeah, I mean, it’s a week of hands-on training, and goes in depth into all the skills necessary to lead a tour safely and manage the course. After that, new guides work with experienced guides on tours until the experienced guide says they’re ready to lead a tour.
API: What makes it so the experienced guides can sign off on someone?
Staff: Just lots of experience, we certainly wouldn’t let just anyone do it.
Staff: (interrupts) Great, are there any other questions I can answer for you?

Score: 2

Comment: Well that was abrupt. Glad they “wouldn’t just let anyone do it.” Might want to take that approach with the phone, too.

Park #3, NC

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Sure! Our guides do a bunch of training. They learn how the zip line works, how to brake themselves and guests, how to manage a trip, how to perform a rescue, safety inspections, as well as some basic first aid.
API: That sounds pretty reasonable. How do you test those skills after they’ve learned?
Staff: We do on-course testing. We bring the new guides out and have them lead a tour of some of our more experienced guides and then, once they pass that, they work with experienced guides on-course until they are approved to lead their own tours.
API: How do they get approved to lead tours?
Staff: It’s a combination of things. For starters, they have to check off a set list of skills, and they do that by going through the training and then working tours with the experienced guide. We also look at how well they work with guests on the tour, stuff like making nervous guests feel comfortable, learning about the area and our local plants and animals, so they can speak about our environment, things like that.
API: Wow, that’s really cool that you focus on people skills, too.
Staff: Yeah, well, we can train anyone to do the technical skills, and we take that part very seriously, but the experience is about so much more than just that. We want to make sure everyone has a good time.
(He explains a bit more about their training, equipment, and the current team and encourages a visit to their hiring page, since that’s where they have some additional information on training.)
API: Wow, that’s great.
Staff: We have a great team. Is there anything else we can answer for you?
API: No, that was super helpful, thank you.

Score: 9.5

Comment: Love this! Not only did he highlight the technical training, but the people skills as well. I want to know that my guide can get me through the course safely and that they take my enjoyment of it seriously. Props.

Park #4, WA

First contact: Male.
API: Stated question.
Staff: We do an annual training every year for our canopy tour guides. You don’t have to have any experience to become a guide here, because we do all the training, including a CPR and first aid training. Basically, we teach you all the skills you need to know to be a guide on our course, and then do a skills test at the end of the week in order for you to become a full-fledged guide. Unfortunately, you’ve missed the training for this year, but if you want to apply for next year, you can put in your application at any time.
API: Umm. I wasn’t interested in becoming a guide. I just wanted to ask what kind of training the guides go through before leading tours.
Staff: Oh! Well, like I said, we do lots of training and then do a skills check before we let them lead tours. Does that answer your question?
API: Sure. Thanks.

Score: 3

Comment: Good info, bro. But put your listening ears on before answering the phone, please. You did not inspire confidence.

Park #5, ID

First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: I haven’t gone through the guide training, so let me check on that for you.
(Doesn’t actually put me on hold, just puts the phone down)
First staffer: Repeats question to another staff member.
Second staffer: That’s a weird question, do you think it’s some sort of like, secret shopper call?
First staffer: I dunno.
Second staffer: Take down a number and tell them we’ll call them back.
Staff: I’m so sorry, the person with that information is not available right now, can I take down a number and have them call you back?
API: Sure. (Gives a number)
Staff: Great. Talk to you soon.

Score: 1

Comment: ICYMI, that “hold” or “mute” button on the phone is super useful. And if you think it’s a secret shopper, find someone to answer the question! They never called me back, either.

Park #6, HI

First contact: Female.
API: Stated question.
Staff: Of course, that’s a great question. So, our training process is pretty extensive. All of our guides go through a minimum of 80 hours of training. They do on-course training, equipment training, first aid and CPR. Once they complete that, they spend time shadowing a senior guide. They get to assist with different pieces of the tour under the supervision of the senior guide before they are allowed to be what’s called an “assistant guide.” Basically, each tour gets multiple guides, a senior and an assistant. The senior guide is in charge of the tour, and the assistant guide is the secondary guide on the tour.
API: How long is someone an assistant before they become a senior guide?
Staff: It’s a combination of things: time, number of tours completed as an assistant, and ensuring that they have the skills to be the senior guide on a tour. Our training program is very rigorous, and since senior guides mentor new guides, we want to ensure they’re ready to take on that responsibility.
API: How do I know I have a senior guide on my tour?
Staff: There will always be a senior guide on every tour, don’t worry about that! Plus, all of our guides do periodic training throughout the year, so they’re always keeping their skills sharp.
API: Great.
Staff: And hey, when you get here, if you’re still nervous, just snag any one of our team and we’ll be happy to talk you through the tour, the equipment, training, whatever you’d like to know about, so that you feel more comfortable. We’re here to make sure you have a good time.
API: Thanks!

Score: 10

Comment: This is how it’s done, people! Genuinely happy to answer the question, gave a thorough answer, and read between the lines that I was nervous and offered an additional opportunity for reassurance on-site. Nice work!

Identity revealed: Skyline Eco Adventures


Since our industry is so new, participants may wonder how guides are trained. If you expect people to allow your guides to be in charge of their health and safety, guide training is something that everyone on your team should be able to explain clearly.

If you have guides answering the phones, that’s great. However, none of the staff members in this Park Spy indicated that they had gone through the guide training; one even said that since she hadn’t done it she couldn’t answer the question. Regardless, this is an aspect of park operations that everyone should be able to describe and explain.

Take the time to run through the training process with whoever is answering the phone, write out the steps in bullet points and post it near the phone—whatever it takes so that everyone on your team understands the process and can share it with guests. In fact, you should do this with any frequently-asked questions.

Speaking of questioners: If you think the caller is the Park Spy or another secret shopper (they are out there), answer the question as fully and cheerfully as you know you should for any guest. Do that all the time, and you won’t need to worry if the caller is a secret shopper.

One final thing: use the hold button when you consult your colleagues! It’s unprofessional—and often unsettling—for callers to overhear candid, off-mic conversations. Your fellow team members likely assume that the call is on hold, and probably won’t answer as if they are speaking directly to a guest. But on an open line, that’s what they are doing, and the caller may not like what he or she hears.

Want more Park Spy?

Read all of the Park Spy calls and share with your team! Got a question we should ask? Email it to [email protected]


About Author

Olivia Rowan, Publisher — [email protected]
Dave Meeker, Editor — [email protected]
Katie Brinton, Senior Editor — [email protected]

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