We All Speak the Same Language
by Michael Getlan
Prof. Maximillian Smiley, professional smileologist (& clown), Ph.D., Smileology
We all speak the same language, whatever part of the world we come from. Itís
the language of our emotions, of smiles and laughter. Thatís what the amusement
business is all about. Itís our daily business to create the good feelings that
lead to smiles and laughter.
People want and need to smile and laugh, and they will pay someone to help
them get into that state of mind. Thatís the business part of the amusement
We need to explain to our respective staff and cast members that the reason
they must greet guests with a smile and go out of their way to make them feel
special is to create the desire to return to your park again. It is the expectation
of happiness and the memory of previous experiences that drives a person back
to your park or family entertainment center. And your staff members should know
that the ultimate goal of their continuous interactions with your guests is
good, enjoyable communication.
Some truths may be self-evident, but it never hurts to point them out. Smiles
are universal. Everyone smiles the same way and everyone understands smiling.
Thatís why we train our staff members to greet guests with a smile. It is rarely
misinterpreted and usually receives a smile in return. Surprisingly enough,
these ideas must be pointed out and consistently re-enforced in training.
Communication is the core of any staff memberís interaction with a guest. Solving
problems, processing a sale, or taking an order is all about creating that enjoyable
interaction that everyone craves. Thatís why itís not as much what you say as
how you say it. Only approximately 7 to 10 percent of all communication is based
on the verbal content, because the attitude says it all.
Thatís why it is so important to reaffirm with our staff members that they
have to think of themselves as performers on stage when dealing with any guest.
The metaphor of live performance is highly useful, as it contains so many elements
that parallel the daily work involved in guest service in our industry.
In live performance, there are no second chances, no replays, and the interactions
with guests are decisive. Training your staff with this idea in mind is helpful.
It conveys an attitude that can carry a staff member though a difficult interaction.
And live performance is, at its core, about communication.
And just as rehearsal can so be important to a performance, training techniques
such as role playing can be a key to creating effective communication skills.
Role playing allows the staff member to make mistakes before going head to head
with a guest. It allows the practice of key phrases and actions that make communication
flow more smoothly, phrases like ďThank youĒ and ďYouíre welcome,Ē and actions
That is why cast or staff members need to understand that their performances
cannot be dependent on whether they are having a good or bad day. The job is
communication and the creation of an outstanding experience.
The Right Frame of Mind
Clearly it is an advantage to hire the right people. People who like people
and can keep themselves calm when dealing with† guests and their problems. People
who smile during the interview process. It makes the process of training easier.
But the right frame of mind can be taught as well. It is a skill. It is easier
when staff members start out with the frame of mind to be polite, cooperative,
and helpful. It is easier when staff starts out smiling. But role playing and
rehearsal can let staff practice these skills and will even help those people
who start out with the right frame of mind by reinforcing these good habits.
And itís important to reinforce this core concept that we all speak the same
language. Laughter transcends race, national origin, sex, and every other characteristic
because itís about being human.
So get on this wave length! Get out there and teach this information! Demonstrate
this behavior in front of your staff members! And smile a little more! And laugh
a little more! And smile even more!
Then you can laugh all the way to the bank! Ha, ha, ha! Heh, heh, heh!
Professor Maximillian Smiley, when he is not cheering up children, works at
Amusement Consultants Ltd. as the Director of Enthusiasm and Opportunity in
the guise of Michael Getlan.
Reprinted with permission from Funworld © 2000 November