Chester Zoo

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After working in partnership with People 1st International, Chester Zoo has a tailored WorldHost customer service programme which is both fit for purpose and relevant to their world-class visitor attraction, helping them to develop further and grow their exceptional visitor experience.

 

The problem

Chester Zoo, a leading conservation and education charity and the most-popular wildlife attraction in Britain, hit a record 2 million visitors in 2019 for the first time in its history.  And with its vital conservation work to protect the future of threatened species across the world and prevent extinction, it’s imperative the zoo maintains its high ranking global attraction status in order to grow, develop and continue its work.
 
Visitors come from all over the world to see 35,000+ animals spread over 128 acres of zoological gardens but their visit is only possible due to the employees working tirelessly to ensure happy, healthy animals and a fantastic visitor experience.
 
Every year, Chester Zoo employs over 500 seasonal staff to support Retail, Food & Beverage and Guest Experience departments.  In previous years, these employees would have attended off site, high volume induction training which included a session on customer service.  For this they used the original WorldHost Ambassador programme however for their organisation, they found gaps in certain areas where the zoo needed more focus.  As a result, they were keen to explore an alternative solution.
 

The solution

During a session with Chester Zoo, the disconnect between the off-the-shelf programme and their needs became clear.  With its unique culture and very specific offering, the zoo needed a mix of the WorldHost Ambassador workshop and WorldHost Principles of Customer Service with a touch of Chester Zoo identity and content.  And so we embarked on creating the first tailored WorldHost offering.
 
Many of our seasonal staff are young and this may well be their first real work experience.  It’s important for them and our visitors that they feel confident in their role to deal with whatever the day brings.  First impressions are important, but our staff also need to know how to handle a wide range of visitor questions and to know things can and will go wrong - but that it’s ok because here’s how you deal with it.  Employees need to feel empowered.”
Gemma Creighton, Learning & Development Manager, Chester Zoo
 
We spent time on site to understand the unique nature of the attraction and its needs.  Working closely with the Learning and Development team we started to piece together a programme that is both fit for purpose and interactive – fusing the attraction’s brand and identity with WorldHost’s innovative, human-centred customer service content and approach. 
 
We absolutely want to enhance Chester Zoo’s visitor experience, but we also see this bespoke WorldHost approach equipping staff with vital skills for their career paths, whether they stay within our sector or move into another.  We want staff to enjoy their time with us, continue to develop their own skills and hopefully tell others we’re a great organisation to work for!
Zoe McEvoy, Director of People and Culture, Chester Zoo
 

The outcome

After an extremely successful pilot session which exceeded expectations, Chester Zoo is approaching the start of its seasonal intake of staff with great excitement! 
 
I can honestly say the whole process has been brilliant.  We had a fantastic working relationship with People 1st International – they spent time getting to grips with our culture and totally understood what we are about and what we’re trying to achieve.  The process always delivered and the attention to detail was always there." 
Gemma Creighton, Learning & Development Manager, Chester Zoo
 
Over the coming months Chester Zoo will be looking to see how employees connect with the programme on the day and will closely review the participant evaluation forms.  Secondly, they will be looking for improvements on key performance indicators based on visitor feedback, management observation & experience and employee satisfaction & confidence in their role.  
 
Chester Zoo is committed to this new approach which sees it move from, at most, four induction sessions a year to just under 20, but the zoo is confident this investment will pay dividends for the organisation and their employees.  The zoo’s faith in the programme is so much that it plans to run sessions for permanent staff as well – you’re never too experienced to learn something new!
 
Once the 2020 summer rush calms, we’ll return to Chester Zoo to see how their new, tailored WorldHost programme is performing.
Chester Zoo