Teaching Customer Service
Many volunteers are asked to greet the public, wait on clients or customers, assist paid staff in welcoming people to an organization. Much of what they do is "customer service" in orientation. Here are some ideas around which you could organize a training session on working with the public.
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Typo-Free Handouts and Easel Paper Corrections
Handouts are pesky animals. They can be your best friend or an embarrassment of typographical errors. The same goes for writing on the easel paper in the training room. Here are some tips to cope when the mistake is in your handout or on the easel pad.
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Be the Organizational Training Department
Most volunteer programs have a strong training component to prepare people to do their work. There is an infrastructure with sign-up sheets, registration mechanisms, databases to record who has attended what training, criteria to select trainers, methods to evaluate training, and a certificate of completion. Those are tasks completed in any training department, whether for paid staff or for volunteers.
If your organization has no training department, this could be a function of the volunteer program. Recruit volunteers who are interested in helping organize training for paid staff. Then set up a separate, but parallel system similar to the system with training volunteers, but unique to paid staff needs. Be sure to keep careful records including the time expended by volunteers and attach a price tag to it.
This provides a visible service to the entire paid staff and administrators. Paid staff now have personnel records of training, both on and off site. There is likely to be more cohesion in the types of training provided. It positions the manager of volunteers closer to the administrative leadership of the organization. It is also wise to create a paid staff advisory committee as the training "service" of the volunteer department is set up.
Seek an experienced and respected volunteer to provide leadership to this effort and offer it as a promotion. Help the individual recruit a team of people to assist with the design of systems and processes. The leader should work with the advisory group, with the idea that at some point the manager of volunteers is merely supervising the volunteer. There will be a flurry of work initially, but it is likely to level out to a manageable level after a few months.
Quarterly reports on training for volunteers and paid staff should be presented at all staff meetings. The new "service" from the volunteer department should be in the Volunteer Program Annual Report.
This idea is a potential win-win for everyone. Administrators have a clear vision of where and how training dollars are being spent, paid staff have a consistent method of signing up and registering for training, there are records for individual personnel files for people to use as they compete for promotions or seek new employment, and the volunteer department is the place to go for a specialized service.
Interested in more information on training? Check out our online bookstore for Training Techniques in Brief, authored by Stan Smith and The Great Trainer's Guide by Sue Vineyard.
COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.
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