We are just emerging from a unique experience as a nation of lovers of all things sporting and heritage. For me it was always going to be the greatest experience of my life, and an opportunity I would not miss at any price. I mean this literally. On 6th July 2005 we (and I do mean we) won the bid while I was driving round the M25 to Hampshire. On arrival, through a mist of ecstatic tears, I opened a savings account, and left it untouched through a double dip recession that saw my business in jeopardy in 2010, so that I could make the most of any opportunity to participate in the most extraordinary global event on British soil.
And that is how I became a Games Maker at the 2012 Paralympics. Whilst I will never forget the blessed good fortune of witnessing the men’s team gymnastics final and a day of athletics at the fantastic Olympic park, my abiding memory will be of the joy and honour of working at Greenwich Park as a Last Mile Wayfinder during the Paralympic dressage competitions. My role involved making sure that people got into and out of the venue safely and ready to enjoy themselves, with the information they needed for the next stage of their day provided. Basically, I was one of the volunteers with a big pink foam hand and high-viz tabard who stood on street corners! I worked long hours, including some very early starts, and I de-camped to a Premier Inn in Deptford for the duration at my own expense to make sure I could make all my shifts on time, provide the best service and immerse myself in.
For a lowly Games Maker it was life-enhancing and mesmerising. At our induction session 5000 of us were repeatedly told that the visitors’ experience of the Games would be made by us, not Usain Bolt or Oscar Pistorius because hardly any of them would meet their heroes but every single visitor would meet one of us. That made us the most important people for everybody, and somehow that message got through to public, athletes and dignatories who all loved us as much as we loved them. I felt the personal responsibility of making every visitor’s day memorable from start to finish, and I often saw the same people leaving a session so I made sure I followed up with them to find out how their experience had been. They were surprised and delighted to be remembered in the crowd.
I learnt a great deal about myself, other people and customer service during my training and my Games Maker experience which I think can be transferred to our daily and working lives. Here are some thoughts:
- Make every customer feel personally welcome
- Make sure every member of your team knows that they are the face of your organisation no matter how minor they think their role might be
- Give your team members immediate recognition. I received a pinbadge each time I completed a shift, plus some other surprises which motivated me more than I thought possible!
- Use a range of media to keep in touch with your people. I received text messages, emails, tweets and You-tube presentations every week (daily during the Games)
- Make it all about the customer experience and the staff will have a great time.
One question. Why was it that the absence level among volunteers during the whole of the Olympics and Paralympics averaged less than 1 percent?