For only the first time in National Football league history, Super Bowl XLVI will be played in a northern city – Indianapolis. And while the city can’t make any promises about what the temperature will be when the teams take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5, it’s a pretty strong bet that everyone who comes to town for the big day— and for long afterward—will get nothing but a warm welcome.
The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association (ICVA), the Super Bowl Host Committee, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) have seen to that. In anticipation of hosting Super Bowl XLVI, these organizations started collaborating early last year on a customized Super Service Training Program, which launched on Oct. 3 in conjunction with National Customer Service Week. As of early December, more than 6,000 people who may potentially serve or interact with visitors—about 150,000 are expected to come to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl celebration—had completed the program, earning themselves a pin and a certificate.
That number includes those visitors who don’t have tickets to the game but will come the weekend before the big day to see downtown’s festival-like Super Bowl Village. “It’s an opportunity for [drive-in] visitors and local residents to get a part of the Super Bowl experience,” said Susie Townsend, ICVA’s senior vice president, who serves as vice president of the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee.
When they first started thinking about the customer-service program, everyone involved wanted it to be specific to Indianapolis, Townsend said. They conducted focus groups to discuss what the program should look like and how to distribute it—via DVD or a booklet? – as well as what ground to cover. The group decided the program should include information about Indy’s attractions, the arts, and transportation, in addition to customer service principles. “We went through a lot of storyboarding that Amanda [Cecil, Ph.D., CMP, IUPUI Department of Tourism, Conventions, and Event Management assistant professor, who wrote the program,] walked us all through,” Townsend said, “and we came up with a format for the program.”
Comprised of five sections, with the fifth section specifically for Super Bowl volunteers, the training program’s modules, Townsend said, “have to do with either customer service or the city or telling our story. We spent a lot of time discussing the video vignettes—the program is interspersed with video and text. And then we agreed as a group that it needed to be in Spanish as well, because we wanted to make sure we embrace the Hispanic community that works in the service industry.” Another component of the program, the First Observer training section—“If you see something, say something,” Townsend said—was very important to the NFL.
The training program lives on the ICVA website and can be accessed directly at www.superservicetraining.com. In addition to offering the program online, the collaborating organizations have conducted in-person training sessions around the city. “We have trainers we have trained who are going out to different businesses,” Townsend said. These include hotels and restaurants as well as such non-hospitality venues as hospitals and senior-citizen centers that have requested to take the training. And this month, it will be mandatory for cab drivers in Indianapolis to complete the training program in order to get their license to drive cabs over the Super Bowl period.
The Super Service Training Program outreach has extended beyond the city because visitors are expected to stay in hotels “all around our state and community,” Townsend said. “The collaboration from city, state, and the community has been overwhelming. This is an important program that will help all of our customer-service representatives greet and welcome [guests] and [gain] information that they may not [have otherwise known].” Every effort has been made to make sure the program “has legs,” she added, “because we want to make sure it could continue on after the Super Bowl.”
Now, wherever she goes, Townsend hears, “Have a super day,” which is music to her ears. She said: “One of the touch points of the program – you know, service is all about touch points—is teaching everybody to say, ‘Have a super day.’”
SUPER KIDS SUPERWELCOME:
Children throughout Indiana have had a hand in laying out the welcome mat for Super Bowl guests. The Indianapolis CVA partnered with the Indiana Humanities Council for a Super Kids Super Welcome card program, which encouraged children to draw, color, and add their own messages to welcome cards for Indianapolis visitors. “We’ve already collected 18,000 cards from children in every county, and we’re almost there,” Townsend said. “We’ve hit our number goal in terms of the hotel rooms and making sure that we can put a card in every hotel room that has a block in it [for the Super Bowl].” In another welcome gesture, Super Bowl guests will be treated to hot chocolate and snicker doodle cookies in the hotels.