Case Study: Capilano Suspension Bridge: Successful Employee Newsletter Enhances Communication and Solidify Service Culture
Learn about one employee communications tool that has been gaining momentum for seven years and now fits nicely into the progressive employee culture at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
In 1996, marketing team member Craig Nichols (now operations manager) started an employee newsletter, the Trickle. This popular and fun snapshot of employee life started as a simple way to boost employee morale and keep internal communications flowing. Seven years later, the Trickle is distributed to industry friends, suppliers, tour operators, hotel staff and others in the industry.
“The Trickle allows us to introduce our Capilano family to many people who only know a little bit about us,” explains Sue Kaffka, vice president of sales and marketing. We love to showcase our amazing staff and let everyone know what’s going on at Capilano. So we print the Trickle eight times a year.”
The Trickle takes time and money (printing and mailing costs are about $1500 per issue), but it’s one important part of the company’s winning human resources strategy.
Nancy Stibbard purchased Capilano Suspension Bridge in 1983. It didn’t take her long to realize the importance of guest service when a tour operator told her he would never darken Capilano Suspension Bridge’s doors again because a young woman at the snack bar had been rude.
The success of CSB was in the hands of front line staff. But how was Nancy going to get the guest service message across to them?
CREATING A SERVICE CULTURE
“Over the years,” says Sue, “the guest services training program evolved. It is not as simple as saying, ‘From now on we will offer exceptional guest service.’ We have to have an environment, a culture to foster guest service. At Capilano Suspension Bridge we really focus on creating that culture, and I think that is what readers enjoy in the Trickle. We provide tools for our team members to be able to deliver our mission; to be successful, we will entertain guests by providing a safe, exciting and superior experience in our natural setting.”
Capliano Suspension Bridge calls these tools the Seven Planks, service values that help its team perform its best. They are the basis for all decision-making. The planks are: Safety, Show, Exceeding Guest Expectations, Park Smarts, Team, Bettering the Business, and Belief.
With these Seven Planks, all team members are empowered to make decisions.
Sue explains that a tour guide watching a guest move a chair next to the canyon deck railing to take a picture clearly understands that safety is more important than the guest’s experience and at this point must step in. If a team member can answer a guest’s question before they ask it, that exceeds a guest’s expectations. It makes them good at their job, and that is very satisfying for them.
ENDING THE SEASON WITH A FLOURISH
To further create the Capilano culture, the company organizes social activities from crazy bowling and barbecues to baseball games. “We end the summer with an event we call the Oscars,” says Sue. “Team members totally deck themselves out for this formal dinner. Managers serve their team members because on this night team members are the special guests.” At the Oscars, the company awards Capilano scholarships of $750 each to four seasonal staff based on academic performance, community service and “Capilanitude.” The evening closes with the Capilano video, created as a memory of that summer at Capilano. The video involves many after-work hours that everyone seems happy to contribute.
Capilano culture is all about the bonds that are created and the depth to which all team members work together.
“It’s because of those strong feelings, the energy and passion that our team members exude, that we have confidence they will deliver exceptional guest service and that they will help each other in striving for guest service excellence,” says Sue. “The guest is happy, the tour operator is happy, the team member is happy, and Capilano enjoys a reputation for outstanding guest service. We all win.”
Of course, Capilano Suspension Bridge reports all of this in The Trickle.