Ask any tourist, or local for that matter, what they think of when someone mentions New Zealand - Spectacular scenery? Lord of the Rings? Bungy jumping? - and sooner rather than later, someone will say, “sheep”.
Sheep helped build New Zealand’s economy. They helped define our national identity through farming. And they even gave us a rich vein of humour; who can resist a sheep joke?
The ubiquitous woolly flocks that dot the countryside are a feature of New Zealand’s heritage story. In fact, they are so centre-stage that it was sheep that stole the show at New Zealand’s pavilion at the 1970 World Expo in Japan.
Today, that same show is alive and kicking at one of New Zealand’s most loved attractions, the world-famous Agrodome in Rotorua.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism Ltd, the biggest owner and operator of many of New Zealand’s leading tourist attractions, took over the Agrodome several years ago, and it has been thriving ever since.
For a place that’s all about sheep, the Agrodome business certainly doesn’t follow the mob. In fact, for Ngāi Tahu Tourism, delivering such an enduring iconic attraction for customers requires a constant focus on quality; from the facility itself, to the noble stars of the show, and to every other touch point.
A desire to provide top notch customer service in the retail shop inspired Ngāi Tahu Tourism to upskill a number of staff using ServiceIQ’s on-job training programmes.
It’s a diverse team; ranging from school leavers to experienced staff, and from a wide range of backgrounds including New Zealanders, Singaporeans and Chinese. For some, English is a second language, and for others, participating in tertiary education is a new experience.
Training started in 2015. And now eight of the team, who help customers from all over the world to buy beautiful woollen yarn, among other specialty products, have successfully gained the nationally recognised qualification, New Zealand Certificate in Retail (Level 2).
Developing new skills on-job has proved a practical and fast way of learning, with immediate benefits for the Agrodome business, staff and customers.
Agrodome Business Manager Dominik Strobel says:
“We’ve seen the team enhance their retail skills and gain confidence which leads to professional behaviour and pride in what they do. With everyone working together on the same learning material, our people gained consistent levels of knowledge, and this elevates our standard of service for customers."
Professionalism isn’t a new concept for Ngāi Tahu Tourism. Rather, its guiding iwi values of being the ultimate hosts mean that the business is committed to getting it 100% right for visitors at every site.
Kirsty Phillips, General Manager of Marketing, Communications & Customer Experience at Ngāi Tahu Tourism, says the business has a responsibility to its people, and to New Zealand Inc., to ensure visitors take home memories of “unique and authentic experiences that offer a deeper connection with New Zealand”.
“We are committed to continually improving our standard of service right across the business which is important both for us and for New Zealand. This country is known for being a friendly place to visit, but it’s also very important to be professional in our delivery,” says Kirsty.
Of course, a real success test is what customers say. And sheep aside, it is Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s people who make the big impression.
“Our success is driven by our people, and visitors often mention members of the team by name in TripAdvisor reviews,” says Kirsty. “We get the sense that our visitors are treated very well and they are enjoying a great experience which is great. Ultimately, it’s about continuing to build and maintain that consistent high level of customer care across the business which is absolutely critical for ongoing success.”
Ngāi Tahu Tourism is also using Manaakitanga, aka ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Certificate in Tourism (Visitor Experience) programme, to upskill staff.
Kirsty recommends ServiceIQ’s on-job programmes to other companies committed to high standards for a sustainable business.
“The benefits include a broader sense of people feeling valued. And when people feel valued, they inherently value the customer,” says Kirsty.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s other highly rated visitor experiences: are Rainbow Springs, also in Rotorua, Hukafalls Jet in Taupo, Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Glacier Hot Pools, Shotover Jet and Dart River Jet Safaris in Queenstown, the Wilderness Experience and Guided Walks on the Routeburn Track in Queenstown and Hollyford Track in Fiordland.