PayScale: What were your steps toward becoming a marketing assistant?
I started working part-time for two organizations and after a year I started working for just one, Battleford’s Tourism. We ran the visitor information center for about a year. Because of time constraints and space we had to look for another space. We now operate closer to our mandate, which is attracting visitors 80km outside of the Battlefords. I have always been interested in customer service, but the travel industry was not something I had in mind. I just happened to have tried it, was given a chance by my boss to work in the industry, and absolutely love it!
PayScale: What do you love about your job?
I like the work I do because of its flexibility, and the ability to be creative without barriers. I can work with my boss and tell her what I think of something without worrying about the consequences of what I say. In other words, I can be truthful about an ad campaign or a feature with a web page. Working with people is also something I like to do, and with this job I get to do that a lot. It helps to be able to have the kind of personality that doesn't worry about what people think of me, or what I do for a living. Being gregarious or very smiley goes a long way to helping with the phones as well. I may not always be on the phone, but when I am, I represent Battleford’s Tourism and that gives me a good feeling of being able to do my job well. I like being able to improve myself with challenges given to me by my boss, and seeking out the work needed to complete a task. Sometimes, when a task looks deceptively simple, it can turn out to be a month-long project that requires a lot of attention to detail and needs a lot of research from outside of the office. This may also require me to be diplomatic and to foster good customer relations with other business members of the community in order to get my work done.
PayScale: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your job?
I'm a single mother so my biggest challenge is to make sure my time-keeping is spot on. I also find that when I've had a hard day, I can go home but don't always switch off. That's my biggest challenge. Being nice to people all the time requires a lot of patience and perception. Maybe when someone has had a hard day they take it out on you, and you just can't take it personally. That's hard. Also, things don't always go right - a project gets cancelled or a bad decision is called by my boss. I find it a challenge to make a stand and say that I don't agree with the concept of the decision; that my opinion would be taken note of not only by my boss, but also by the board. My boss is younger than me, and so this is a challenge, but I look at it as having fresh ideas and a new look on things. Whether she's strong enough for the challenges that lie ahead, that depends on how I've managed to help her with the training! My previous boss also has a lot to say about the office, and this can be challenging. He no longer works there, but still has influence over the decisions, as ultimately he's the marketing director for the tourism region. Not agreeing with some of the concepts and ideas can be challenging and sometimes I have to bite my tongue and not say anything as it would be detrimental. I've come very close to losing my job a few times over my ability to say NO and make a stand.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy moments from working in the travel and tourism industry?
I have gained some amazing friends, some of which I thought I would not even talk to. The craziest things happen with people who come into the office. One woman came in looking for something to drink and pretended that she was looking for information on Spain. My boss was completely freaked out as this woman made no noise coming into the office. The only sound being that of her shaking the sugar. We of course don't have information on Spain, but have local tourist information. We see tourists walking along the streets in the Battlefords and we stop and talk to them about their experiences while they have been here. Some of the perks are the many people we get to meet who give us stuff from their offices, or left over from contests from previous years. The most interesting is dealing with the people from all over the world.
PayScale: Any advice for those who want to work in tourism or customer service?
If you are looking to go into this field, know your subject well. Study it; make sure you know what you are talking about when dealing with people. They aren't fools. Be nice, no matter how horrible you feel or how bad they are to you, sweetness always wins the day because it attracts more than it repels. Always study, take as many courses in the tourism industry as possible, it can only enhance not only your pay scale, but your abilities. When your bosses see that you are improving, it shows the ability for self-motivation. Take challenges as part of the everyday, and if they are insurmountable, talk to your boss. If your boss is not willing, put the project to one side and say if you are asked, "I am willing to do the work, but I require direction." That is music to any employer's ears. Because customer service is one of the hardest professions to be in, and one of the most challenging, it requires a lot of patience and perseverance. There will be many days in a row that I will feel I can't go back to my job or that I have to deal with a cranky boss. If I have to do that, I smile and laugh my way through the day. It's hard, but a can-do attitude helps. With customer service there is no such thing as “can't.” However, there is such a thing as don't know. Don't know gives the customer service representative wiggle room to find out what can be done instead of a negative attitude which can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Don't know can help garner scattered thoughts and focus the customer service rep on giving better quality service. It's also about research and giving the right information.
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