by Gene Davis, Museum Facilities Manager
The Facilities Section of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum believes that customer service really begins long before patrons enter our buildings. As a matter of fact, most of our guests whether individual families or tour groups plan their museum visit well in advance. It is unusual for people to be unexpected visitors at our remote location who just stopped in for a couple of hours while on their way down town.
Our work group believes that customer service initially begins on the day when people leave their home with the intent of paying us a visit. We are relatively easy to find because the road to our front door from the Interstate only goes in one direction. Seventeen miles up Josie Billie Highway brings you to our parking lot. We believe that sufficient and accurate signage along the roadway directing you to our facility is an essential feature of customer service.
Once in our parking lot the first impression of our facility begins. How often have you pulled into a business parking lot noticing trash scattered about, weeds growing through cracks in the pavement or broken parking space stops making you feel that it was not a well-run establishment? Our parking lot welcomes visitors with its clean pavement, appropriate handicap parking spaces, multiple trash containers and adequate signage directing visitors from their cars guiding them onto the paver brick walkway leading to the museum.
Walking past purposely-positioned native plants and shrubs on their way to the front of the museum; people casually meander along the pathway or stop at the Everglades Trail kiosk for site information. Then they cross the street passing through our perimeter wall entry gate on the pedestrian sidewalk before crossing over the front pond via the elevated wooden walkway. Momentarily stopping to look around from the walkway visitors can spot fish, birds and reptiles as the campfire aroma draws them onward to the comfortable fire pavilion directly in front of the main museum building.
Some people choose to relax here at the fire pavilion by sitting on a log bench and looking into the campfire that is maintained during business hours. Here again they notice the plant arrangements, the palm trees surrounding the circular driveway, and the centrally located life size statue of Abiaki that is a popular picture taking scene.
This relaxing atmosphere is the exact first impression we desire to display. Is your walk from the car to our museum entry doors part of customer service? We believe that it is because customers and visitors receive their first opinion of our facility by visually inspecting it and making judgments on its cleanliness and appearance. Our intention is to impress visitors with our facilities. Accomplishing that task all the way from the parking lot through our entire complex will likely impact overall customer satisfaction as well as their eagerness to return or tell someone else about us.