Class teaches ‘Southern Hospitality’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

NATCHEZ — Natchezians need to stock up on toothpaste and dental floss because in February their smiles will be on display.

Ruth Nichols, special assistant to the president at Alcorn State University, has organized a training course on customer service and hospitality as it relates to tourism in Natchez.

The class, called the Southern Hospitality Academy, will address common customer service situations and teach workers how to properly handle them.

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Topics such as phone etiquette, greetings and problem solving will be addressed. The class will also include the history of Natchez as well as a tour of city.

“If someone comes into a restaurant or convenience store and asks the clerk what there is to do, that clerk needs to know not to say, ‘Nothing,’” Nichols said.

The training sessions are one-day long and consist of two parts.

A sample session is scheduled for Feb. 2 for employers and the first employee session is Feb. 23.

The class will be in the theater at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

The first part of the class, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be in the theater, followed by a two-hour tour of the city.

The employee class will take place in conjunction with a first-ever Natchez Smiles week, which is being organized by the Southern Hospitality Academy committee as well.

Natchez Smiles week is from Feb. 21-26. The week, Nichols said, is a time for Natchez to put its best foot forward and focus on providing the best customer service possible.

Cassy Muscalino, director of human resources at the Isle of Capri said in May of 2008 the Isle placed a renewed emphasis on customer service and implemented a new program called “See, Say, Smile” to teach Isle employees the basics of customer service.

Muscalino said the program has been a success as customer satisfaction has increased form about 50 percent to 90 percent at the Natchez property.

“When service goes up tips go up, and when service goes up tax collections go up,” Muscalino said. “Everyone has a stake in it.

“Natchez has to be like Disney, where the hospitality starts when you first drive into town.”

Sign-up procedures will be set after the Southern Hospitality Academy committee meets in late December.