Lapland Safaris – guides’ training as part of product development
How can we prepare our new guides for telling our story and thus become ambassadors of our company? Every year, just before the high season (Christmas), Lapland Safaris trains new guides for a series of challenging tasks. While some of the guides have done this job in the previous seasons, for other safari companies or worked for Lapland Safaris in other tasks, others have no previous experience of the job. The slogans of the company “feel the spirit of nature” and “participate, learn and laugh” and its business principles should be recognisable already at the beginning of every service encounter.
The company wanted to develop its guides’ training programme so that it contributes to making new guides compatible with the business concept and objectives. The aim was to find suitable tools that can help the company to differentiate itself from its competitors and thus strengthen the consistency of products and business objectives.
Together with the ITPD project, Lapland Safaris came out with a solution that was just suitable for its situation. First, two researchers took part in the guide’s training programme offered by the company. They conducted participative and non-participative observation during a period of four weeks. Second, the same researchers were involved in the testing of some of the company’s activity programmes. By participating in the programmes in the role of customers they were able to conduct participative observation on the interactions between customers and new guides – recently graduated from the training programme. All this was documented in digital pictures, videos and field notes. Third, after the training programme and some months of working experience, the new guides were invited to take part in a learning café, in which they had the opportunity to share their experiences of the company, products, customers and the training programme itself.
The solutions found for the situation of Lapland Safaris made it possible that information gathering, business development and product development could be done simultaneously. When the business operations and products were examined and experienced through different eyes – from a new perspective – it was possible to recognise what makes the product excellent and where there is room for improvement. Similarly, it was possible to assess which products and business processes (e.g. guide training programme) are attuned with the operating environment, create competitive advantage in relation to competitors and offer customers the opportunity to actively participate in the service encounter. Furthermore, by testing different products and observing both the training programme and service encounters, the researchers were able to identify particular guiding practices that could also be addressed in future training programmes.
The cooperation with the project helped the company to gain new knowledge and develop new practices that support the company’s objectives. In particular, the company found the use of observation and the combination of different fieldwork techniques useful. In addition, Lapland Safaris got concrete directions for developing its guides’ training programme.