SOP is the military shorthand for Standard Operating Procedures.
It implies that consistency in efforts brings consistent results and it's the reason why pilots go through a checklist each time they are in the cockpit, even if they have flown hundreds of times. It helps to make sure important things get done and, no matter who is working the controls, the same procedure gets completed every time.
For tourism attractions, many business practices seem good in theory, but difficult to implement. SOPs are one way to bring your tourism business to a new level of professionalism and to be more efficient.
For starters, each position in your business should have an SOP binder. Frontline staff SOPs should include sections on accepting payment in different forms, working with your POS system, and an FAQ section so they can answer guest questions. Have a section on dealing with different types of emergencies and who to call. If your organization has a specific way to answer the phone, put that in the SOP binder. I would suggest involving your seasoned staff in developing this binder, as they know what information is needed and the best way to format the information. These SOP binders can be used to train new staff and refresh returning staff at the beginning of the season.
For the sales staff, one of the valuable parts of the SOP would be a yearly calendar of what activities should take place each month, what trade shows to register for and when, as well as seasonal promotions and sales efforts. There should be SOPs for how to plan sales calls and how to follow up. Include copies of all the documents used in the department and where they are located on a computer.
I have SOP's on monthly reports I run, as well as how to sign in to TripAdvisor and respond to comments. I have an SOP on how to work with Viator, the attraction ticketing company. How do you handle follow up after a trade show? Document that. What is your procedure for taking a group tour reservation? Are there steps that must consistently happen to ensure a good visit and prompt payment?
Take screenshots of your computer if that makes explaining things easier. Number the steps so those following along can easily complete the task.
One added benefit of a complete SOP binder is that if someone leaves or is sick for a period of time, other employees can step in, read the SOP and complete the job. I would suggest having a hard copy in a binder at the workstation, with a backup copy uploaded to a location (such as Dropbox) where others can access it and make copies if the original goes missing.
Update your SOP at least once a year and give your staff the same task. The time saved by having consistent standards is wonderful and allowing your guests to have consistent experiences will be even better.
Courtesy of Sally Davis Berry.
This article was republished with permission and originally appeared on Sally Davis Berry.