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SEPTA Ambassadors Ready for Annual Flower Show

Kristin Geiger
Press Officer

During the week of the Flower Show when SEPTA Regional Rail Ridership increases by 32%, the Authority seizes the opportunity to promote public transit as a viable travel option. By showcasing its award-winning customer service, the goal is to attract new riders. So, prior to the official March 2nd start of "Brilliant!" the 2013 theme of Philadelphia's Annual Flower Show, SEPTA officials held a mandatory information session to prepare its 200+ employee volunteer Ambassadors to deliver the top-notch customer service to which visitors have grown accustomed.

Part of a special initiative, the Ambassadors work alongside SEPTA retirees and railroad staff to provide assistance, disseminate information, answer questions and serve as escorts to the thousands of Flower Show visitors making their way through Market East Station.

"Look around the room, I'm very proud of you all for volunteering to be Ambassadors," SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Customer Service and Advocacy, Kim Scott Heinle said during the training session. "I want you to keep in mind that many Flower Show visitors are infrequent SEPTA riders and may only take the train once a year or are taking it for the first time."

Patricia Morris, co-Administrator of the Ambassador program urged everyone to engage customers. She said that many riders know the train station they're traveling to or from but may not know which Regional Rail Line to take. To prepare the Ambassadors for these types of questions, Morris gave an impromptu quiz on boarding locations and stressed the importance of providing visitors with correct information.

"If you don't know the answer to someone's question, we will have plenty of extra people on-site that can help," Morris said. "The last thing that you want to do is give someone incorrect information."

During the session, the employee volunteers who sign-up to be Ambassadors are encouraged to take notes and are brought up to speed on everything a customer could possibly ask during the week of the Flower Show.

Morris said that visitors will ask questions like "where is Reading Terminal Market", "how much does it cost to ride SEPTA" or "how do I get to 30th Street Station." Leaving no stone unturned, everyone who attends the session is given an information packet that contains everything from Flower Show ticket prices to a layout of Market East Station to directions to PATCO train service to ensure that the questions are answered accurately. The session also serves as an opportunity for veteran Ambassadors to offer advice and suggestions to those who are new to the program.

"I've been an Ambassador since the program's inception," Stephanie Brown-Tomlin, a SEPTA contract auditor said. "The best part about being an Ambassador is interacting with the people. I like to think my duty as an Ambassador is to provide visitors with an enjoyable experience so that when people travel into Center City for their next event, they'll recall their Flower Show trip and take SEPTA."

Brown-Tomlin added that she enjoys hearing the comments she receives from visitors, even if they voice a complaint. She takes great pride in the fact that she has an opportunity to make a difference as an Ambassador and ensures that customer feedback is documented and forwarded for follow-up if needed.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is the largest indoor Flower Show in the world and one of many events with which SEPTA Ambassadors are called upon to assist. As visitors pause to take photos while posing with a life size cut-out of Queen Elizabeth next to the larger than life sized Union Jack, United Kingdom Flag and walk under the vibrant balloon arch flanked by Big Ben clock towers, the welcoming, customer-focused Ambassadors, ensure everyone is impressed before they even step foot into the show.

SEPTA Ambassadors are trained to deliver top-notch customer service during a mandatory training session before the Flower Show.

Estelle Allie, a SEPTA Ambassador prepares shirts for distribution to fellow employee volunteers.

Longtime Ambassador Stephanie Brown-Tomlin discusses customer feedback with fellow SEPTA employee Luther Childs.

As Flower Show visitors stopped to take photos in front of the larger than life sized British Flag, a SEPTA Ambassador was there to assist.

SEPTA passengers headed to the Flower Show walk under the festive balloon arch in Market East Station.