Ottawa Host: Ottawa Tourism launches customer service training for local businesses

Online modules offer training in customer service skills and destination knowledge
A family meets a rabbit at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum.
A family meets a rabbit at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum. (Photo by Ingenium)

For visitors travelling in an unfamiliar city, helpful advice from a knowledgeable server, driver or front desk employee can transform a trip and leave a lasting impression.

“Every interaction that front-line staff have with visitors comes with an opportunity to impress those guests,” says Catherine Callary, Ottawa Tourism’s senior director of destination development.

“Wowed visitors lead to great reviews, recommendations and reputation for the destination, which are all powerful outcomes.”

As the city’s destination marketing organization, Ottawa Tourism has launched a new initiative to help arm the city’s front-line staff with the know-how to create  memorable experiences for visitors.

"Wowed visitors lead to great reviews, recommendations and reputation for the destination..."

Ottawa Host Customer Service Training is free to those looking to beef up their customer service or destination knowledge. It’s presented as two online training modules, composed of videos, games and knowledge-testing questions. Upon finishing each module, which take between 20 and 30 minutes, trainees can print a customized certificate showing they’ve successfully completed the training.

The “I Know #MyOttawa” module focuses on knowledge pertaining to Ottawa, priming trainees with information on interesting places around the city, things to do and special events. The other, titled “I Host #MyOttawa,” is dedicated to fostering excellence in customer service.

Canada 151 & beyond

The two modules have been adapted from the Ottawa Host 150 training tool, which was used throughout 2017 to train event volunteers and front-line staff around the city. A joint project between Ottawa 2017, Algonquin College, La Cité and Ottawa Tourism, Ottawa Host 150 was filled with useful information on local events, locales and activities marking Canada’s sesquicentennial.

“We felt it would be a great legacy to be able to continue to provide customer service training to our front-line staff,” says Callary.

The Ottawa Host 150 tool was repurposed, with 2017-specific mentions replaced with evergreen content that will be useful for years to come. Once again, Algonquin College and La Cité were involved in the tool’s re-envisioning.

For example, the I Know #MyOttawa module contains tourist information on Ottawa’s many diverse neighbourhoods, including landmarks and businesses worth visiting, as well as directions on how to get to them.

And though the Ottawa Host Customer Service Training is geared towards front-line staff, the destination knowledge contained in the I Know #MyOttawa module can also be useful for residents who either want to learn more for themselves or become better ambassadors for Ottawa.

“The more we see resident awareness of all of the things that Ottawa has to offer, the more they can share that with friends and relatives and inspire visits to Ottawa,” says Callary.

I Host #MyOttawa, meanwhile, is broken into four streams with specific information geared toward local workers in accommodations, transportation, attractions and the service industry.

Ottawa Tourism encourages those who complete the module to display their certificate of completion to patrons, whether in their front entrance, vehicle or elsewhere. It can also be included on an individual’s resume.

A veteran gives a family a tour of the LeBreton Gallery at the Canadian Ware Museum.
A veteran gives a family a tour of the LeBreton Gallery at the Canadian War Museum. (Photo provided by Canadian War Museum)

Net promoter score

One of the best indicators of whether a visitor has had an exceptional experience in the city is whether or not they’d recommend it as a destination to others.

Commonly used in retail, a net promoter score measures customer loyalty by asking whether they’d recommend a store or service – or in this case a tourist destination
– to their friends or family.

In concert with the newly launched Ottawa Host Customer Service Training, Ottawa Tourism has also started to offer a satisfaction survey to calculate the city’s own net promoter score among both residents and visitors.

The pilot for the survey was first run at the CF Rideau Centre. The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport has also recently been added as another site that offers the survey through its WiFi. When an individual connects to the network on their personal device, they are asked to do the brief survey, which Callary explains takes less than a minute to complete.

“Having a very well-trained front-line staff within your destination, that can really move the yardstick on something like your net promoter score,” says Callary.

This initiative has been launched in partnership with the data analytics division of MicroMetrics, a local software firm focused on customer experience innovation. Plans are currently underway to expand this initiative to several new locations, including museums, transportation hubs and other prominent tourist sites around Ottawa.

For free access to the Ottawa Host Customer Service Training, head to