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Dollywood on ‘Hosting’ Guests

Have you ever been somewhere and the way you were treated made a lasting impression? You always remember the way you felt. Destinations work hard to create an atmosphere and culture that is inviting, friendly and memorable for guests. Just think about the people whose responsibility it is to ensure their employees execute at the highest level.

Now, think of The Dollywood Company and imagine being in charge of hiring and training more than 4,000 hosts to provide award-winning service to millions of guests each year. It’s no small task. Dollywood takes it so seriously, their employees are called ‘hosts’ because they want that mindset of serving every GUEST who visits their properties.

Because I notice things like company culture, I wanted to sit down and ask Dollywood’s Human Resources team some questions. I (TH) was fortunate enough to interview

Ashley Adams-a Dollywood Training Coach (AA)

Katie Burns-HR Employment Supervisor (KB)

Maddi Major-Talent Acquisition Onboarding Specialist (MM)

These ladies lead the charge in recruiting, hiring and training Dollywood hosts to help guests have a memorable experience.

Did You Know?

Dollywood has won the Golden Ticket Award (presented by Amusement Today) for eight consecutive years for Friendliest Theme Park until the category was retired and rolled into Best Guest Experience, which Dollywood also won!

TH – Dollywood is known and recognized for its world-class customer service and the friendliness of the hosts in the park. What are some of the things that you do to create this type of atmosphere?

AA – We take hiring very seriously. Every hire we make here at Dollywood is made through the lens of our core values. Our core values are at the heart of everything we do to provide the very best guest experience possible. The core values of Dollywood are:
We Greatly Exceed Guests’ Expectations
We Serve Others
We Create Emotional Connections
We Constantly Improve

TH – What types of things are you looking for in a perspective host?

KB – We look for people who are truly excited about Dollywood. Prospective hosts who have a passion for helping others do very well here. Overall, we are looking for friendliness, warmness and a service-oriented person who is flexible and willing to make guest service their priority.

TH – How does someone become a Dollywood host?

MM – Our jobs are posted and constantly updated at DollywoodJobs.com, and we also have in-person hiring events. We encourage people to follow our Dollywood Facebook page (event tab) for updates on locations, dates and times for those events.

TH – What does host training look like and how long does it take from application to feet on the ground in the parks?

AA – For host training, we start out with our core values and how important it is to understand those. Repetition of our core values and safety are two things that are consistent in all of our training sessions. Generally speaking, our host trainings run from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

As far as the time from recruitment to hiring to training to finally working as a host, it takes approximately a week and a half. We are always safety-conscious, and we have to make sure we are preparing our hosts for the best and safest opportunity.

TH – There are many different jobs within Dollywood, yet all hosts I’ve encountered seem to have the same pleasant and helpful disposition. How do you encourage this?

AA – I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but it really is our core values. All of our values are “outward facing” meaning they are geared toward service and our guests. It really is simple, but we train all of our hosts to follow the golden rule – treat guests like you would like to be treated.

TH – What are some of the main duties for a host and some of the “must-haves” to be a host at Dollywood?

KB – The desire to learn and help others is a big must-have for us. Being flexible and able to maintain a positive attitude also is very important. Being a team player is as vital to our operation, as our attractions, food service and areas of the park are split into teams where their success is dependent upon their collective strength.

MM – One of the neat things about Dollywood is that we have a 30-day transfer policy for our hosts. What that means is that our hosts have 30 days to find their unique niche and a good team to work with inside the park.

TH – Fill in the Blank: “A Dollywood host is______________________________________”

AA – Relational

KB – Friendly

MM – Positive

TH – Festivals and seasonal events are common place at Dollywood. With the seasons come natural turnover and different jobs and responsibilities. How do you train for and handle the park transitions?

AA – Our first trainings and seasonal in-services deal with a safety-first approach. Even as the park transforms and takes on different festivals and events, we want a few things to always remain consistent: our approach to safety and our core values. We want our guests to have the safest and most inviting experience possible.

KB – Our Helping Hands team is also a very important piece of making Dollywood run smoothly. Helping Hands is a name for a team of hosts who are cross-trained to do multiple jobs in the park and be flexible enough to have different assignments on a day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour!) basis. This group is very special and also is a leadership initiative that offers career advancement.

TH – First impressions and last interactions are always important in reference to customer service. What type of impressions and interactions do you wish the hosts to convey?

AA – We have a couple of acronyms for these impressions. We want to make sure every guest GETS something from our hosts: Greeting / Eye contact / Thank you / Smile.

We also want to make sure our hosts treat a GUEST accordingly: Greeting / Understand needs / Exceed expectations / Serve and suggest / Thank you.

TH – What is the best thing about being a Dollywood host?

AA – We hear the world ‘family’ a lot in speaking with our hosts. The teams at Dollywood really do become a family. They bond through their unique jobs and unique environments.

KB – A lot of our hosts express to us the opportunity they have to serve others. The opportunity-to-serve attitude and our service-oriented hosts make Dollywood a really special place.

MM – I agree with everything Ashley and Katie have said. There is just a family atmosphere, and a we’re-in- it-together feel when you are on the Dollywood team and in the Dollywood family. One great thing about being a host that I have witnessed is the generational gaps and natural mentorships that occur within our teams. Seeing organic friendships develop with people that would otherwise never cross paths is just another one of the things that make Dollywood so special!

By | 2020-11-03T16:58:43+00:00 November 2nd, 2020|Behind the Scenes|0 Comments

About the Author:

Tom Hodges (Dollywood Insider 2019-Now) is a Middle Tennessee native who currently resides in Christiana, Tennessee, with his wife Hillary and two children, Cooper (age 7) and Isabelle (age 4). Tom and his family make the three-hour journey to Dollywood once a month to enjoy the entire park. After fifteen years as a college basketball coach serving various universities, Tom recently transitioned into their family business of trucking and warehousing. Tom serves as the president of Goggin Cold Haul Services, LLC, a refrigerated transportation company based out of Smyrna, Tennessee, and a sister company to Titan Transfer Inc. and Goggin Warehousing, LLC. A thrill-ride enthusiast and lover of all things Dollywood, Tom would most likely be found riding on the front row of Wild Eagle, riding multiple times on FireChaser Express with his son Cooper (personal record of 17 times in one day) or enjoying a family lunch in Wildwood Grove at Till & Harvest. Dollywood is a special place to Tom and his family, as many milestones and family traditions have become sacred in their house because of Dollywood and the hosts who make it so special.
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