Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Cross-Cultural Solutions Part 2

Tonight I went to an information session for Cross-Cultural Solutions, an organization that organizes volunteer vacations abroad in 12 countries. In 2005, I spent a month in France and volunteered for an organization that rebuilt ancient architecture to help stimulate tourism in small town in Provence. I loved it and have been wanting to go on another volunteer vacation ever since.

While I enjoyed my experience in France, I was disappointed that the organization did not maintain any contact with me after I returned. I have no idea how the work continued after I left and I've lost touch with every person I met while I was there. I tend to thrive in situations with a high amount of ambiguity though I do remember feeling disturbed that there was virtually no preparation given to me before I flew to France. I hoped I'd find someone at the airport when I landed, though had no idea what or who to look for. I wasn't sure how my days would be structured. I essentially went on blind-faith.

Luckily, I had a great experience in France, though it could just have easily been a disaster. Truly, I was just lucky. What I found most impressive about Cross-Cultural Solutions is their sense of organization, friendly demeanor, and care and concern for volunteers. I sent an email through the website several months ago expressing interest and within 48 hours received a comprehensive email and a phone call. The service was top-notch. The friendliness and enthusiasm by the staff and alumni (yes, they have an alumni network!) for the volunteers, the experience, and the people in-country who benefit from the program.

So what could be improved by Cross-Cultural Solutions? A big lesson for all of us: strike while the iron is hot. I was ready to fork over my credit card number after their incredible presentation and there wasn't a way for me to do that. I went to one of the team members at the end of the presentation and asked if I could sign up right there. I knew the date I wanted to go and the program I wanted. There wasn't a way for me to put down my deposit. I needed to go home and sign up on-line or call them tomorrow at the office.

They put forward all of this effort to promote themselves and then didn't close the deal with a willing consumer. Chances are that someone who is so excited about the program at the presentation will take the time to sign-up once they're home. However, why not have the option to sign people up on the spot? It would be a win for me and for the organization - and isn't that what Cross-Cultural Solutions is all about?


Dava Antoniotti said...

As the Director of Program Enrollment for Cross-Cultural Solutions, I am pleased to hear that the overall experience of this information session was positive. We do pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service. However, I am sorry to hear that we disappointed you at this particular event. While some individuals may be ready to enroll in a program after the event, we do not handle enrollments on-site and the focus of these events is not financial. Our staff and alumni graciously host these events in their free time with the purpose of sharing their story, educating others about volunteering abroad and our organization, and encouraging them to get involved in international volunteering. We take great care to ensure our volunteers are well-educated and informed, and do not feel rushed to enroll in our programs.

Our staff always follows-up with attendees, allowing time to reflect and ensure that the decision they make is the right one for them. We are delighted that you are ready to get started and I wish you well on your future program. Cross-Cultural Solutions is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a leader in the field of international volunteering.

Christa said...

Hi Dave,
Thanks so much for reading my blog post and for leaving the comment. Completely understand where you're coming from and I look forward to being part of a CCS trip later this year. In the future, it might be valuable to have some mechanism available at info sessions for those who are ready to sign up right away.