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?