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Does Your Unit Have a “Wal-Mart Greeter”?

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner

Wal-Mart employs people who serve strictly as Greeters to welcome people as they walk in their front doors.  They don’t ask you if you need help but rather are simple just there to say “Hi, Welcome to Wal-Mart.”

Many people walk right past these Greeters, but some will stop to ask for directions to a specific department.  Those are normally first-time shoppers to that particular store.  Even if you are one of those “regulars” that walks right past them, admit it – you get a small smirk on your face when you hear them say “welcome!”
Now, imagine you are a new person coming to visit a Civil Air Patrol Unit. 
Think back to the day when you first came to check out the program.  
Regardless of whether or not you already knew someone in the program, you probably had some nervousness about what to expect, what kind of people you would meet and whether or not this whole CAP thing would really be for you.
Did you have someone come up and introduce themselves?  
Or did you just take a seat with everyone else and just listen during the meeting?
Which scenario do you think makes a prospective member feel more welcome?
During the Region and Wing Commander’s Course last week, a story was shared about a 2-star General who decided to go and check out a local CAP Unit to see if it was something he wanted to get involved with.  You see, he was the President of the Air Force Association at the time and knew AFA supported CAP but really didn’t know much about it.  
~ No one greeted him when he arrived.  
~ He took a seat at the back of the room and simply listened.  
~ During the course of the meeting, no one approached him to find out who he was or why he was there.  Still, because he had genuine interest in learning about CAP, he didn’t leave. 
~ At the end of the meeting, HE approached the command staff to state that he was interested in joining.
First impressions are everything!
If a prospective member isn’t greeted or engaged when they first show up at your Unit, what will make them want to come back for a 2nd meeting or even want to join CAP at all?
Regardless of the size of your Unit or how “busy” you may be, there should be at least one person assigned with the task of welcoming any new person that walks through the door even if they arrive with another member and it doesn’t have to be the Unit Commander.  If you have a RRO on staff, then its automatically their job to do.  If you don’t, pick a member who seems to be the most “engaging” to serve as your Unit’s greeter.  
If they are going to join, you want the prospective member to feel - right off the bat - that your Unit is one that is interested in helping its new members get onboard and acquainted with the program.  It sets the tone for their experience and is a big part of retention during their first 6 months.
We also need to look at this from a Safety standpoint as well, especially if the person is not escorted in by a current member.  Obviously, we want to protect our cadets but we also need to protect ourselves as well.  Too often, we “assume” the stranger at the back of the room is a prospective member….but what if they are not?  Having someone designated to welcome this person helps uncover right away if this is a prospective member or not.  There are too many stories in the news today of workplace violence and abductions to not take a moment to find out who this person is.
Who is your Unit’s “CAP Greeter?”
Maj Barb Buckner, CAP
Recruiting & Retention Manager
Civil Air Patrol - National Headquarters
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