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Customer service rises to new heights at Slush

The Aalto Ventures Program trains a thousand volunteers for Slush.
Teaching the trade: Bruce Oreck reveals the secrets of customer service to AVP students.

The customer service course is led by Bruce Oreck, who has served as the United States Ambassador to Finland since 2009. This November, however, Oreck play a different role in the main lecture hall at Aalto University: teaching a course in customer service for the Aalto Ventures Program.

Several hundred students, who signed up to volunteer for the Slush event to be held on 18–19 November, came to hear him speak.

It's easy to grab people's attention with just a slight change in attitude. The result of a positive transaction can be an amazing experience for both the customer and person serving them, promises Aalto Ventures Program’s course material.

- We train the volunteers in developing a new, positive attitude to customer service, explains Bruce Oreck.

- This is primarily an experimental course. Its purpose is to take students outside their comfort zone, so that they can understand what an exceptional customer service experience feels like. The course will prepare volunteers for Slush, adds Oreck.

Every course session begins with a very concrete exercise. All students are asked to sit at the front of the lecture hall. The task is to form groups of ten. Each group is given a grapefruit. Oreck and Will Cardwell, the other course instructor, demonstrate what to do with the grapefruit: it is placed under the chin and held there. Then, without any help and without using hands - only the chin, the grapefruit is passed from one person to the next. It's quite amazing to see ten people working together on the task, trying to provide as good a customer service experience as possible for passing the grapefruit.

More than 10 000 visitors are expected to attend Slush, thus giving the volunteer students the chance to test their skills in a very concrete way.

Oreck walks around the lecture hall, asking each student why they signed up to be a volunteer for Slush.

-      I want to see Slush, says one.

-      I want to see what it's like there, says another.

-       These are good aims to have, but they are the wrong answers. The truth is that you're here, because, with your motivation, Slush 2014 will be the best event in the world. You are an exceptional individual, and when you voluntarily bring your exceptional-ness to Slush, it will become an exceptional event, coaches Oreck. He inspires the students who seem receptive.

Slush is almost entirely organised by students

In just a few years, Slush has become Northern Europe's largest startup event. Slush brings together financiers, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in entrepreneurship to develop positive co-operation and expertise in support of enterprise. Hundreds of students will also be on hand as volunteers. The professionally organised event is largely the work of students.

Slush is the brainchild of the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (Aaltoes) and Startup Sauna, a business accelerator programme operating on Aalto University’s premises.

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