National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program

Informal Contacts

Benchmark Competency Description

Informal visitor contacts provide essential customer service in a wide variety of settings and circumstances, from front desk and fee booth to foot trails and front office. While these contacts are indeed informal and spontaneous, they still require considerable knowledge, forethought and preparation in order to meet audience needs and address park and NPS goals. This competency requires park interpreters to continually assess visitor needs and demonstrate effective customer service by providing basic or in-depth information, and/or interpretation to meet those needs. Whenever possible, interpreters strive to facilitate opportunities for the audience to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to resource meanings, but consciously extend each contact only as far as is appropriate based on visitor cues and responses.

Competency Standard

All Interpreters:

  • Consistently provide high quality customer service through application of audience knowledge, resource knowledge, and appropriate techniques.
  • Consistently provide high quality customer service by presenting a professional image, demonstrating professional behavior, and applying effective interpersonal communication skills.
  • Continually observe visitor cues and responses, assesses needs, and evaluates options to guide the progression of each contact.
  • Understand the difference between information, orientation and interpretation, and when, why and how to move from one to the other.
  • When appropriate, link tangible resources to intangible meanings using appropriate techniques in order to facilitate opportunities for the audience to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to resource meanings.
  • Continually self-assess -- analyzes and articulates if, when and how an interpretive process or methodology can be applied in informal encounters.