When market researchers at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association asked the town’s visitors if they would recommend the town to others, 70 percent said yes. That might not seem like a bad rating. But people within the Colorado resort town weren’t pleased.
In fact, the rating had dropped by seven points since the last survey three years prior, in 2010. A deeper look into the results showed a growing number of negative comments about the service at local stores and restaurants.
Though the town still had a lot to offer, slipping customer service can have a big impact in a crowded market. Tom Kern, chief executive of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association told the New York Times:
“Anybody who comes to the West can go mountain biking or road biking or hiking in Telluride or Aspen or wherever.”
So differentiating the town from those other locations was paramount. That’s why Kern and a number of small business owners throughout the community decided to take action. They did so by hiring a customer service consultant, who put together a training program for the small businesses in town.
The program taught business owners and their employees to connect with customers on a personal level. They started by asking simple questions like “Where are you from?” and “What are your hobbies?” Then they continued by teaching people how to have genuine conversations with guests and how to turn those interactions into customer loyalty.
Some business owners in town were skeptical at first. But in order to increase that loyalty factor, cooperation from all local business leaders was needed. And, after the initial round of training, most local owners and managers became true believers, realizing the value of these authentic interactions in order to improve customer loyalty and eventually boost revenue and sales. They soon passed along the lessons to their employees and others throughout resort community.
Great customer service quickly became contagious. After a similar training program at the local ski resort, even the historically gruff lift operators at the local ski resorts were engaging visitors in conversations. The effects of the training won’t be measurable right away. But business owners and officials are optimistic that the changes in customer service will increase that loyalty factor and encourage more visitors to recommend their town to others.