Lisa Douglas: Poor customer service in Steamboat Springs

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— As a small-business owner in Steamboat, my clients mention, almost daily, the extreme lack of customer service that is given from many other businesses here.

My family relocated here seven years ago, for the same reason as so many others have: the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. I opened my business more than four years ago after starting out within another business, which I would be glad to have stayed with, but the poor business policies forced me out on my own.

Personally, when the reconstruction of U.S. Highway 40 put stress on other local businesses, I tried to patronize at least one during each of my business days. My No. 1 gripe is the pure lack of courtesy I’ve seen and heard about. When anyone walks into a business, they ought to be greeted. A friendly comment helps to ensure what they’ve, no doubt, heard regarding Steamboat’s friendliness. Most people may not need your assistance and might be simply “kicking tires” but asking may also win you a sale. Many employees and, yes, even owners don’t even acknowledge that you entered (that’s when I exit).

Two years ago, our daughter went into a local business on Lincoln Avenue and later told me that they didn’t acknowledge her … even as she made her way from front to back, and then she left and told me she will never go back and urged me not to. At that time, she was 23 with a good, well-paying job, so there should have been no excuse for not assuming she might make a purchase.

My past experience involves years in retail, including most facets thereof. Back then, I was trained to think that each person entering probably carried $20 with them. Now, while inflation has played a part in costs of goods and what a dollar will buy, I think retailers should assume that each person “could” possibly make a purchase and be treated with that in mind.

Unfortunately, “old Steam­boat” locals aren’t very accepting of newcomers and the change they bring to “their” town and mountain.

Suffice to say, it cannot be both ways, in that, you cannot have inflated housing prices (for which many folks benefited) growing and thriving business, and world-class ski teams and ski mountain, without “us.” Change can be good and should be embraced. That being said, the town still feels stable and family-friendly, I think, because of the many ranches and families who own homes here and know that this is such a special place to raise children. While it is difficult for young families to afford living here, they seem, to me, to be the grounding force.

Be not afraid of positive change … embrace it and work with it.

■ Show up (even if it means, dare I say it, missing yet another powder day)

■ Be helpful and cheerful

■ Say thank you

■ Try being grateful even if they walk out without purchasing … they may buy at a competitor, but the money will trickle down

In this economy, we need mainstreet Steamboat to reiterate this to any and all local businesses as much as they recruit people to come spend. Make it a spend-friendly environment and maybe the Internet will not be the only method of choice.

Comments

addlip2U 4 years, 1 month ago

Say Thank you and smile.........they may come back after they looked at the competitor that did not.

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gldrlmmh 4 years, 1 month ago

We had a discussion at a dinner party recently about supporting the local economy. Surprisingly a majority of those present indicated they had tried and were rebuffed, either by poor customer service (rude comments, no calls back, poor quality of work) or extreme prices. Now they prefer to search far and wide for services and goods. While prices may not be easy an easy issue to address, due to our remote location, customer service certainly is. Over the decades that we have spent in Steamboat, it has become a standing joke about the lack of concern many businesses show to the locals on whom they depend for support during the months when tourists are elsewhere. I have written complimentary notes to those businesses who do what is expected -- show up on time, return a phone call in a timely manner, meet expectations, etc. Amazing that I feel the need to compliment what should be standard business practices.

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Kevin Nerney 4 years, 1 month ago

Lisa, You hit the nail right on the head!!! My Name is KATHY NERNEY and as the former owner of the Jade Summit I knew Customer Service was KEY!!! I made it a point to personally meet and greet all my patrons. This was important when hiring my waitstaff. I can remember the plethora of applications I'd rec'd & upon interviewing noticed many people w/tons of experience, however they hade NO PERSONALITY. So, my first 2 hires (James & Tommie) told me that they were eager to learn, but didn't have any experience. Not a problem, I told them, anyone can waiter, but I need an outgoing & personable workstaff. I told each and every new hire to treat their customers like they were their MOTHER!!! Afterall, you wouldn't leave your Mom handing for water, food or conversation. But lets take this one step further.. Take care of your employees, and they will take care of you. I had (and still have) a great rapport with many of my former employees. To this day I still receive a phone call from Brian wishing me a Happy Mothers Day! I fed my staff, lent them $$ when short on rent, washed & pressed their white shirts, bailed one out of jail when he didn't get his tail light fixed in a timely matter. CRAZY..MAYBE..However they showed up, and worked hard. And to this day, I still get stopped on the street & told how much they miss the restaurant. Not only for the food & atmosphere,but for the Good Customer Service I provided.

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1999 4 years, 1 month ago

kathy......sorry but your post makes me laugh.

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seeuski 4 years, 1 month ago

This letter is right on for some local businesses, I too have walked out of several eating establishments for the same reason as described. Being ignored by employees is a disaster and I won't tolerate it especially with the current economy. And nothing personal Kathy Nerney, but back in 2005 I received a poor attitude from Kevin while eating an early dinner at your upstairs bar. He was more interested in how loud the sound system was then the comfort of the 3 patrons eating at his bar(it was 5pm and no one else was there). Quote, "this ain't no damn library". I never went back and neither did the other two, one of which was a bartender at another local establishment. Sorry Kathy, I had to get that off my chest and it was not directed at you personally, I am sure you lived up to a higher standard. I think many employees and some owners take their positions in Steamboat for granted instead of showing appreciation for the guests that come through their doors and put money in their pockets. Service, value and appreciation brings me back every time.

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Marie Menk 4 years, 1 month ago

"Unfortunately, “old Steam­boat” locals aren’t very accepting of newcomers and the change they bring to “their” town and mountain."

Lisa, this sounds to me like a gross generalization and a disservice to the people who were here before us and laid the foundation of what Steamboat is today. You could follow your own advice and say "Thank-you" to these fine folks. In fact if I heard a small business owner make this statement, I would not be inclined to frequent said business again. I think you may have lost some current/potential customers by this flagrant statement. In other words, in my opinion you cancelled out your whole article by this one declaration. Not nice.

That being said, as far as customer service is concerned, I agree that it is of the utmost importance to be pleasant and helpful. It should be the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their employees are educated in that respect and act accordingly, but I also believe that as a customer or client a pleasant demeanor and a kind word goes a long way with even the most disgruntled employee. If that doesn't work, shop elsewhere.

I have been on both sides of the retail and service industry as an employee and business owner. I believe the "customer is always right" (well most of the time) but sometimes they can be a demanding pain in the you know what. I remember when I used to wait tables I tried to welcome the challenge of a customer who was determined to have a bad experience. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn't. But I tried.

Here is a quote from an article in the New York Times about the "me" generation:

"The majority of those interviewed stated . . . that nobody has any natural or general responsibility or obligation to help other people. . . . Most of those interviewed said that it is nice if people help others, but that nobody has to. Taking care of other people in need is an individual’s choice. If you want to do it, good. If not, that’s up to you. . . . Even when pressed — What about victims of natural disaster or political oppression? What about helpless people who are not responsible for their poverty or disabilities? What about famines and floods and tsunamis? — No, they replied. If someone wants to help, then good for that person. But nobody has to."

Not a good attitude to have in a town like Steamboat or any place. I doubt the majority of our young people have this attitude but some do and I think the most effective way of changing it is by example. Be pleasant and positive, even if you are having a crappy day. Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how.

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Mike Heineke 4 years, 1 month ago

Good customer service is taught and provided by the owners of most Steamboat business'. Many store owners hire part timers and only care if they get to work on time and close when the sign says. The town has never ever been keen on "great customer service" and it never will happen in your community. How many owners do any kind of mystery shops at All of the stores? How many owners reward their employees with bonuses, pay increases of any sort, insurance coverage (just joking on that one), It has always amazed me that in any economic downturn people focus so much on the negatives while shopping. People of all walks of life are trying to make a living out there and all, or maybe a very high percentage, are not happy in knowing that their famlies are struggling. This is not going away! I would suggest to Lisa that anytime you frequent an establishment of any kind that YOU seek out an employee and thank them for anything that may come to your mind. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and that stranger will feel terific for it. After all, every customer that walks in the front door has not gotten up on the right side of the bed. There is customer service 101 out there but it doesn't start with the helpless employee all of the time Lisa. Enjoy the Holiday shopping experience and hope you don't oreder too much off of the Net.

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Kevin Nerney 4 years, 1 month ago

SEEUSKI....Kathy Nerney Here!!!! I wished I would have known....(in 05) We were only open a short time & had no experiece in the restaurant business. However the "BAR AREA" did have loud music....thats why we called it a BAR. Remember you always had a choice to eat downstairs where it was nice & quiet. Just needed to get that off MY chest!!! When something goes wrong at an establishment...someone needs to tell management. Otherwise nothing can be corrected. I suggest that everyone out there who has felt that they have been treated poorly, s/w management. No one is perfect, and things can be made better. Thats why they put erasers on pencils.

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seeuski 4 years, 1 month ago

Here is the problem Kathy, I was the first client to sit at the bar that evening and the music was at a reasonable level when I entered. I knew you had recently opened and I wanted to see if yours would be a place to frequent. So I came on in, I ordered my food and while waiting, a couple came in and sat a few stools away and also ordered dinner. My food was delivered and then the bartender disappeared and I had no utensils so I had to go into your dining room and fetch it for myself. Then while the couple and I were eating Kevin came in and turned up the music by double, unnecessarily loud for a bar with 3 people in it and the lady asked the bartender if he would turn down the music because they couldn't hear their own conversation and that is when Kevin blurted out, "it ain't no library". I eat dinner at many bars here in town and your comment above brings back the memory of how Kevin's comment felt that day. Ungrateful. This letter exemplifies the exact problem with some in the service industry here, attitude problems, and your answer is proof. Told management/owner got the answer and never went back. Sorry again.

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brian ferguson 4 years, 1 month ago

my favorite is the non service counter at city market

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Marie Menk 4 years, 1 month ago

My 2 cents: I also was a one time patron at the Jade Summit. I also had to retrieve my own silverware. After we ate, the waiter walked by our table several times without anything in his hands and failed to remove our plates or ask us if we wanted dessert or after dinner drinks. OOPS! Money lost for the restaurant money lost for the waiter. I did go to Kathy and as I remember she just laughed it off and told us to come again. We were pleasant and friendly and relayed our concern hmmm...need I say more?

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1999 4 years, 1 month ago

Dan Dan The Roofie Man..........yeah.. that was great customer service

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Kevin Nerney 4 years, 1 month ago

Kathy Nerney Here!!! And this is why I won't comment again on this subject...I use MY NAME & the rest of you hide behind your "STAGE NAMES" Good Luck in your ventures for great customer service. I look at the glass half full...while the rest of you look at the glass half empty. I tried my best....that's all I can say..You few may have not enjoyed it there...but many did. Case Closed...

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frankly 4 years, 1 month ago

I rarely buy anything in town because it is all hideously expensive and out of our budget, but I DID buy at Duck Duck Goose a few items for our daughter because the owner was so friendly and nice to us every time I went in that store. My daughter didn't need the fashionable kids clothes there, but I did buy her a few dresses and a lovely pink coat because the owner always greeted us and made us feel welcome. It's one of the only stores in town that's ever gotten my money. I appreciated the conversations with her and she always showed us the 'sale' rack and didn't mind if that's where we shopped. She just appreciated our business. If we could've afforded it, we would've shopped there more. I'm sorry the store is gone because it was a nice shopping experience. Customer service is everything.

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stillinsteamboat 4 years, 1 month ago

Kathy and Kevin, Although I wasn't able to frequent your restaurant, The times I did go I was always treated well. I have friends from New York who loved the place. Kathy, I remember you from the elementary school. The kids loved you. Keep the faith. Thank Joe for his service to our country.

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Kevin Nerney 4 years, 1 month ago

Stillinsteamboat, Thanks, for the compliment. That's the kind of validation that made it all worth it. Some of the idiots here (check that) Some of the anonymous posters here and in this town just don't get it. Kevin

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ftpheide 4 years, 1 month ago

See and bearski, See what you get for being honest!
The Nerney's aptitude for customer service was just tested. They responded with anger and name calling. Case closed!!

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Andrea Ihara 4 years, 1 month ago

Lisa,

I find this very interesting. As a consultant to Ron Kaufman and the "Up Your Service!" team, I can tell you that it IS possible to create a dynamic culture shift to one of SERVICE. A dynamic Service Culture is sustainable, and quantifiable, and creates an amazing competitive advantage. A Culture shift of this kind takes a top down effort that includes: vision, language, communication, process, metrics and benchmarks, guarantees, role modeling and ongoing training and support. This can be done with a team of city leaders and inside "trainers" from within the community.

It would be GREAT to see the City Council and the Business and Hospitality owners embrace such a shift.

Andrea H Ihara AndreaHIhara@aol.com

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bigfatdog 4 years, 1 month ago

number one on the list of terrible service is QUIZNOS. the "no problema bro/snowboard style service" is a death wish to our food/retail industries. No wonder that place is about to go under and i will never go back.

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seeuski 4 years, 1 month ago

Come on Kevin, I gave your restaurant a try and YOU were rude, who doesn't get it here? You should just have apologized here and moved on instead of proving me right by name calling. That was how you acted that evening 5 years ago too.

Wait a minute, could I be wrong? Did you consider your bar a 5pm rock and roll club and therefore didn't care about the comfort or service level of the only 3 diners in your restaurant that day? My bad. Boy do I miss Mattie Silks, I spent many a night at that same bar and never a bad experience.

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aichempty 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow, what a riot! Suggesting that we thank the owners and employees just for being there. Hey, the way to get me to come back into your store is NOT to show me that you're depressed and desperate because you are losing your business.

In my former business, we gave discounts to locals, freebies to employees and paid better than anybody else in town. What was the reward? Employee theft, locals coming in to use the bathroom and nothing else (because they were kept clean), and $#!++y treatment of customers any time I was not watching. That's okay, though, because I learned something very valuable; don't take a risk in a resort town. Even if you succeed, it's way too much work to be worth it. The majority of the locals don't have extra money to spend and the tourists prefer chain stores.

I once made some purchases in a drugstore on Long Island, and when the clerk gave me my change, she didn't say "thank you," or "have a nice day," or even "get the #### out of my face." She turned her head away and looked at the wall until I left. I think she is probably an instructor today at the Steamboat Academy of Customer Service.

Part-time help comes in hung-over with the munchies. Young adults often have an attitude like, "I live here, man, and I don't care if you don't like the service because I'll never see you again anyway."

The ONLY places I have ever had reliably good service have been in places like the old BMC WEST (and also under it's new name, which escapes me at the moment), Steamboat Lumber, Sears, "better" resturants and most of the time ACE at the curve. The employees there tend to be long-term and really do try to help when you need it. Contrast this to a 20 minute wait in line at one of the so-called "fast food" chain stores where it took that long, at lunch time, to get a "number 1 combo." Holy cow.

Would it really kill anybody to say "sir" or "ma'am?" "How are you guys?" spoken to a married couple could as easily be, "How are you today?" I really don't want to feel like you're doing me a freakin' favor by coming over to wait on me, although I do realize that your work schedule is interfering with your other job and your time on the ski hill, plus, you've probably got pot to smoke before you do your reading for tomorrow's class at CMC.

My favorite was ordering two Irish coffees last Christmas time at the bar at the base of the gondola, and discovering when I got back to our table that both shots of whiskey had been poured into the same cup. Talk about NO short term memory AT ALL . . . .

Living here doesn't make you special. It makes you lucky. If you want to make a living here, you need to make your customers feel special. If you think we can't go elsewhere or just do without, guess what, we can.

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wickie 4 years, 1 month ago

I visit Steamboat often - lots of family in town. Personally, I love it and find it a very friendly place to shop and fun place to go out and eat. I know times are tough - they are for most everyone. Keep smiling and have fun - I'll keep coming back!

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Ben Tiffany 4 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for that one Wickie! We hope you will always enjoy it here.

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