1st session of new Steamboat Chamber customer service training nears end

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— The inaugural classes of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s new Service Excellence program wrap up in the coming weeks.

Reader poll

Do you think the quality of customer service in Steamboat Springs can be improved?

  • Yes, there is room for improvement 65%
  • Yes, more businesses and employees should participate in service programs 14%
  • No, I think local businesses and employees provide great customer service 14%
  • No, I haven't heard complaints about service in town 7%

282 total votes.

Two groups — one for restaurant owners and staff and another for members of the community at-large — will finish with between 12 and 15 hours of customer service training during the course of three meetings.

The objective of the Service Excellence program is to eventually bring the training to as much of Steamboat Springs as possible with the hope of boosting the city’s reputation for customer service as measured by the net promoter score.

The net promoter score is a widely-used customer satisfaction benchmark that asks survey respondents how likely they would be to recommend a certain product, service or destination to their friends and family.

There are 15 participants in the restaurant group and 23 people in the community group, representing a diverse cross-section of retail, banking and other businesses, Chamber CEO Tom Kern said.

Members of the community group are being trained to ultimately train others, he said.

The genesis of the Service Excellence program came from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s customer service program.

“We saw something at Ski Corp. that works and has worked very successfully,” Kern said.

The Chamber contacted the same consultant that Ski Corp. used to craft its program — Ed Eppley, of Prospex — and asked him if he would be able to create a hybrid program that looked at customer service on a community-wide level.

Kern said it was kind of an experiment but that Eppley was excited about the opportunity.

The initial targets for the resulting Service Excellence training are restaurants, retail and lodging. Plans for other sectors such as nonprofits and municipal government also have been considered for the future, Kern said.

“We will begin to break off and start to train the restaurant sector for the summer season,” he said.

All those who want to join the training will be given the opportunity, he said, with the intention of completing all restaurant sector training before the summer tourism season starts in June.

Kern said in past years, the Chamber calculated its net promoter score at the end of the summer. This year, the Chamber will tabulate all the survey responses monthly and check to see if the score moved in the right direction. Modifications to the training will be made based on those monthly results.

The 23 members of the community pilot training group will start to branch out to other sectors, Kern said, with either retail or lodging being the focus during the fall then finishing up the remaining sector during the winter.

When spring rolls around, trainers will go back through the program with restaurants again.

“This is an ongoing thing,” Kern said.

Ski Corp. has been using its customer service program for four years, Kern said. “Now, they're seeing some significant long-term results.”

The Service Excellence program “makes people look at the customer experience a little bit differently,” he said, and not everyone who’s going through the training has been converted so far.

“It’s going to take a little work or a little time to convince people that this method will work,” Kern said.

According to Kern, research has shown that the customer experience is in some ways more experience than the product Steamboat delivers.

Communities that do well in net promoter score surveys are the ones that have a really good product and pair that with exceptional guest experiences, he said.

The hope for Steamboat is to reach a point where as much of the town as possible is providing consistent, exceptional customer service that sets it apart from other tourist destinations.

Steamboat’s net promoter score is very good for the industry, with 73 percent of respondents in summer 2013 saying they’d recommend vacationing here.

“I just want to make it exceptional,” Kern said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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