In the movie “City Slickers,” the rugged old cowboy character Curly (an Oscar-winning performance by Jack Palance) continuously taunted Billy Crystal’s character Mitch with “the one thing” that was the most important thing in life.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? (Holds up one finger) This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.
The movie never did answer that question. Curly died before sharing the mysterious secret.
What’s our one thing?
For us, related to doing business here in Eagle County, we don’t need to wonder what that “one thing” is that’s most important. As our tourism promotions and destination marketing efforts to bring visitors to our community continue to show success — it’s clear to me that the most important thing is providing exceptional customer service.
Our top job creating industries — tourism, professional services and health and wellness — each rely on customer service to achieve continued success and provide us as a destination and as a community with a strong point of differentiation from our competitors.
Because at the core of what we do, be it tourism and hospitality or professional service — it is all about the customer’s experience.
Think service isn’t a point of differentiation? Amazon.com provides maybe the most compelling example. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame might offer the very best case for businesses to be customer-focused in their efforts when he stated, “If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.” Being customer-focused allowed Amazon, in many ways, to change the online retail experience — from the creation of the Kindle to the Amazon Prime program to free “super saver” shipping to numerous other examples, each developed with their customer — and creating a sense of customer loyalty — at the top of mind.
And, after all, much like Amazon.com we are, at our core, in the experience business. And much like Amazon.com, customer service can be our differentiator among our competitors in the vacation travel business.
Visitors? We’ll take better care of you than other resort communities. Proof points: Beaver Creek was voted “Best Guest Service in the Country” by the National Ski Areas Association for five consecutive years. Town of Vail community hosts consistently receive top scores in the Partnership’s Platinum Service Program. The town of Eagle visitor’s center, located just off I-70, takes great care of guests and promoting Eagle area businesses. Vail Resorts consistently supports the annual customer service seminar hosted by Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Chamber & Business Association. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of various support and commitment to guest satisfaction and customer service.
But service is about more than our visitors. Considering doing business in Eagle County and the Vail Valley? We’ll take better care of you than other resort communities. Proof points: The Vail Leadership Institute has developed a business incubator to assist start-up and aspiring entrepreneurs with business planning and funding opportunities. The Economic Council of Eagle County, via the Partnership’s community efforts, has a variety of economic data and research available to understand our demographics and our overall economic trends. Municipalities throughout Eagle County are “open for business” and are working with the business community to streamline doing business here.
It’s not just about prospective businesses, either. Our current businesses are very fortunate to have strong public and private support to grow their business. Consider the significant capital investments made by the town of Vail, Vail Resorts on-mountain improvements and the Beaver Creek Resort Co. The capital investment is unmatched in any mountain resort community, both on and off-mountain. The town of Gypsum should also be commended for their business grant program, which shows a great commitment to their business community.
Each proof point — from capital investment to service training — is, in the end, about improving the customer experience which helps result in increased customer loyalty. It’s important to target new visitors and continue to bring new visitors via our marketing initiatives and special event strategies. However, keep in mind it’s far cheaper to retain our loyal visitors — and providing a great customer experience is the quickest way to ensure repeat visitation.
The foundation of our continued success is customer service. Our guest experience and customer service is created by every touch point and guest experience during their stay — yet it’s an experience that is not owned by any one entity. We’re all in it together and it requires each of us to commit to the experience. It’s our “one thing” that can set us apart.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.