Vail Daily column: Customer-centric businesses succeed
May 15, 2014
We're fortunate to have a business community that is overwhelmingly customer-focused. Our continued focus on customer service and the customer experience offers our visitors and guests a consistent vacation experience. This consistently high level of customer service is important to our brand and creates increased guest loyalty.
Loyal customers tend to stick with a business (or a vacation destination) indefinitely – their attrition rate is small and these customers become brand loyalists and are active brand advocates. These are customers that every business wants.
Mountain Travel Symposium
I had the good fortune to recently attend Mountain Travel Symposium in Breckenridge. This conference is the single largest and longest-running annual gathering of mountain travel professionals in North America. Mountain Travel Symposium helps establish relationships within the industry and included three days dedicated to professional development. Speakers from within and outside the industry shared a variety of experiences and expertise for attendees to take home and apply to their businesses.
An interesting and concerning trend that showed up throughout the event was that the mountain travel professionals were often internally focused — only worried about their operations. Destinations, towns, lodging properties and other industry insiders focused their time and energy on themselves and what was best for them. How do we collect more taxes from our visitors? How do we enforce regulations on owners who rent their vacation properties on http://www.vrbo.com?
By contrast, the attendees and speakers from "outside" the mountain travel industry focused their time, energy and efforts on their users. This customer-centric approach — touted by speakers from companies including Facebook, http://www.booking.com, Expedia, Twitter and more — was in stark contrast to the industry insiders. These (often technology-based) organizations talked entirely about their user interface, about the guest experience and how to improve the guest experience.
Bringing it home
Which approach creates more engagement?
The lessons from the non-mountain attendees apply to our business community and our nonprofit organizations here in the Vail Valley. What is your business doing to be customer-focused and to improve your guest experience? Are you focused on what's best for your customer or what's best for your short-term business interests? Satisfied guests will become loyal guests, which ultimately results in more business.
I believe that it is important to be focused on the needs of your customers (guests, clients, stakeholders) or in the case of Vail Valley Partnership, our members. Focusing on task-oriented efforts only prevents engagement. Focusing on the needs of your customers, much like a tech company being focused on their user interface, creates an organization that is consumer-focused and adds value to its customers while increasing engagement and loyalty.
Vail Valley Volunteer Guide
Vail Valley Partnership recently announced two programs that demonstrate our continued effort to be customer-centric and add value to our member organizations and the community.
We recently announced the release of the fourth edition of the Vail Valley Volunteer Guide. The Volunteer Guide is a publication dedicated to connecting community members, new residents, second homeowners, guests and other civic organizations to our vibrant nonprofit community. The guide is offered as a free benefit to Vail Valley Partnership nonprofit members. In addition to the printed version, new this year to the Guide is an electronic format available via FTP site at http://www.vailvalleyvolunteers.com. The Vail Valley Volunteer Guide is an extension of the Partnership's larger Nonprofit Network, a signature program offered to not-for-profit members of the Chamber.
A new partnership
VVP also recently announced that Partnership members now receive benefits through a new partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Partnership's membership will now have access to a number of member benefits and cost savings provided by the U.S. Chamber at no additional cost. Offered benefits include; access to affinity program resources, free Enterprise monthly print magazine and weekly enewsletter, cost-savings programs and members-only toolkits. This benefit is added to our extensive signature program list, each of which is designed to help local businesses with access to information, cost savings opportunities and community engagement.
We're dedicated to increasing economic activity and driving tourism to the Vail Valley. We are equally dedicated to focusing on the needs of our members in the business and nonprofit communities in order to achieve success. At the end of the day, if our businesses are happy, we're happy. Being customer-centric in our efforts isn't always the easiest way to do business, but it is clearly the most rewarding and creates the most engagement.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership