Cash for Courtesy |

Cash for Courtesy

Geraldine Haldner

The 3-year-old program returns to reward Vail service employees for courteous gestures and cheerful assistance to resort customers throughout the winter.First Impressions is a two-pronged program designed to make Vail’s retail community a kinder, gentler place for customers.Paid for by the town of Vail, the Vail Chamber & Business Association, the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau and Vail Resorts, the initiative uses secret shoppers and gift certificates to encourage local employees to show off their most courteous side to customers.Since its debut, First Impression is believed to have improved employees’ attitudes toward customers, according to the results of two secret shopper surveys. The surveys evaluate Vail employees using an established set of customer service principles. Secret shoppers randomly visit stores, restaurants and other service outlets throughout the winter season and rate unsuspecting employees and managers in how they greet customers, make eye contact, offer knowledgeable assistance and thank them as they leave.A second measurement that First Impressions is working may have come from Ski magazine, a leading skiing and lifestyle publication.According to the magazine’s latest survey, published in October, Vail’s employees offered better customer service last winter than during previous ski seasons. The survey, which once again crowned Vail the top ski resort in North America, showed an improvement from No. 9 to No. 6 in the customer service category. Vail has traditionally rated lower in customer service than its strongest competitors, Deer Valley, Idaho and Whistler, Canada.In addition to observing and rating employees, First Impressions also provides customers and managers with an avenue to complement store clerks, waiters or concierges, who voluntarily go above and beyond the call of duty.First Impressions’ Premier Employee Award program rewards courteous employees with $25 gift certificates, as well as a chance to win $5,000 at the end of the ski season.Premier Impressions nomination forms are available at the Vail Chamber & Business Association, town of Vail, the Vail Daily and Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau. Participating business also have displays containing the nomination forms.Employees can be nominated by coworkers, employers and customers from now through March 15, 2003. Last year more than 120 Vail employees were recognized for going the extra mile and more. (See related story).But, says Chiles, there is still room for improvement. According to the secret shoppers, employees most noticeably lose points for greeting and thanking customers.Because of that, First Impression is adding a new component this year that rewards employees for saying “hello” and “thank you” to Vail’s guests. Chamber representatives will go undercover and randomly visit Vail businesses in search of employees who make a good first impression. Employees who make those impressions are being given a $10 grocery certificate from Safeway. Approximately 200 certificates will be awarded this ski season.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at

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