Down with a frown and up with a smile |

Down with a frown and up with a smile

Geraldine Haldner

Attendance of Turn It Up – known to seasoned locals as “smile school” – will be required of at least one owner or manager of local businesses looking to participate in Vail Resorts’ Merchant Pass program.Administered through “signing organizations,” such as the Vail Business & Chamber Association, the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau or the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, the customer-service classes are a pre-requisite, says Vail Resorts’ spokeswoman, Jen Brown.Business owners and managers who have attended the training session will receive application packages through their chambers, and their employees will be able to pick up discounted passes starting Nov. 8 at ticket offices in Vail and Beaver Creek, says Brown.The price of a Merchant Pass has not been finalized, as the ski company traditionally doesn’t release pass prices until mid- to late-October. Last year, a two-resort Merchant Pass was $599. In comparison, a visitor paid $1,499 for the same pass without discounts.Since 1995, Vail Resorts has offered various versions of Turn It Up. The ski company’s decision to make customer-service training mandatory this year is directly tied to Vail’s success as a ski resort.”We are in the service experience here in the valley, as well as in Vail,” says Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen. “Good customer service – or better, great customer service – is critical to every individual’s success in this valley.”Speaking from his own personal experience, Jensen says being ignored is his greatest customer service pet peeve.”The worst is no contact when you walk into a business,” he says. “We are here to serve our guest, so when you walk into a store and no one says “Hello,’ that’s not great customer service.”Jensen, whose own practise of good customer service follows the “plus one” rule – “first meeting the of needs the guest and then going one step farther and maybe surprising them” – says the ski company was pleased with the success of the VCBA’s Turn It Up approach last winter, which focused for the first time on senior-level employees and owners and was mandatory for VCBA members.”I believe that good customer service philosophy starts at the top,” Jensen says, adding he is pleased the two chambers have combined their efforts this year.Ski Magazine, in its latest, independent survey of 20,000 readers, once again crowned Vail as the No. 1 ski resort in North America. The survey rated ski resorts in 17 categories, ranging from terrain to value to customer service. Vail regained top honors, beating out Deer Valley, Utah. Vail also improved, from No. 9 to No. 6, in customer service.Kaye Ferry, president of the VCBA, said two weeks ago she believes the VCBA’s initiative to offer last winter’s sessions had a direct impact on the ski resorts’ improved reputation.The classes will be held in two locations – the Colorado Mountain College campus in Vail and the VVCTB conference room in Avon – and taught by Paul Kuzniar, a marketing consultant, who as a Vail part-time resident and consultant with 20 years of experience in marketing and customer-service training, will speak from professional and first-hand experience.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at

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