In a pandemic, customer service more crucial than ever

Service Quality Institute leader John Tschohl offers businesses tips for inspiring loyalty

The coronavirus pandemic has been rough on businesses. Shutdowns, occupancy restrictions and reduced travel have forced many businesses, especially in resort towns, to scramble to survive.

Vail businesses have kept the customer experience top of mind and faced the pandemic with innovation, passion and determination.

“Businesses are getting creative, their employees are leaning in and helping in ways they never did before and we are all very grateful that our guests see Vail as a desirable place to visit where their safety is put first,” said Alison Wadey, the executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association.

The VCBA has partnered with the town of Vail to help create and implement its own creative COVID-19 relief business initiatives, which includes sales tax deferral at the beginning of the pandemic and through last summer, a rent relief program, public consumption areas, coordinated tent and expanded premises, the shoulder season gift card program, the PrimaVail service program which was altered to incorporate customer service changes during a pandemic, and the most recent Workcation Lodging Incentive to Front Range visitors. All of these efforts help the customers create an affinity for businesses because they know that they care.

Speaking of care, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail has launched an enhanced global health and safety program, Lead with Care. If a case has been confirmed on property, that information is communicated to impacted guests who have been exposed to the positive COVID-19 case, along with all employees. A complete and comprehensive disinfection of the property will be done along with the already-stringent practices around the resort. Guests have responded well to the program, said Jonathan Reap, director of public relations and communications for the franchise’s Denver and Vail locations.

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“Additionally, with the town of Vail’s exemplary efforts regarding masks being required throughout the villages, combined with physical distancing at the bars, restaurants and businesses throughout the villages, our guests have felt reassured of the overall safety while staying at Four Seasons Vail and in the greater Vail Valley,” Reap said.

“Amazing customer service is the backbone of any ski resort town. It is what makes our customers choose us the first time and continue to return year after year,” Wadey said. “Creating and receiving that customer loyalty keeps our towns thriving and successful. Vail has been making lemonade from lemons since this all began and I know we will continue to do so in order to keep our economic vitality.”

In concert with what local businesses are doing here, customer service guru John Tschohl implores businesses to keep on top of their customer service skills.

Tschohl is the president of Service Quality Institute, a global leader in helping organizations keep customers, build market share and improve the performance of the entire workforce so they develop a culture of delivering superior customer service. He is a frequent traveler to the Vail Valley and has already been to Vail to ski a few times this winter.

Here are five pointers from his new book, “Relentless.”

John Tschohl's new book "Relentless" builds on principles he's shared with audiences across the nation at speaking engagements.
Special to the Daily

Be accessible and convenient

“This is the time to open early and close late. Always answer the phone and return all phone calls within minutes and at most, an hour. With COVID-19, every customer counts. It’s ‘Eat or Be Eaten’,” Tschohl said. “You are one store away from a competitor. Only one call away when your line is busy before they call the other lodge or ski shop on their list.”

Call every customer by name

“Rarely does anyone ask or care anymore, but a customer’s name is the most precious possession they have. You are competing for dollars. Make your business a ‘Brand they Fall in Love With,'” Tschohl said.

Make empowered decisions on the spot in favor of the customer

“With COVID-19, you cannot afford a customer to not come back,” Tschohl said. In Chapter 10 of Tschohl’s new book, he states that customers are not a number.

“Every single one of your customers is exactly that: a unique individual. While you may see trends and patterns in customer behavior, when they come to you, each has specific wants, needs and desires. They want to he heard and understood. If you don’t know who you are working with, it will be difficult to satisfy them. To tailor your services, ask ‘what do our customers want and need from us?'”

Smile. It costs nothing and takes only a second

“Make sure every employee in person and on the phone smiles and soon as they greet a customer. You can hear that smile through the phone,” Tschohl said.

Be relentless

“Customer service has to be a lifetime commitment. It is like breathing. You cannot stop doing it,” Tschohl said. “If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to be relentless, today, tomorrow and for all time.”

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