In honor of business |

In honor of business

Michael Robinson
Vail Valley Partnership
Michael Robinson
Vail Valley Partnership

What makes your heart skip a bit faster? Seeing a Tiffany-blue box tied up with a neat white bow or recognizing that what’s inside will create a moment that will last a lifetime?

On June 5, 44 businesses will be honored at the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Awards Ceremony. These honored businesses know today’s consumer views the end product by the overall experience. To the Vail Valley business community, that means a consumer’s first impression begins the moment they enter a business’ front door and continues after they walk out. This experience is what matters most ” and the Partnership’s Platinum Service Program is a terrific celebration of exceeding the consumer’s expectation.

So how does a business strive to deliver a superb, unforgettable experience every time? The businesses to be honored June 5 may tell you it takes a dedicated, purposeful effort to ingrain a day-to-day culture of excellence among employees. This is why the Platinum Service Program was created five years ago ” to provide customer-service measurements and tools for improving the customer experience in lodging, retail, restaurants and professional services throughout the Vail Valley.

The Platinum Service Program has been successful because it holds both business owners and employees accountable for their actions. From November to April, businesses are observed by secret shoppers. Each business receives a total of eight visits. Program evaluations include feedback for business owners and managers, which help businesses measure their strengths and opportunities for growth.

Many businesses also use the evaluations to motivate, coach and train staff. But more importantly, the Platinum Service Program recognizes the Vail Valley business community’s support of customer service standards. Delivering exemplary customer service helps distinguish our community experience to visitors and residents alike, and the Platinum Service Program is an important tool used to promote this awareness.

Those who receive the Platinum Service Award are ambassadors of the destination. They know their business better than anyone else. More important, they know their customers better than anyone else. They know their customers’ buying habits and how they make decisions before buying. Whether an accountant, lawyer, gas attendant, or owner of a coffee shop or property manager ” it is important you help your employees uncover these hidden trade secrets.

Why? Today’s traveler does not look back at one isolated experience when reminiscing on their vacation. Conversely, one negative experience can have a lasting impression.

In the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” Julia Roberts’ character is snubbed at a boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. After making purchases elsewhere, she haunts the initial offending saleswoman by saying “Big mistake.”

Yet this attention, or lack of attention, to customers remains prevalent even in today’s competitive marketplace. According to the Luxury Institute, a New York research group that surveys wealthy consumers, more than half of shoppers are unhappy with their experience at luxury-goods sellers. In my former life, we referred to the reality behind this fiction as “Pretty Woman Syndrome” and knew that only a collective response to righting the perception would matter. But Beverly Hills lacks the Platinum Service Program and, interestingly enough, could learn some lessons from the Vail Valley in this regard.

In a 2007 survey of some 1,000 consumers ” with a median net worth of $1.5 million and median income of $250,000 ” the Luxury Institute found that product knowledge, personal attention, honesty, trustworthiness, politeness and courtesy all fit the expectations of the average wealthy consumer in the United States.

Additional attributes cited by a majority of wealthy consumers as top requirements for a good salesperson include politeness and courtesy, reliability, keeping promises, and being a good listener. Being charming and witty resonated with only 2 in 10 shoppers and being persistent turned shoppers off altogether.

What does this study prove? It takes more than a sparkle of a diamond to attract a shopper. It takes a concentrated effort from start to finish, and the Platinum Service Program ingrains this day-to-day thought to assuring the customer experience is genuine.

Our destination’s brand is a global one, attracting world travelers for a reason. They come with expectations, and it our responsibility to deliver and exceed our guests’ expectation of what defines a trip to the Vail Valley means.

For both out-of-towner and our own consumers living next door, the call to serve with dedication, quality and service is real. Delivering the promise of superb customer service is a common denominator shared by all businesses up and down valley, so let’s work together to make sure our guests (whether from near or far) feel like… well, guests.

Look for the Platinum Service Program decal proudly displayed by our honorees throughout the valley, and if you’d like to learn how your business can earn that distinction and join our customer-service oriented culture; contact the Partnership at 476-1000.

Michael Robinson is President and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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