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Last chance for a Merchant Pass

Geraldine Haldner

The final Turn It Up! customer-service class will begin at 8 a.m. in the conference room of the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau’s Avon office, on the south side of the building housing City Market.Taught by Paul Kuzniar, a part-time Vail resident and marketing consultant, the three-hour session focuses on ways to inspire and train employees to provide better customer service.The Merchant Pass program requires the attendance of at least one business representative in a Turn It Up! class. Unless a manager or owner of an area business has participated in the customer-service training, employees will not be eligible for the ski company’s $649 two-resort season pass and the $699 four-resort pass. By comparison, a two-resort season pass without discount costs $1,499.Turn it Up!, initiated by the Vail Chamber & Business Association in 1995 to raise Vail’s customer-service standards, has gone through several transformations. For several years the classes were mandatory for employees wanting a Merchant Pass. Last year the Vail Chamber decided to focus on managers and owners and make the class mandatory for chamber members who wanted to participate in the program.This year, the Vail chamber has teamed up with the tourism bureau in offering the classes. Both organization’s require participation from its members before signing off on a Merchant Pass application.The cost for Thursday’s session is $50 per person. No pre-registration is required and a check or cash will be accepted for payment at the door.Robin Litt, director of the tourism bureau’s chamber services, says the two business organizations opted to offer one more class after an additional two classes last week were attended by more people than was expected.”We hosted 27 Turn it Up! classes in November and over 900 people attended,” Litt said. “We had 30 people in our last class and we were concerned many businesses did not get a chance to attend, so we are bringing our facilitator back out for one last class.”After attending the training session, Turn It Up! graduates receive a merchant pass application package signed by their member organization. Once the package has been processed by Vail Resorts, employees can pick up discounted passes at ticket offices in Vail and Beaver Creek.Representatives of the ski company and the two chambers say the class sessions last winter had a direct impact on the ski resort’s return to the top spot among North America ski resorts in this year’s survey by SKI magazine, published in October.Readers of the magazine elevated Vail from No. 9 to No. 6 in the customer-service category. The survey, filled out by 20,000 readers, rates ski resorts in 17 categories, ranging from terrain to value perception. Vail has been notoriously weak in the customer-service category in comparison to Deer Valley and Whistler/Blackcomb, Vail’s two strongest competitors. This year, Vail was able to nudge Deer Valley from the top spot, while Canada’s Whistler/Blackcomb took third place again. Beaver Creek came in at No. 5. Vail has held the title of No. 1 ski resort in North America 11 times since Ski Magazine began surveying its readers 15 years ago. The survey is considered the ski industry’s foremost standard for performance.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.


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