Platinum Service Program grades Vail Valley businesses |

Platinum Service Program grades Vail Valley businesses

Scott N. MillerVail, CO, Colorado

Cathy Thompson knows her business needs an edge. A big part of that edge has to come from customer service.So Thompson, the owner of a State Farm Insurance agency in the Vail Valley, is an enthusiastic participant in the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program. Over the last ski season, about 100 local businesses, from bars to hotels to insurance agencies, signed up for an evaluation.The program, for which the Partnership hires an outside company, involves sending “secret shoppers” to stores and restaurants. For service businesses like Thompson’s, the shoppers make calls to determine what kind of service employees are providing. The people being “shopped” don’t know when they’re being graded.And lots of local businesses are apparently doing something right with their employee training programs.For the season just past, more than 65 percent of the businesses that signed up for the evaluations got 90 percent or better on their tests, a big improvement over the 45 percent of businesses that hit the 90 percent benchmark in the 2007-08 ski season.Suzanne Sloan, who runs the program for the Partnership, said a lot of participating businesses use the evaluations for continuing employee training. Others provide bonuses to employees who get great evaluations from the secret shoppers.”In this economy, customer service is part of your marketing,” Sloan said. All businesses that hit the 90 percent level on their evaluations get a certificate and a window sticker. Sloan said a lot of those certificates and stickers end up displayed prominently in store windows and behind cash registers.Lift Flooring Studio in Eagle-Vail is one of those businesses.”We have all the window stickers, and we have the plaques we’ve earned from the years we’ve been in the program,” Lift co-owner Lindsey Sarro said. “That way people can see the consistency of what we do.”Echoing Sloan’s remarks, Sarro said customers who value service over pure pricing will make their buying decisions, at least in part, on how they’re treated.”People have options in this valley,” she said. “I think this gives us an edge.”In a world where people can get insurance over the phone or on line, Thompson believes taking care of clients is crucial to her business. “You can always improve your customers’ experience,” Thompson said. “We work on it here. We study it. This is one more way to do that.” Thompson’s also a big believer in the Platinum Service Program, and an unabashed fan of the Partnership.”I love what (the Partnership) brings to the valley in the way of treating people right,” Thompson said. “I think it’s important.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

The annual celebration luncheon for the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service program is set for June 25 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Beaver Creek Chophouse. To learn more, call 970-476-4000.

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