Service program luncheon celebrates the Vail Valley’s best | VailDaily.com

Service program luncheon celebrates the Vail Valley’s best

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Scott N. Miller/smiller@vaildaily.comHelene McManus, left, and Nina Velez, center, of Slifer Designs showroom came to the Beaver Creek Chophouse Thursday for the Vail Valley Partnership's annual Platinum Service Program awards luncheon. At the end of the celebration, partnership CEO Michael Kurz, right, awarded Slifer Designs for having the program's top score for the ski season just past.
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BEAVER CREEK – Even without an award on the line, Helene McManus and Nina Velez do what they do every day: give great service to Vail Valley customers.

McManus and Velez work at Slifer Designs’ showroom in Edwards. The company Thursday won the top prize in the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program awards luncheon at the Beaver Creek Chophouse.

The program uses “secret shoppers” to evaluate customer service at shops, lodges, restaurants and service businesses. Businesses that scored 90 percent or more on their evaluations were invited to the luncheon. Slifer Designs set a new local record for an evaluation, with a score of just more than 98 out of 100.

“We’re passionate about what we do,” Velez said. “We really believe in building relationships.”

While about 100 local businesses have participated the last two ski seasons, the number hitting the 90 percent threshold jumped dramatically for the 2008-09 season. About 45 businesses hit the 90 percent mark in 2007-08. For the season just past, 62 businesses hit the mark.

While managers and owners knew the evaluations were coming and what would be evaluated, no one knew when those tests were coming.

“You’re just always on your toes,” said Pernilla Paquette of Manor Vail Lodge.

Co-worker Francesca DiMieri said her evaluation – which rang up a score of more than 96 – provided her with good information about her skills.

“I learned what I did well and what I could improve on,” DiMieri said.

Several businesses that pay for the evalutions use them to reward employees. Aalta Sports owner Darwin McCutcheon said employees at his stores are rewarded for good scores. But the evaluations serve a more important purpose, he said.

“We have to demand great service,” McCutcheon said. “It’s becoming more and more important all the time.”

McCutcheon said he’s an avid reader of trade publications and books about improving a small business, and the customer service theme has really come to the forefront over the last few years. It’s something McCutcheon and general manager Randy Galer have taken to heart.

“This really validates what we’re trying to do,” Galer said.

And, for a small business, customer service can be the difference between making it or not, McCutcheon said.

“Customer service will get us through the times we’re in now,” he said. “And people who come to Vail and Beaver Creek expect it.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.