Vail Chamber: Collective commitment to guest service sets Vail apart (column)
February 25, 2018
In the 20 years I've spent working in highly seasonal environments where business levels rise and fall dramatically and attracting and keeping loyal guests and motivated staff can be competitive (sometimes even cutthroat), my experience over the past year and a half in Vail has been unique.
Having spent the first years of my hotel career in San Diego, followed by time working in Beaver Creek, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Vail, I've found one of the true differentiators of Vail to be the holistic view of the guest experience that is common across our community. During my time here, I've attended meetings that included the Vail Chamber & Business Association board, Vail Town Council, Vail hotel general managers, Vail Mountain leadership team, Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Valley Partnership, etc., and a common message carrying through from leaders in the community is the Vail brand is more than how good of a time our guests have on the mountain or out on the town.
It's the sum of everything they experience while they're here. Seeing things in this way leads to a stronger overall guest experience and ultimately greater customer loyalty.
In a recent Vail Chamber meeting, our board was treated to mock service training by a well-known Vail restaurateur. I was impressed that this restaurant requires new team members to pass a quiz proving their knowledge of important services and landmarks throughout the town before starting work there. Many of the required bits of knowledge necessary for passing the test have nothing to do with what takes place within the walls of that particular operation.
“Through emphasizing elements of service such as providing a warm welcome, demonstrating a sense of urgency and showing genuine gratitude for the guest’s business, he demonstrated a commitment to world-class service at one of the town’s more casual eateries. I was struck by how aligned the training taking place down the street is with the way I think about and teach service to my own team.”
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This organization's focus on ensuring its staff is able to contribute to the guests' experience after they've left the establishment was a good reminder for me that successfully winning life-long Vail guests is about more than what our businesses do individually.
As the manager went on to explain expectations of his team, the emphasis was on a lot more than providing patrons with their food and beverage. This individual clearly understood that being successful in service requires more than slinging burgers and beers.
Through emphasizing elements of service such as providing a warm welcome, demonstrating a sense of urgency and showing genuine gratitude for the guest's business, he demonstrated a commitment to world-class service at one of the town's more casual eateries. I was struck by how aligned the training taking place down the street is with the way I think about and teach service to my own team.
Truly winning guests is about how well we connect with them. When the guests or customers show up, are they warmly greeted and do they feel as if we've been waiting for them to arrive? Do we appear eager to serve when the opportunity arises? Do we anticipate the customer's needs and deliver the service before the guest thinks to ask? Does the guest truly feel that there's nothing more important to us in the moment than ensuring their needs are met?
Finally, when the transaction is done, does the guest feel as if their patronage was appreciated and have we invited them to come back?
If we can answer "yes" to all of these questions, then we've gotten part way to reaching what our resort town's pioneers knew so well to be its potential. What this community has done right for more than 50 years and what gets us the rest of the way to deserving the "world class resort" title so often applied to Vail is making the bigger picture look effortless.
Our guests see the whole Vail experience through one lens, and the better our teams understand this, the more we honor the legacy of this amazing place in the present. I'm encouraged by our current community leaders who invariably weigh the guest experience and protecting the Vail brand as they take on complex issues such as employee housing, short-term rentals and, yes, free or paid summer parking. Maintaining a holistic approach to community decisions that is rooted in protecting the guest experience honors those who built this amazing place and will ensure its continued success over the years to come.
"What Vail has done, brilliantly, is present skiing as, basically, a non-sweaty sport. Vail was built in sweat, is run with sweat but run so that the customers don't have to see the sweaty part. Its straight-arrow hiring practices and concern with control have offended some of skiing's freer spirits, but it must be remembered that Vail is skiing's only successful new town. Everyone who has started a ski resort in the past 30 years has always talked about building a whole new town around the skiing facility, but Vail is the only one that pulled it off."
— John Jerome, Skiing magazine, November 1976
Zach Meyers is general manager of The Arrabelle at Vail Square and is a board member of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. The Vail Chamber & Business Association is a business advocacy group in Vail and a communications outlet for businesses that want to have a voice in community affairs. For more information, call 970-477-0075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.