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Vail Valley Partnership program focused on service

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Everyone talks about great service in the Vail Valley. But when paying customers are in short supply, businesses get serious about treating people well. Suzanne Sloan’s job is to help businesses rate, and improve, their customer service.

Sloan runs the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program, which sends “mystery shoppers” to various businesses around the valley to judge what kind of service front-line employees are giving customers. Clients of the program range from lodges to shops to the town of Vail and Vail Resorts.

All those clients get evaluations of their employees, which can then be used for training.



But “shopping” a bus driver and a hotel’s front desk are very different things.

“When I sign someone up I get as much information as possible,” Sloan said. Based on that information, businesses can customize the kind of evaluation they’ll receive.



At a hotel, for example, a mystery shopper might check to see what kind of information front desk people have about future room availability or if any sort of package deal can be had. Hotel evaluations also include how the lobby looks and how guests are greeted.

Bus drivers are evaluated on how friendly they are to riders, how clean their vehicles are and similar criteria.

Retail shops and restaurants are a little more straightforward. In those cases, the mystery shoppers will actually have a meal or make a small purchase.



Rocks Modern Grill, the restaurant in the Beaver Creek Lodge, participates in the program, with mystery shoppers coming in once a month. Lodge general manager Simon Chen said those frequent evaluations are an important part of training at the restaurant.

“It continually challenges us,” Chen said. “If someone does really well, we have rewards in place. If they don’t, we use it as a coaching opportunity.”

The Beaver Creek Chophouse and other restaurants owned by Brian Nolan’s company also receive frequent visits.

Sarah Franke of the Chophouse said it’s important to be evaluated by people that no one at the restaurants knows.

“If I come in for a meal I know I’m going to get a great meal,” Franke said. But mystery diners, she said, give restaurant management an accurate picture of what’s happening.

Businesses with the highest scores on their evaluations are invited to an awards luncheon in April.

“It’s struck me how proud people are of their awards,” said Sloan, who’s in her first year running the program. “A lot of winners display their awards at the front door.”

More businesses have participated in the program since it began in 2001. Last year, more than 100 businesses participated.

“It’s just a great asset,” Franke said. “We really appreciate the opportunity.”


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