Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program honors top performers | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program honors top performers

Bonfire Brewing uses the Vail Valley Partnership's Platinum Service Program to maintain its service level. The Eagle-based brewery is also deeply involved in the community, from concerts to civic life.

EAGLE COUNTY — The days of "smile schools" are long past in the Vail Valley. These days, businesses have to be more engaged in getting employees to provide great service.

Part of that effort is visits from mystery shoppers, who evaluate service on a personal level. The Vail Valley Partnership has for several years provided those shoppers through its Platinum Service Program.

The Partnership recently released a list of 14 local businesses that ran up scores of 90 percent of more for the 2017-18 ski season for at least six visits by an independent company contracted by the Partnership.

Two businesses on the list — Slifer Designs and the Double Diamond Ski Shop — earned 100 percent scores. Another pair — Bonfire Brewing and the Vail Valley Partnership — had scores of more than 100 percent.

Reached at the brewery in Eagle, Bonfire co-owner Amanda Jessen said the extra points came from some extra credit questions on the shopper surveys. One of those — the time it took for service — was scored every time a mystery shopper came in, she said.

Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the extra credit scores boil down to a matter of doing more than expected.

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"You need to do the core things people expect," Romer said. "Where you stand out is in exceeding expectations."

Primary Component

Romer said customer service itself may be an outdated term. What's important, he added, is the entire customer experience. Service is the primary component of that experience.

Providing great service is tough, Romer said, thanks to many businesses being chronically under-staffed.

In that environment, the old model of holding a classroom session — commonly called "smile school" — doesn't really work anymore, he said.

"Forced fun never works," Romer said. "There needs to be a continued, re-emphasized model of customer service."

Mystery shoppers can help businesses maintain those efforts. While the Platinum Service Program isn't as widely used as it once was — when it was part of the requirements for merchant ski passes — Romer said the program is well-used, particularly by local businesses. Bigger businesses, including national chains, tend to use their own evaluation and training programs.

Jessen said Bonfire Brewing takes pride in being a good part of the community. Maintaining great service is a key part of that, she said.

"We're growing," Jessen said. With more employees — some of whom haven't worked long at Bonfire — it's important to make sure everyone is focused on what's important.

Focusing on service isn't just for for-profit businesses, either. Among the most recent top performers in the program are the Thrifty Shoppe locations in Edwards and Eagle. Those shops provide most of the funding for Vail Valley Cares, a non-denominational Christian organization that uses proceeds from the shops to help fund dozens of valley nonprofit groups.

Vail Valley Cares director Greg Osteen said this is the third consecutive year both Thrifty Shoppe locations have made the top-performers list.

That's important, he said.

"Thrift stores are not usually known for customer service," Osteen said. "But (employees) love it."

Part of the attraction is that Osteen will buy lunch for a store's crew if a mystery shopper gives a 100 percent score. A poor score is a chance to talk to the crew about how to do better.

And, Osteen added, a good public image is essential for Vail Valley Cares.

"We survive on donations," Osteen said. "If our people take care of people, they'll take care of us."

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

The best

Here are the Vail Valley businesses that earned 90 percent scores or better during the 2017-18 round of the Vail Valley Partnership’s Platinum Service Program.

• Bonfire Brewing (103.3 percent).

• Vail Valley Partnership (102 percent).

• Double Diamond Ski Shop (100 percent).

• Slifer Designs (100 percent).

• Beaver Liquors (99.6 percent).

• West Vail Liquor Mart (99.4 percent).

• Base Mountain Sports (97.7 percent).

• Edwards Station (97.3 percent).

• The Thrifty Shoppe, Eagle (97.1 percent).

• Vail Public Library (97 percent).

• The Thrifty Shoppe, Edwards (96.5 percent).

• Terra Bistro (95.5 percent).

• Vail Mountain Lodge Vitality Center (94 percent).

• Ski Butlers (92.5 percent).

Source: Vail Valley Partnership