Vail Valley Voices: Vail town employees making a difference |

Vail Valley Voices: Vail town employees making a difference

Suzanne Silverthorn
Vail, CO, Colorado

On any given day, town of Vail bus drivers, parking attendants and community hosts interact with as many as 20,000 visitors who come to Vail. Often, they’re responsible for a guest’s first impression as well as their last.

Recognizing the role of the front-line staff in creating a warm welcome upon arrival and a sincere thank-you when guests leave, the town has elevated its focus in enhancing customer service and guest relations – and it’s paying off.

Weekly guest-satisfaction surveys conducted by Vail Resorts during the 2009-10 season consistently produced high ratings in the areas of “bus driver friendliness and helpfulness” with unprecedented scores of 4.9 on a scale of 1 to 5.

The town also has beefed up the community host program. Volunteer participation has more than doubled from previous years, with 30 active hosts taking shifts in winter and summer. Because of the increased participation, the program was expanded to include coverage on Fridays as well as Saturdays and Sundays.

As a result, weekly satisfaction ratings for “guest-service personnel” also increased during the 2009-10 season. If you’d like to join the community host program and share your knowledge of Vail with our guests, call 970-479-2332 or apply online at

While revenues and expenditures for 2010 have been budgeted conservatively by the town, enhancements to customer service and guest relations have been included within the current operating budget.

Guest-services training and recognition, additional coordination of information services and sponsorship of guided walking tours to showcase public art and Vail’s master planning are examples of those low-cost, high-impact initiatives.

With redevelopment substantially complete, there’s no better time than now, the town has reasoned, to call upon Vail’s work force to join in extending the community’s hospitality to build brand loyalty and a desire for Vail’s guests to return.

This heightened role is enthusiastically endorsed by the Town Council and is a focus that will continue year-round.

Leading by example

Town employees are already known for doing extraordinary things on and off the clock. So when the Town Council announced the townwide focus to deliver exceptional guest relations and customer service, a weekly recognition program was created and examples began pouring in, including a heartwarming act of kindness by a police


It started with a phone call to the Police Department’s lost-and-found line to inquire about a camera. Sgt. Samantha Graves happened to field the inquiry. And so the story begins.

After hearing a description of the missing camera, Graves sifted through the inventory of lost items and found what she hoped would be a match. She asked the caller to describe the type of images the camera contained. As Graves downloaded the pictures, images of a newborn baby appeared. It wasn’t a match for the caller, but Graves immediately realized how devastated the baby’s parents must have been to have lost their precious photos.

“I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes,” Graves said. It hit home. While she and her husband, Larry, are expecting their second child in June, she also thought back to a childhood memory when her family’s home was burglarized and most of their photos were needlessly taken, never to be recovered.

Driven by her conscience, Graves studied the photos more carefully, hoping for a lead. After zooming in on several images, Graves finally came across a name tag on the father’s shirt that included the name of the hospital in St. Louis. Graves was able to convince an employee of the hospital to contact the parents, who were elated to hear their camera had been recovered.

Laura and Chris Steines had lost their camera during a visit to Vail in August as they strolled through Lionshead with their baby, Charlie. Five months later, the Steines have their camera back and are forever grateful.

In an e-mail sent to the police chief commending Graves’ actions, Laura shares her gratitude: “Although I have told this story many times in the week since I received the camera, I am still deeply touched by the extra effort she went to so that I have the photos that are so precious to me and cannot be replaced.”

Graves has worked for the town since 1997, first as a dispatcher, then as a police officer and detective and now as a sergeant. She and Larry have a 4-year-old son, Tyler.

If you’d like to share an example

of exceptional service you’ve received from a town employee, please contact Pam Brandmeyer, assistant town manager, at 970-

479-2113 or pbrandmeyer@ Employees have been recognized weekly for their outstanding service.

Suzanne Silverthorn is the town of Vail community information officer.

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