Vail Daily column: Business lessons from lift operators
Being a lift operator, or “liftie,” in a ski town might not be the most glorious or sought-after position on the mountain; after all, these folks often miss powder days while they work to ensure that locals and visitors alike can access the mountain in a safe and orderly manner. But, being a “liftie” has its benefits; plenty of time on the mountain to enjoy skiing and riding, working outside and providing a first (and on-going) impression to our guests as a friendly face throughout the day.
I’ve been overly impressed with the lift operators and ticket scanners this season. It’s apparent that Vail Resorts has hired well and invested in guest service training; the positive interactions with guests don’t happen by accident. The ticket scanners have continuously welcomed guests and greeted them by name, and the lift operators have been cheerful, welcoming and engaging at the top and bottom of most every lift.
Kudos to the “lifties” and ticket scanners and thanks for unknowingly sharing some lessons that we can all apply in our work lives.
A few business lessons we can all learn from lift operators and apply to our operations:
Greet people by name: Not every business has the benefit of scanning a ski pass to immediately know the name of their customer, but many of us do know our customers by name. Restaurants, banks, professional service organizations, activity providers and others are all able to greet guests by name. Ticket scanners delivering a warm welcome to children and adults alike provide a great start to the ski day simply by greeting us by name. It sets the tone for a day on the hill, just as it can set the tone for experiences in other businesses.
Be cheerful: Seems like common sense, and almost too easy. The fact is, people generally like to do business with people they like, and people generally tend to like others who are cheerful and seem to be enjoying what they do. Being cheerful is a choice, and exuding a cheerful demeanor and positive attitude is often contagious. Our customers and guests are on vacation and we’re fortunate enough to live in this place for a season or a year or a lifetime; a cheerful demeanor in business increases likability and as noted earlier, people like to do business with people they like.
Say hello: Another easy lesson from lift operators, and another lesson that can be easily applied to any business. A simple “hello” or other appropriate welcome when guests enter your establishment or place of business sets the stage for a positive interaction. We have all experienced times when you walk in an office (or a bank or a retail store) and we are not greeted or welcomed. Common sense? Yes. Impactful? Yes. Do our lift operators do this on a regular basis and does it make a difference in the guest experience? Yes.
Be proactive: I’m fortunate to ski with my 7-year-old daughter on a regular basis. The lift operators make a point to help children get on the lift, slow down the lift if needed and ask if we need assistance. We’re at the stage where we don’t need help, but the simple act of being proactive by asking if we need any assistance in loading the lift helps enhance our day on the mountain. All businesses can be proactive to address potential customer pitfalls.
Pay attention to the little details: Lift operators are often seen shoveling snow or raking the snow at the on/off areas of the lift. This might seem like a small detail, but it ensures a pleasant loading/unloading experience and helps prevent icy terrain. More importantly, it’s a small detail that shows a dedication to the guest experience. Every business operation has small details that make a noticeable difference.
Vacation memories are made by the individual experiences that make up our trip — that might consist of a great powder day on the mountain, but just as often it is made up of someone taking the time to provide great service.
We can all provide great service, on the job or in our daily lives. Take a moment and snap a picture for a guest so mom (or dad) can be in the family photo at the covered bridge. Stop and offer directions to visitors. Offer recommendations to those on the bus wondering where to dine or grab a drink. Help that guest on the mountain looking intently at their trail map and wondering where to go next. Share your local knowledge and apply the above lessons from our “lifties” to help make someone’s vacation more memorable.
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.