Vail Daily column: What business are you in?
Merry Christmas. As you celebrate by opening presents and spending time with family and friends, try to keep in mind the best things in life aren’t things but rather the people and places and memories created by spending time together.
Much like the paradox of the best things in life not really being things, businesses can reflect during the holiday season (or after you survive the crunch of the holiday season) and focus on what business we are really in.
“What business are you in?” is a seemingly easy question. Storefronts in our village cores might answer that they are in the retail business. Restaurants might logically answer they are in the dining business. Banks, accountants, architects, engineers, marketing firms and numerous others might answer that they are in the professional services business. Activity providers might think they are in the snowmobile or snowshoe tour business, and event producers could logically assume they are in the event business. Similarly, a community organization like Vail Valley Partnership might be in the chamber/destination marketing/economic development business.
PROVIDING GREAT EXPERIENCES
All well and fine, and technically accurate; but aren’t we all really in the business of providing great experiences to our customers? That storefront isn’t just selling a souvenir to a guest — they are helping guests remember their vacation memories. Restaurants are not just providing food and beverage to their customers — they are helping enhance the vacation experience. Professional services business do more than providing financial or marketing services — they are helping other businesses and local citizens. The common theme: Regardless of our line of business, we’re all in the business of helping people.
As a community organization, what business is Vail Valley Partnership in? Much like the examples above, we’re more than just a group that provides chamber of commerce, destination marketing and economic development services. Rather, we are in the solution business. Our initiatives and programs offer solutions to the business community. We know that without a strong business climate, everything fails. We work hard to ensure our programming offers solutions to the needs of our members and the community at large.
There is a different mindset between offering products or services and providing solutions. Solutions require a combination of service, product and customer service. Essentially, all businesses need to blend their products and services based on the needs of each individual customer, which is where customer service comes in. What works for one might not work for another, and each individual customer might have slightly different expectations and needs. Being solution focused rather than product focused is really just a subtle shift on customer service.
I came across a great article published by American Express Open Forum related to easy ways to improve customer service. Recognizing the importance of service is the first step in providing solutions and not just services. It’s a basic refresher, but a reminder to focus on service may just make the difference to your business, and to our guests, this holiday season.
“The best strategy for building sales in a difficult economy isn’t lower prices — it’s loyal customers. Smart business owners cultivate strong customer relationships by focusing on great customer service from the first touch. In fact, providing exceptional customer service is the top tactic that businesses are using for the upcoming holiday season,” according to the Amex article. “Providing good customer service is integral to any successful business. Taking care of your customers helps encourage them to continue buying from your business through good times and bad.”
Sixty-five percent of consumers blame poor customer service as the reason they stopped buying from a business (according to the 2014 State of Multichannel Customer Service Survey). Business leaders such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder) leaves an empty chair at meetings in order to remind everyone who is responsible for the conversation in the first place: the customer. This initiative fosters a “customer first” environment, encouraging every department to focus on what — and who — is most important.
GET AN ADVANTAGE
Businesses looking for a subtle market advantage should consider what line of business you are really in and should consider moving toward a solution-based relationship with your customers. This not only creates loyal, repeat visitors but has the added bonus of positioning your business as a “must do” experience rather than a utilitarian experience.
You can find numerous useful business articles on customer engagement and other business topics at American Express Open Forum (www.openforum.com).
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.