Whistler Experience program wraps with jump in participation 

Chamber hopes to offer content year-round after first season of revamped program

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Restaurateur and investor Vikram Vij addresses the crowd at the Fairmont Chateau as part of the Chamber of Commerce's Whistler Experience training program.
  • Photo submitted
  • Restaurateur and investor Vikram Vij addresses the crowd at the Fairmont Chateau as part of the Chamber of Commerce's Whistler Experience training program.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce's revamped service training program, the Whistler Experience, recently wrapped up with a 33-per-cent jump in participation.

Formerly known as the Spirit Program, the Whistler Experience launched in the fall with a renewed focus on delivering engaging, hands-on customer service training backed by a new partnership with the University of Victoria.

The Chamber brought in several big-name speakers to deliver workshops, including restaurateur and Dragons' Den investor Vikram Vij, and offered content spearheaded by award-winning UVic professor Mark Colgate. The program updates came as a result of an eight-month long needs assessment that found the community was looking for dynamic programming combined with practical tools to deliver excellent customer service experiences.

"By all measures, the first-year redux of the Whistler Experience program was a huge success," said Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin. "The one metric that summarizes the success would be that last year we had just under 4,200 attendees go through the courses and the program. This year we had almost 5,600 people."

Many of Whistler's largest employers send their staff through the Whistler Experience program, which offers reduced-rate Spirit Passes to participants. Tourism Whistler's senior manager of HR, Sara Hardie, explained how crucial it is to achieving a resort-wide customer service strategy.

"We are working to create a service strategy for the organization that is based on our internal best practices and philosophies, which will take into consideration the framework that was provided through the Whistler Experience's 8 Moments of Power training," wrote Hardie in an email provided by the chamber.

"As a resort it is important that we are working towards the same goals in customer service and we want to ensure our internal service standards are aligned."

Key components of this year's program were two new training courses offered to senior resort staff to create a service-oriented culture in their own workplace. Litwin sees it as one of the major reasons behind the program's success in its first year.

"For the aspiring leaders in the resort who want to take that next step, who want to develop their own skill set in managing people and working better in teams, now they've got a toolkit they can draw from with the Whistler Experience program," he said.

Although participants can get their certification online at any time of year, Litwin said he hopes to eventually offer live training sessions not just in the fall, but year-round.

Looking ahead, he also envisions Whistler as a destination for customer service professionals looking to gain high-level training that will serve them throughout their careers.

"What we hope (to have happen) in another two or three years is have national awareness around what we're trying to do in Whistler, and knowing that if you come here for a season you can get that experience on your resume and that it's an investment in your future employment opportunities, too," he said.

"We want the world to look at Whistler as a resort that has created the leading service solution. That's the vision for this program and I think we took a huge step forward this year."

Demand was so high for Colgate's workshops, Litwin said, that another session has been added on March 26. Visit www.whistlerchamber.com/Spirit-Pass/The-Whistler-Experience.html for more information.

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