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Whistler Chamber examines value of customer service

New report validates focus on service enhancement
STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin addresses the room during Whistler Experience training in 2014. photo submitted

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce's Whistler Experience program has received lots of attention since being launched last year — it was most recently featured in a piece on Forbes Magazine's website — and a new report put together by the chamber helps prove its importance.

The results of the chamber's Examining the Importance of Customer Service Training report might seem self-explanatory — in short, that good service is good for business — but according to Mark Colgate, the Whistler Experience program's architect, staying consistent is where things get tough.

"It's just a great reminder that even though it's easy to talk about and it sounds incredibly simple, doing it day in, day out, for every customer, every interaction, is incredibly tough," he said.

The report shows that customer service provides its best rewards to those who practice it most diligently, Colgate said.

"If you provide 'good' service, maybe about one in five of your customers is going to recommend you, but if you provide 'great' service, it's like nine out of 10," he said.

"Ninety per cent of customers are going to recommend you, so 'good' service, in terms of recommendations at least, it doesn't get you much further than providing 'bad' service. It might not be much negative word of mouth, but it's certainly not going to give that positive word of mouth, with people proactively recommending you."

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has supported the Whistler Experience program by providing discounted passes for locals. The mountain operator has already put 1,500 of its employees through the training so far, with noticeable results.

"We focused on our guest services division, our lift operations... and then our food and beverage division," said Joel Chevalier, WB's VP of employee experience.

"I've only heard positive (feedback). There are definitely elements of the training program that resonated with a lot of our staff, and they've been engaged with it in a really cool way and it's left them with a great sense of pride."

Chevalier said he thinks the program will go a long way towards ensuring Whistler maintains its reputation for impeccable service.

"This is people's dream destination, and guests come here from all over the world, and so our service should be top notch," he said.

"It doesn't mean that it has to be white gloves and Grey Poupon, but it does mean that everyone that works here and everyone that lives here should be focused on making this experience the best ever.

"I think (the Whistler Experience) will be a major player and a major contributor to the community getting there."

Chamber CEO Val Litwin said the report was necessary to illustrate to businesses why customer service can be a game changer for a business model.

"Whistler should be excited about — and proud of — this education partnership," Litwin said in an email.

"But given the tight labour market right now, I'm most excited for businesses to leverage this as a way to attract and retain team members. We have to let potential recruits across Canada know they can now gain a world-class skill set right here in Whistler. Come to work, play and learn."

Litwin also wanted to acknowledge the support that Joey Gibbons and the Gibbons Group have shown for the program.

"They have been in the people business for over 35 years and they know that a happy, supported and educated team leads to a great atmosphere, and therefore, happy guests. They believe in connecting passion with opportunity and that's why they're supporting us in our initiative to create the ultimate customer-service training program that aims to build a community of leaders," Litwin said.

"At Gibbons their lofty goal is to create more seconds of happiness for the people they meet, the place they live and the team that surround them. They're proud to be connected to a program that aims to elevate Whistler, support the people working here and provide a world-class service to all its guests."

The program will be highlighted, and is the topic of a workshop at the upcoming BC Tourism Industry Conference in Vancouver next month.

The full report can be found on the Chamber's website.