Pique N Your Interest 

The power of a smile

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My fiancé was walking the dog down the Valley Trail several months ago. He’s a polite kind of guy and as he was taking his afternoon stroll with our little border collie he nodded hello to the people passing by, as you do.

Halfway through his walk he was stopped by a lady who was shocked he had acknowledged her.

You’re the first person who has said hello to me today even though I’ve passed dozens on the trail, she told him – thank you. She said when she came to Whistler 20 years ago everyone said hello when you passed them on the street, in the park or along the trails. Sadly, she lamented, that’s just not the case anymore.

His simple "hello" had changed her day and made her smile.

I was reminded of the story when a colleague told me about the experience her family was having in the resort while on vacation this past week.

They’re having a good vacation, spending time on the mountains and visiting family. The mountain hosts have been wonderful, showing them places and giving them helpful tips. The skiing has been incredible too, and they are thrilled with their experience on the mountain.

Elsewhere, however, the service has been, dare I say it, mediocre.

Their general impression of the resort and the people here is one of casual indifference. While not overtly offensive or rude, people haven’t been particularly friendly either. The service, for want of a better word, is bland. That’s not to say every experience was like that, it’s just their overall impression.

This is a family of six that has taken a ski vacation every year for the last 20 years, always in Europe.

They said they would not return to Whistler except for the fact that they have family here and because the skiing is great.

Now it’s the end of the season. And no one knows that more than the people who work for Pique . We’re tired. We’ve worked hard this winter. We’re looking forward to things slowing down just a tad in the shoulder season so we have time to clean our desks, organize our lives, and de-stress. (Alright, maybe I’m the only one in the office in desperate need to clean her desk but you get the point.)

It’s been a long and wonderful winter. We’re ready for some calm.

And now it’s raining in the valley and that’s makes us all a little blue. I can appreciate that some people around town are feeling indifferent right now, that they’re feeling a little fed up.

It’s quite another thing, however, when our guests are sensing that too.

But the question is: are we losing customers because we’re too bland, too indifferent to them?

The theories abound on why Whistler has been experiencing five years of steady decline.

It starts with 9/11, throw in the Canadian dollar factor, and top it off with rain to the valley floor last year. All factors beyond our control.

But are we losing control of the things that are actually in our control, like stellar customer service?

I don’t have the answers. But there is a group in the community who thinks they do and they say it starts with an attitude adjustment.

Change your attitude, and you’ll reverse the trend. That’s the gist of the message from the group of grassroots meetings sponsored by Landmark Education.

It’s an interesting theory, one that they say is proven to work.

Others believe we need to do more – more dollars for resort marketing, more time spent on diversifying our product, more things for our guests to do when they’re here.

Does any of that matter though when you get to Whistler and you’re met with casual indifference?

So maybe, just maybe, it starts with a genuine smile and a question: "how can I make your experience in Whistler a great one?".

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