December 17, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

The forgotten equation 

The role of employees in Whistler’s value proposition

Boiled Frog Syndrome is a staple analogy used by human resource experts that goes like this: A live frog placed in a kettle of hot water will jump out, but a frog placed in lukewarm water will stay still and tolerate increasing heat until it will literally be boiled. The analogy is used to illustrate the effect of complacency on organizations that are deteriorating but do not take action until they are faced with disaster.

In many ways, Whistler’s reaction to declining service standards reflects such a situation.

In an attempt to throw the frog directly into the boiling water, Whistler has embraced what’s known as the "Value Proposition".

Articulated in a letter to the editor by Tourism Whistler Chairman, Rick Clare, the value proposition is beautiful in its simplicity: Service X Price = Value. Clare doesn’t take sole credit for the model, as he explained that the concept of value had been on the minds of Tourism Whistler’s other board members for some time. It was formulated at a meeting this last June to address concerns in the business community. As Clare says, Whistler needed a way to explain guests’ "expectation of value".

In a community with an infrastructure built to world-class standards, on some of the most expensive real estate in the country, supporting our amenities takes big bucks. When it comes time to pay the bills, prices can only go so low and discounting can only be so deep.

Clare, who has lived in Whistler since 1980 and been a business owner here since 1984, offers some historical perspective and notes that because of rapid growth over the last 10 years, Whistler may have lost touch with the guest. "We didn’t have the depth of service because we grew so fast," he says.

Other local business owners agree; the resort has fallen victim to its own success and it was time to address the complacency.

Jill Dunnigan, co-owner of Extremely Canadian, says what many business owners think: "We used to think that being a great resort meant offering consistent snowfall, great amenities and a variety of services, and that was enough to keep us on top…. But it’s not."

Clare makes no excuses for the current business climate. "The last two years are not an anomaly, this is the reality. We can’t blame everything on September 11 th and a higher dollar. The problem is that we haven’t kept our service standards up with the pricing of our product." He added that people want value. It doesn’t matter what the price is as long as people walk away saying "that was amazing."

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