Whistler Blackcomb shares customer service secrets 

Whistler business owners take part in Chamber excursion

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Whistler Blackcomb executives took 30 resort businesspeople on a tour of their workplace — the ski runs and The Village —to share the secrets of how they ensure hundreds of thousands of visitors to the resort have the best possible experience.

The tour, Feb.3, is part of a new program by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce called Business Excursions. It allows successful Whistler companies to share their secrets on different aspects of running the business. It is also a chance for managers and staff around the resort to learn, network, ask questions and replicate successes to enhance Whistler's competitive advantages.

Participants moved from The Cabin at Blackcomb's Base II to various points aound the mountains to listen to staff specialists describee what they do and ask questions.

First off, Joel Chevalier, Whistler Blackcomb's director of employee experience, explained that they catered to different customer bases with differing needs and the aim was to meet them all. This means that employee training, morale and motivation is essential.

"Some people want more grooming, some want less grooming. It's up to us to strike a balance," he said, adding that the emphasis at all points was fun.

After further explaining how the company was impacted by how they hire and train employees, the participants moved to the village, where Mark Beaton, the retail manager for Whistler Blackcomb described the essentials for sales and products. Further up the mountain, Mike St. Eve described the challenges and logistics of staffing and customer satisfaction in terms of Lift Ops and getting people to where they want to be on the runs, and Kira Cailes of ski patrol spoke about putting things right when something goes wrong for a visitor.

Chamber President Fiona Famulak said the program was an extension of its support and engagement between members. The program kicked off in December 2011 at Four Seasons Resort.

"We facilitate a peer learning experience for our members — and non-members if they would like to attend — where they learn from local executives, local companies, how to deliver an outstanding guest experience every time," she said. "We want this program to be a reminder that we cannot control weather, we cannot control the exchange rate, but we can control the (customer) experience we create and how we deliver it."

Famulak said each Business Excursion is different. "The feedback was exceptional (after the Four Seasons Excursion). The people enjoyed learning from their peers, particularly those who have a great reputation," she said. "In addition to learning from the host, there were lots of interesting connections made amongst audience members."

The manager of Tandoori Grill, Naresh Madaan, has participated in both tours, gaining insight about the staffing and service operations of two of the largest employers in Whistler.

"(At Four Seasons) it was about what makes the whole thing very 'five star'. I learned quite a bit from them — they have created a culture among employees from the CEO to lower management down that cares about their people and that culture is taken to the customer," he said.

Madaan explained the importance of hearing the message of customer service and staff motivation repeated.

"We all know these things, but it's refreshing your memories," he said.

Josh Anderson, guest services co-ordinator at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, said this was the first time they'd taken part.

"It was really interesting since their focus for guest services at Whistler Blackcomb is for having fun with it, they are a lot more easy going than you'd see with other companies... It keeps it fresh," he said.

"From our point of view we don't do slang and crack a joke with guests... We're more straight up, that's how we were taught when we first opened up the centre."

Anderson said both approaches to customer service are important.

The next event — on the subject of design and communications — is due to take place in April, details will be available closer to the date on the chamber's website, www.whistlerchamber.com.

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