The City of Seaside Visitors Bureau kicked off a campaign in Spring of 2014 designed to highlight and recognize excellence in customer service in Seaside’s hospitality-related businesses. This campaign, aligned with National Travel and Tourism Week, offers valuable information to local businesses and allows business owners to measure how their front-line staff stacks up as Seaside hosts nearly one million visitors each year.
We’re not the Better Business Bureau or an affiliate of any third party rating system (think AAA, Fodor’s Travel Guides or Lonely Planet), but as the official marketing arm for tourism promotion in Seaside, Oregon, we have a vested interest in the visitor experience – and we hope it’s always a good one. My staff and I have the fortunate job of getting to assist thousands of prospective travelers every month. While we do see many of these people face to face when they roll into town, our interaction is often as simple as an incoming phone call and a couple of quick questions. While we too focus on good service and a helpful attitude, that limited pre-trip (or just arriving in town) interaction often makes us wonder if the visitor left satisfied once they made it to Seaside, stayed overnight, dined locally or bought the latest Seaside, Oregon t-shirt.
With a little help from our friends at CEDR and Clatsop Community College (they helped us find three astute secret shoppers), we set out to determine just that. We promised our individual participants that individual ratings would be for their eyes alone, but our ten participants filled a nice cross-section of hospitality businesses in Seaside. With one hotel, two restaurants, three specialty food shops, two retail stores, a gas station and a review of a few public service professionals, our shoppers had what we felt could amount to a typical visitor experience in Seaside.
How’d our 10 businesses stack up? Our overall service rating graded businesses on six core categories (store appearance, greeting, staff attention, staff appearance, selling and care for the customer, and promptness) that weighted much like school grades. We won’t be serving as valedictorians just yet (that requires straight As), but the average cumulative score of all businesses, measuring all categories, came in at 85%, or a very solid “B” grade.
Our businesses were best when it came to greeting the customer and scored a pretty impressive 98%. Stores also rated well on appearance, which came in second with a 90% rating. From here, things started to drop off a bit. Both staff appearance and promptness scored an 83% while staff attention barely avoided a “C” with an 80% score. The area our businesses have the most room for improvement is within the category of selling and care, which rated just 78%. Our “shoppers” told us they had to work for what they purchased, and ultimately felt like they could have been paid better attention by the businesses that they were reviewing.
It’s hard to label this the end-all, be-all report for how Seaside is doing when it comes to customer service, but the Visitors Bureau staff feels like this was a pretty good first attempt at measuring the most integral part of a business transaction. We definitely plan on running this program again. If you are interested in participating in next year’s Customer Service Awards program, please sign up here and we will keep you posted as the date draws near.
Jon Rahl is the director of the Seaside Visitors Bureau and assistant general manager of the Seaside Civic & Convention Center. Have a thought or a comment based around tourism? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.