Hospitality Industry

Still Room for Improvement in Customer Service

June 19, 2015 | by Jon Rahl

Five years ago, as I was getting settled with my new job and situated in Seaside, the mantra was that the summer season begins on July 4. And I believe for many, that sentiment still holds strong. School is out, the weather is phenomenal and we have a plethora of events that bring droves of people to town. Yet on the heels of record visitation over the past 12 months, it’s safe to say that we are more of a year-round destination than we’ve ever been before. Regardless of where you sit on that spectrum, when do you look at your business and find ways to improve?
For many, the answer to that question is probably, “Always, it’s a constant process.” The training, the coaching, encouragement and analyzing are things many business owners do on a daily or weekly basis. Quite honestly, when it comes to customer service, my opinion is that you should always be looking at ways to be better. But there’s also that window of opportunity that tends to make sense, and around here that window seems to be the lull (if we can still call it that) between May and July 4 where business traffic seems to slow down a bit.
With that thought process in play, the City of Seaside Visitors Bureau held its second annual customer service and secret shopper campaign the first two weeks of May. We learned a thing or two the first go around and were determined to provide an even better analysis the second time. From the beginning, we wanted this to be business driven. Our aim was not to surprise businesses or ridicule them. The goal from day one has been to offer feedback about the customer experience for business owners who are interested to know how their customer service rates. With ten volunteers in last year’s crop, we saw a jump to 15 for 2015 and actually had very little similarity in participants.
So how do we look as a community? First, a quick description of our system: Last year we analyzed six categories (store appearance, greeting, staff attention, staff appearance, the selling process and the time it took to complete a transaction). This year we added product knowledge, whether our unpaid secret shopper would recommend the business, and if the business did anything to elevate the experience for the shopper.
Overall, we actually improved our customer service rating from 86% to 89% by using a scale of one to ten for all previously mentioned categories. Our greeting took a hit, decreasing from 98% to 89%, but participants improved dramatically with the selling and care they provided to the shopper, increasing from 78% to 89%. Five our businesses graded out with an A+ (99-100%), four received an A grade (90-98%), while five graded in at a B. Unfortunately, while there were no C grades, two dining participants received D ratings. Their biggest downfalls: the greeting, selling and care, and time of transaction.
We also learned that our shoppers felt our participating businesses could improve the overall first impression. How does it look when you first walk through the doors? Go look right now!
A 600-word column cannot do this topic justice, but it will hopefully provide guidance for the customer service experience in Seaside. Close to a million people visit Seaside every year and we owe it them, our employers, and each other to help foster the best experience possible. Let’s please remember that as we launch into what promises to be a fantastic summer in Seaside.
Have a thought or a question about tourism in Seaside, or maybe an idea for a future column? Drop me an email at jon@seasideor.com. Jon Rahl is the director of tourism for the Seaside Visitors Bureau and assistant general manager of the Seaside Civic & Convention Center.

and so much more!

SOLV Beach Clean Up

When I look at our beaches I don’t see garbage. I see a breathtaking coastline, and I think how lucky we are to have such pristine beauty right in our own backyard. I believe most beachgoers, both locals and tourists, are conscientious about disposing their refuse properly after a day playing on the beach. So why do we have the SOLV beach cleanup twice a year?

Learn More
View from the Pacific Pier

The view circa 1906 of Seaside's old Pacific Pier

Learn More
The Seaside Estuary makes an ideal spot to go bird watching along the Oregon Coast.
Where to Go Birding in Seaside

Seaside may be a small town, but it’s a big destination for birds, and as a result, birdwatchers hitting nearby spots on the Ore...

Learn More
Top Take-Out Spots in Seaside

Maybe you need a quick breakfast to fuel your day’s adventure? Or you’re hungry for dinner but too tired to venture out of you...

Learn More
Support Seaside Shops Online

We in Seaside appreciate the fact that visitors are honoring Governor Kate Brown’s executive order to stay at home in the wake o...

Learn More
Family Magazine: Vacation 101

A look at family fun activities on the North Oregon Coast

Learn More
A Tradition of Tea

Seaside has a 26 year tradition it loves to share with visitors. Those in town for the holiday season are invited to step back in ...

Learn More
View from the Hotel Seaside

A view from the old Hotel Seaside in the mid 1920s

Learn More
Broadway Boon

A glimpse at the history and evolution of Broadway.

Learn More
Tillamook Head Trail
Seaside’s Very Own Rainforest: Tillamook Head

Hiking the Tillamook Head trail offers pure bliss for this local hiker

Learn More
Grant’s Getaways: Paddling the Neawanna in Seaside

If our summer heat wave is getting the best of you – sapping your energy and leaving you feeling generally uncomfortable, perhap...

Learn More
Episode Two: the Lewis & Clark Salt Works

Join us on an audio walking tour of the Lewis & Clark Salt Works in Seaside, Oregon.

Learn More
Biking the N. Coast Mountain Range

Opportunities endless when hopping on two wheels to navigate Seaside area

Learn More
Postcards from the Past

Ancient postcards from Seaside's distant past

Learn More
Hot Summer Car Shows help usher in the summer season in Seaside.
Hot Summer Car Shows

Two Seaside car shows help usher in and wind down the summer travel season

Learn More
Seaside Elk

I was driving into Seaside, along Highway 101 South, and had just passed the Circle Creek Campsite on the left, when I noticed several cars parked off the side of the road.

Learn More
Destinations Magazine: Great Escapes

Vacations are the “great escapes we need,” says Destinations magazine, “to relax, recharge and rejuvenate oursel...

Learn More