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.

Leave a Reply

and so much more!

Supersize Me!

A brief look at Seaside's past sweets and treats

Learn More
Seaside Inside: The Historical Edition

Above photo: A group plays the historic arcade game, Fascination at Funland Arcade in downtown Seaside, Oregon. Seaside is a popul...

Learn More
Seaside Hotelier Recognized by ORLA as Operator of the Year

Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association names Oregon Lodging Operator of the Year

Learn 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
How To Walk Seaside, Oregon

Discover things to see in Seaside, OR including the Seaside Promenade, Tillamook Head Trail & Tillamook Head Lighthouse, bird...

Learn More
Kayakers paddle in the Necanicum Estuary
So Close, But a World Away

A couple explores Seaside as modern-day Lewis and Clark Adventurers

Learn More
Seaside OR: Beachside Weddings

The North Oregon Coast is home, and Seaside is an ideal wedding destination! Seaside has incredible scenery, diverse and amazing vendors, and is within close proximity to the Portland airport for those out of town guests.

Learn More
Shopper’s Delight: Selnes Grocery

The hustle and bustle of Holiday shopping in Seaside circa 1926 was not nearly the same as it today.

Learn More
Destinations Magazine: Great Escapes

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

Learn More
Chasing Waterfalls

Waterfalls around Seaside, Oregon.

Learn More
How to Build a Beach Bonfire

It’s a longstanding Seaside tradition: listening to a crackling fire in concert with the crashing of the ocean waves. Bonfires o...

Learn More
Washed Away

A look at the cantilever pier in Seaside, Oregon in 1930

Learn More
Summer in Seaside can offer as much variety as our local candy stores.
How to Have an Epic North Coast Summer

A summer spent in Seaside is like a good clam chowder — fresh, flavorful and filling.

Learn More
An early morning kayak ride

One kayaker's take on an early morning ride into the Necanicum Estuary.

Learn More
Drilling in Seaside

World War I soldiers drilling on Seaside's beach.

Learn More
Garden Circle Evolution

The evolution of Seaside's Turnaround garden circle.

Learn More
The Seaside Parade of Lights is one of many holiday festivities
Holiday Festivities in Seaside

Seaside is one of the Coast’s most beloved destinations for holiday shopping and seasonal celebrations. Plan a visit around thes...

Learn More
Wave Meets Wall

Back in 1925, the waves would encroach on Seaside's Turnaround with a dramartic ferocity

Learn More