New customer service training in Steamboat aims to help turn summer visitors into raving fans |

New customer service training in Steamboat aims to help turn summer visitors into raving fans

Scott Franz

Crowds cheer on Lincoln Avenue as racers pass during the USA Pro Challenge in 2013. After a slight slip in Steamboat's net promoter score, the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association is spearheading a new customer service program to help move the needle back up.

— A new customer service training program in Steamboat Springs aims to help convert summer visitors from fans into raving fans.

The latest intercept survey of about 2,730 summer visitors found that the city's net promoter score, a measure of how likely it is that people will recommend Steamboat as a destination to their family and friends, fell a bit since the last time it was measured in 2010.

It's a score that is watched closely by those who are marketing the city to tourists.

Steamboat's score still is strong, with 73 percent of summer 2013 respondents "highly" or "extremely likely" to recommend the city to their friends and family.

But 22 percent of visitors surveyed were considered to be more impartial, or passively satisfied, about their trip to Steamboat, and less likely to go out their way to rave about the destination.

"We've been doing good, but we can do better," Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern said Thursday as he reflected on the results.

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He called the question of how likely a person is to recommend Steamboat as a destination the "ultimate question" from a marketing perspective.

The slip in the net promoter score was one concern that came out of a summer survey, which largely showed visitors thought highly of their stays here.

To boost the score, the Chamber is looking to adopt a customer service training program led by Ed Eppley that Kern said helped Steamboat Ski Area significantly boost its own net promoter score in winter surveys.

It starts with the Chamber working with leaders in city government, lodging properties, restaurants and retail stores to find people who already are well versed in customer service to help train their colleagues.

Kern said Steamboat's restaurant sector will be the first major focus of the upcoming pilot training program, and the results on the net promoter score will be tracked monthly this summer to see if any progress is made.

"I don't know of any other city that's doing this," Kern said. "It's about making an outstanding experience instead of a great experience."

The net promoter score was one of several insights from the latest summer survey that was the first since 2010.

In many ways, the survey, conducted by RRC Associates, based in Boulder, confirms what the city's marketing arm already suspected.

Steamboat's summer visitors are a busy, affluent, mostly content group that still flocks to Fish Creek Falls more than any other local attraction, the survey revealed.

They participated in an average of 4.4 activities during their stay. And about 46 percent of them traveled here from within Colorado, most from the Front Range.

Their favorite attractions in order were Fish Creek Falls, the gondola, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs and the farmers market.

A vast majority enjoyed their stay, but if they wanted something else, most mentioned it was more dining options.

"There wasn't anything that came out of this study that was a huge revelation. We didn't stumble upon a nugget," Kern said. "It largely reaffirmed what we already knew, and it showed us areas where we have opportunities to improve."

The results also continue to influence future marketing decisions.

For instance, Kern said the survey reaffirms that it makes more sense to continue marketing in Front Range areas like Fort Collins and Jefferson County and down south in Dallas instead of trying to tap into other markets where visitors aren't already coming from.

The survey results also posed a challenge for the Chamber.

With Steamboat's summer visitor demographic continuing to grow older, how can Steamboat successfully get more 30-something-year-olds up here?

"There's some more research we need to do," Kern said. "We need to find that demographic. Where are they? What are their wants and needs?"

The latest summer survey also showed Steamboat's summer visitors largely are making the trip to do multiple things, not just focus on single items like biking or fishing or hiking.

"People come here because there are so many things to do," Kern said. "You can go tubing. You can go rafting. You can ride the gondola."

He said Steamboat's draw as a destination with many activities is both a blessing and a curse.

"The blessing is that people come here for all these different reasons," he said. "The challenge is what do you market to? How do you market to everything?"