While visiting the Pagosa Baking Company recently I encountered a group of six Hispanic women that were ordering food and coffee at the counter. As I often do with strangers, I asked where they were from and what they were doing in Pagosa. The spokesperson for the group, speaking perfect English responded that they were all from San Antoino, Texas, in town to enjoy early season skiing and snowboarding. She went on to explain that all the women were best friends or related and that they typically take 2-3 trips together each year. This was their first visit to Pagosa Springs. I asked them what they thought of our little town. Interestingly, she said the scenery was gorgeous, the food, especially at the PBS was great, as was the skiing, but that they were treated a bit rudely on several occasions when they revealed they were from Texas. She said they experienced this unfortunate reception on two occasions, once during a visit to a local store and the other time while eating in one of our restaurants; I might add it was not the PBS, Kips, Alley House, Farrago’s, or Summit Ski and Sports, ( I always look out for the merchants in my end of town.) Anyway, I assured them that what they experienced was rare, and certainly not the attitude the majority of the folks in Pagosa Springs have towards Texans, or visitors from any other state. I went on to explain that we love our tourists and want to be sure they have a great experience while visiting our area. She warmed up a little and went on to explain that they were a bit surprised at the rough reception because they live in an area of Texas that gets a lot of outside visitors and their community really encourages that and their Chamber of Commerce helps their merchants to improve their customer service with regular workshops, speakers and training. I did everything I could to give them the best face of Pagosa I could and encouraged them to not judge us by the two bad apples they encountered.
I recall, probably 8-10 years ago that the Downtown Merchants group in Durango had a presentation by a marketing consultant that gave them the results of exit interviews with tourists in the Durango region. The single common negative content in the feedback was poor customer service and attitude. I high number of respondents commented that they were often treated by clerks and wait staff as though they were an inconvenience. A lack of a friendly greeting and a seldom heard “thank you” at the end of a transaction were regular comments from survey respondents. Durango then when about to promote significant changes to their customer service. They started by empowering their business owners and their employees with an understanding of the importance of delivering excellent customer service, to all the patrons of its stores, shops and restaurants. I don’t recall following up, or whether Durango did a follow up survey, but, from my experience as a regular consumer and visitor in Durango over the last five years, I would say they made substantial improvements.
Here in Pagosa, we can all learn from my brief conversation with the ladies from San Antonio as well as the experience of business owners in Durango. We are a service oriented economy, driven by tourism. Our visitors are spending discretionary dollars that they can direct anywhere they wish. There are many communities here in the Rockies and elsewhere competing for tourists. If we want to attract them and get them to return in greater numbers, we need to treat them like gold. They have the economic power to make or break our community. If we really understand this relationship, we will all brush up on our customer service skills. There are plenty of resources available to help any business owner or conscientious employee in this area. Here are a couple:
Inc. Magazine Article:
This article is like putting your mouth over a fire hydrant and cranking the valve open!