We read plenty about cultures of service. Whenever we purchase a product or visit an establishment, we have an expectation of service, which is usually correlated with how much we are paying for it. However, good customer service is more than call center representatives saying the right things. This culture must permeate the entire organization in order to drive business results. If you are in the consumer products business, your level of customer service flows through the entire chain of your business—easy to use products, friendly sales people, user friendly websites, quality technical support, etc. Any weak link will negatively affect customers, referrals, and return business. But, what if your organization is a whole city?

Those in charge of promoting tourism in Steamboat Springs decided that their customer service ratings were not high enough. The city competes with other towns for tourism dollars, so there is more at stake than just saying they are the friendliest place around.

As described in the article, this effort showed some classic examples of change management: There was a true champion of the project, skepticism had to be overcome, training initially took place with a small group who then became evangelists, and results were measured (and they were not as clear-cut as I am sure they had hoped).

One of the things that I liked was that they did not “pick” on one industry (restaurants, for example). Training took place in several areas that would touch customers.   They also addressed hiring practices, which can be tough to do in a small labor pool. They focused on interviewing, but there are many good pre-employment testing practices that could also be used to hire people who are likely to delivery quality customer service. Lastly, they are sticking with their program—this indicates that they are serious about making customer service a priority.

This case should provide hope for those of you trying to implement any type of organizational-wide initiative. It shows that if the project resonates with others, and can be shown to clearly impact them, diverse groups can come together and change, even they are not part of the same company. The city is also showing that a culture of service can be implemented on a wide-scale if everyone is involved.

For more information about improving customer service in your organization, please contact Warren Bobrow.