How to Encourage Good Customer Service in Small Tourism Towns.

by Joanne Steele on February 2, 2010

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Overlooking Klamath Falls by "ex-magician." Link to photostream below.

Towns looking for a way to improve customer service and delivery of accurate visitor information, take note of what Klamath Falls, Oregon is doing.

For the past 16 years the Klamath Falls, Oregon region has had an organization devoted to supporting and recognizing excellent customer service and to providing accurate area information to visitors.

The organization is called The Answer People.

A core team of individuals representing several public agencies have been responsible for keeping this valuable group running year after year. With a simple structure and no budget apart from donated time and services of participating members, this organization has become an institution.

It has no formal membership or membership dues. All businesses and agencies are welcome to attend or to send frontline people.

Here’s how it works:

Once a month on the third Wednesday, frontline people, agency representatives, business owners and managers from all types of businesses in Klamath Falls get together from 10am to 12pm to share information about what’s happening in their businesses and to recognize examples of excellent customer service.

It’s been held on the same day for years. Email reminders go out to regular attendees, but word-of-mouth and tradition have kept this on many business calendars.

Answer People meets in Klamath Falls in the same location every month. The idea is to keep organizing at a minimum, and not put roadblocks to participation by uncertain times, dates or locations.

The meeting is run by Paula Jones, a trained facilitator whose main job is to make certain that everyone who attends gets to share. After a very short business meeting, there is a round robin where each participant reports on upcoming events, sales, new services, and any other news about their particular business.

Round robin time is also used for “Pats on the Back” where examples of superior customer service are shared.

Another agency member takes notes, and emails all reported happenings to everyone on the Answer People email list.

Letters of congratulations are sent to the winners of the Pat on the Back and to their employers. Recipients are reported in the local newspaper and an annual recognition luncheon is held in their honor.

Answer People publishes an annual booklet called Who Knows which lists people and places to contact for information about all areas of tourism and recreation in the region. This is provided to all interested business, and can be used to help frontline people answer questions about lodging, dining and recreation.

Both Bureau of Land Management and the local Department of Forestry are committed to this program, and allow their employees to devote the work time it takes to manage the facilitation and emailing activities of the group.

This group is successful in part because it has a limited mission. Whereas good customer service is addressed at each meeting, and recognized through the Pats on the Back program, Answer People does not provide customer service training.

What has this program accomplished?

  1. Good customer service has been recognized as a town-wide issue needing the constant attention of the entire business community.
  2. Front line people understand that their service to their employer, their customers and to their town is valuable and vital.
  3. Sharing accurate area information through frontline people who have direct contact with visitors is a valuable marketing effort.
  4. Having an organization committed to providing accurate area information to businesses is vital to the whole tourism industry and the entire business community.

“Has it worked?”, I asked Paula Jones.

“Yes,” She answered. “We don’t have data or statistics, but the fact that business owners continue to attend or send their employees year after year indicates that our business community understands the value of this organization.”

View  ex_magician’s photostream

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