Forced Evaluations, It Affects Us All – 12/2/12

Giving incentives for good service

incentives for good serviceIT DOESN’T TAKE much to turn someone off a place.
Sometimes just one bad experience at a motel or restaurant is enough to put a bad taste in someone’s mouth for years.
And they tell their friends.
It’s why tourism organizations have been pushing customer service training and why Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization, the regional group that promotes our area along with the Ottawa Valley, has been running the mystery shopper program along with other customer service workshops.
The county’s own Tourism Ambassador program, launched last spring, offered up a five-minute flash training on good customer service.
In order to be an “ambassador” for the county, staff at local businesses had to take heed of a few best practices.
Painless, useful and entirely free.
The problem with the ambassador program and the OHTO’s mystery shopper service is they are voluntary.
At a recent county tourism committee meeting, politicians bemoaned the futility of voluntary evaluations and training sessions.
Minden Hills Reeve Barb Reid was most adamant that more must be done.
“We’re missing the people who really need the feedback,” Reid said.
She’s right – those who are already offering excellent service, creating a pleasant impression of the Haliburton Highlands, aren’t the ones who need mystery shoppers.
Of course, those who care about what impression they’re giving, who strive to learn more about tourism and giving tourists a good experience, will sign up for evaluations and best practices workshops.
Those who don’t care or who don’t know there are improvements that could be made are unlikely to volunteer for evaluation.
Yet it is important they do improve, because each accommodator, outdoor experience guide, waiter and shopkeeper has a direct influence on how a visitor views this place.
We want them to have a good time so they come back.
So how do we get everyone on the same page?
Forcing evaluations and training on people isn’t feasible and it oversteps the bounds of government (Haliburton Highlands Tourism being a wing of the county).
But perhaps incentives could work. Discounts on advertising in the Destination Guide could be offered to businesses that agree to have evaluations done. Or maybe those who have passed a mystery shopping experience could be added to a heavily promoted list of places to visit. The key is to keep it voluntary. Businesses shouldn’t feel dogged by government. But at the same time, it should be stressed that their treatment of visitors affects us all.


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