Blue Mountain logoIf you want to read a refreshing perspective on customer service, read “Seven steps to remarkable customer service” by Joel Spolsky, a software developer in New York City.

Reading what his company does about customer service made me want to buy the software, and I don’t even know what it does! I particularly liked #2, “Suggest blowing out the dust.” It reflects the desire to make things right without making the customer look foolish.

Customer service was on my mind after an experience at Blue Mountain ski resort.

It was reading week for the university my older son attends, so I took my younger son out of high school for two days and we went to Blue for a one-night getaway. Check-out time is 11 a.m., but the package I booked provides a lift ticket good any time you get there and all the following day. We arrived about 1 p.m. to a line-up at the front desk. Of course our room wasn’t ready (check-in is 4 p.m.), but we got a voucher for our lift tickets and a parking pass, went to line up at the ticket office and eventually hit the slopes.

At 4 p.m., I called to find out if our room was ready. No; they suggested I call back. At 5 p.m., still not ready, although apparently the housekeeper was just starting it and they expected it would take about 45 minutes. At 6 p.m., still not ready, nor was it at 6:30. Profuse apologies.

Several of these calls featured long waits on hold, with one song playing in an endless loop. In the meantime, we could not access the ski lockers so had to leave our equipment outside. At 7 p.m., we finally were able to get in the room — which turned out to be the farthest possible distance away from the ski hill with no nearby access to the street level. There was a piece of dental floss in my sink and a crumpled tissue and gum wrapper tucked beside a dresser.

To “make up” for the delay, the front desk allowed me an extra hour before we had to check out, after I asked for it. When I checked out (and stood through another lineup, with four vacant stations where staff could have been handling more guests), I got another fairly meaningless apology and a hope that we had otherwise enjoyed our stay. My response was less than enthusiastic.

I really should have filled out the comment card. I brought it home and may yet do so. Here’s what I’d suggest to Blue:

  1. Have more staff on the front desk and in housekeeping, especially during what you know is a busy time. Have all hands on deck at peak times.
  2. Change the way you store skis and snowboards so the guest doesn’t need to know their room number, if you won’t give it out until the room is ready.
  3. Give the lift tickets at the front desk to avoid sending your guests to yet another lineup.
  4. Empower your staff to give an apology with meaning, such as a voucher for appetizers at a local restaurant or a coffee at the Starbucks.
  5. Change the music that plays when people are on hold.
  6. You know when things don’t go smoothly at check-in, and you have the guest’s contact information. Get in touch with them and find out how you can improve the experience next time.

I’ll be at a ski resort in Colorado next week. We’ll see how the experiences compare.