A group of about 50 business owners, civic leaders, corporate representatives and business managers gathered last Thursday at the Courtyard Marriot to discuss and brainstorm ways to better improve Page’s less-than-stellar customer service.
Ten years ago if a customer had a complaint they would tell it to the business manager, who would address the issue and move on. But in the age of TripAdvisor and Yelp, the complaints are out there for anyone to find and they don’t go away. Yes, positive reviews appear on these sites too, but studies show that unsatisfied customers are seven times more likely to leave a complaint after having a bad experience than satisfied customers are to leave a compliment after having a positive experience.
Mike Bryan, a Page City councilman and counselor at Page High School, opened the forum by showing those gathered a collection of some of those complaints and negative reviews. Some of the complaints left by Page visitors left comments that their tour guide cussed in front of their kids, and others highlighted instances of slow and/or rude customer service at restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores, and hotels and that they were too often waited on by unsmiling, uncaring or over-stressed workers.
An alarming number of reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp go so far as to suggest to future tourists that they avoid spending the night in Page, or avoid shopping or patronizing some of the businesses, hotels and restaurants, which they list specifically.
Mike Bryan grew up in Page. He went away to college but later returned to Page. He has watched Page’s economy shift from one driven by industry to one driven by tourism.
“Page is in a transition phase and time,” he said. “This year the hotel, and food and beverage sales tax has outpaced retail sales tax for the first time in Page history.”
With Page’s economy relying more and more heavily on tourism it’s more important than ever to address issues of poor customer service and the impact they could have on Page’s image and its reputation as a tourism destination, said Judy Franz, Executive Director for Chamber Page/Lake Powell.
Franz says the customer service forum was initiated by Mayor Diak after he received a call from a major tour company which informed him that they would no longer be staying in Page after repeatedly receiving poor customer service. Mayor Diak approached Franz with the issue to get her advice how to tackle the issue.
“Page can’t afford to have tour companies – and I’m talking about tour companies that arrive in buses on a regular basis – just decide to take their business elsewhere,” said Franz. “We’ve got to find a way to address this.”
One of the ideas being considered is partnering with Coconino Community College to offer a course teaching basic customer service.
The students in the class would learn basic customer service skills, such as greeting customers promptly and with a smile, arriving to work on time with a clean uniform, and not using their cell phone while they’re on the clock. When students finish the program they’ll receive a certificate of completion which they can present to future employers.
Another big challenge business owners face in hiring qualified workers is a deficit of affordable public housing.
“I’d say that’s our biggest obstacle,” said Tina Maule, Store Director for Safeway. “Affordable housing in Page is nil to none. A lot of my workers drive in from the reservation 30 or 40 minutes.
Maule says she never stops hiring at Safeway. “I hire four people for every one position we have open, because turnover is so high,” she said. “I hire a lot of people who may only work a week or two before quitting. It takes a lot of resources and time to train our workers, only to have them leave after working a week.”