The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 18, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Killington improves customer service, one guest at a time

With an eye on keeping the guest coming back for more, the Killington region is climbing its way up one nationally-known metric that is a proven indicator of quality customer service - Net Promoter Score, or NPS.

Killington and Pico have recently scored 68, about four points higher than last season's NPS, and it can be seen emblazoned on the Pico Resort welcome sign and on the Wobbly Barn on Killington Road.

According to Tracy Taylor, director of operations for Pico Mountain who is leading the management team's charge to better the NPS, the number is one to be used internally, by both resort employees and anyone who works in Killington who wants to see town businesses prosper more than ever before.

"It has been proven time and time again that growth in a resort's score equates to growth in the profitability of the business," Taylor said in an interview last week.

Killington and Pico's NPS is one metric that has been pulled from about 1,000 guest questionnaires and secret shopper reviews that have been filled out since the start of the 2012/2013 winter season.

The score is determined by asking one simple question: 'How likely are you to recommend the Killington Resort Community to a friend, family member, or colleague?'" Taylor explained.

For the 2011/2012 season, Killington Resort scored 64.7 percent -16th out of 28 New England resorts.

Efforts have been made to improve the score, with the resorts' management team paving the way for the community as a whole to come together and leave a better impression with each guest that visits the town and the resort.

Taylor said last week that the "One Kilington" initiative launched at the beginning of the season is a crucial part of the puzzle.

Reports have shown that not only do 7 out of 10 customers who use the resort facilities visit one of the town's local businesses but many resort guests can't differentiate what is owned by Killington or Pico resorts and what is not.

That means the town and resort must working as one to do better for guests, Taylor said.

"I am way more pleased with this than I thought I would be," he admitted. The trend in feedback he is hearing time and again from guests is that employees of ski shops around Kilington are quick to recommend another area business for goods and services, if they don't have exactly what the guest needs.

According to Taylor, that shows that businesses, including the resorts, support one another, want each other to succeed, and most importantly, want to help the guest meet his/her need.

"Every person in this community can effect a guest's experience," he said.

The NPS is only one indicator of that progressive partnership, Taylor said.

The goal this year is an Net Promoter Score of 71 percent, a match to the average score for resorts nationwide.

In three years, the goal is to grow Killington's promoters to 85 percent, Taylor said in an earlier presentation this season.

The NPS is determined using a 0-to-10 point rating from guests who answer the question and indicate if they are promoters. A "promoter" is anyone who gives their experience in Killington a score of 9 or 10, meaning they are VERY likely to recommend it to a family member or friend. "Passives" are those who give a score of 7 or 8 and are vulnerable to going elsewhere. "Detractors," give the resort experience a score of 0-6 and are unhappy customers who can damage the resorts' brand and impede growth through negative communications.

NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of customers who are promoters and subtracting the percentage who are detractors.
Taylor said he, Kilington President Mike Solimano and other members of the management team have made personal calls to detractors to make them know the resorts care about their feedback.

The Net Promoter approach has been adopted by several highly successful companies, including GE, Apple Retail, American Express and Intuit.

Currently, the Killington Chamber of Commerce and Taylor are reviewing the latest round of customer reviews done through the Massachusetts company PatronEdge, where secret shoppers review area businesses, retail, food, travel signs and other details of their daylong trips.

Taylor also said 25,000 surveys have been sent to ski pass holders and every guest who booked their stay through the town's central reservations network gets a survey to fill out following their visit.

Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times. She can be reached at cristina_kumka@yahoo.com

Photo by Cristina Kumka