Chances are that most of us who travel for business or pleasure have had personal encounters during our voyages that may have made our trip memorable -- or soured it beyond repair. Even the most beautiful destination in the world doesn't look so appealing in restrospect if your travel memories are dominated by rude or indifferent treatment you received during your visit.
Conversely, even a so-so destination can remain in your memories as a vacation paradise if you are greeted by locals, particularly front line service personnel, whose smiling faces and attentive behavior make you feel comfortable and right at home.
ConVis has long recognized that a happy visitor is a return visitor. This simple truth is the reasoning behind a new region-wide customer service training program entitled the "WOW Initiative," which we launched recently within our visitor industry community.
In a nutshell, the program's goal is to raise the level of hospitality among the region's 170,000 visitor industry employees, encouraging them to deliver the highest level of customer service to San Diego visitors. In other words, we want to "WOW" our visitors with behavior that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
The campaign utilizes a "Train the Trainer" concept, in which directors, general managers, and human resource directors responsible for hiring, training and managing front line staff are taught the essentials of great hospitality and the importance of customer service as a tool for creating "product loyalty" and repeat visits to San Diego.
They, in turn, return to their respective companies and train their own front-line staff in the art of "WOWING" the visitor and delivering a level of customer service that tourists, business travelers and convention attendees will remember long after their visit ends.
To aid the trainees in this process, ConVis has developed WOW Training Toolkits that contain everything necessary to deliver a 90-minute motivational session to their associates. The interactive toolkits include a CD-ROM presentation outlining the program's goals as well as a dynamic video that captures the essence of "WOW" service to visitors. The trainees undergo half-day sessions, facilitated by professional leaders in the field, and are given a thorough orientation in the WOW hospitality concepts.
The campaign seeks to educate visitor industry employees who have daily and direct contact with the region's 15 million overnight visitors on the San Diego brand and "Superior Service Delivery," with the ultimate goal of perpetuating "product loyalty" for San Diego as the destination of choice.
The WOW Initiative is much more than just a flavor-of-the-month promotion. Once WOW becomes second nature to our industry ambassadors, it will elevate our industry to new heights -- giving San Diego a definite edge over other destinations around the world. Our hopes are that as WOW unfolds over time, it will reach into deeper levels of the hospitality sector and eventually into the community at large.
Needless to say, there will be no better time to WOW our visitors than during the upcoming Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003, when the eyes of the world will be on San Diego. San Diego already has a great reputation with the NFL as a customer-friendly destination, based on positive experiences during the two games we hosted in 1988 and 1998.
San Diego may already be known for its outstanding climate, fabulous beaches and a wide variety of visitor amenities, but by adding this element of exceptional customer service, we can elevate the visitor's experience in our region to a truly world-class level.
Our goal is to have the millions of tourists who enjoy our region each year think back on their trip with immense pleasure. In addition to recalling all the fun things they did while they were here, we want them to remember the smiling faces and friendly service that made them feel welcome and very much appreciated.
Reinders is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.