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Guests happier this summer but there's still work to do

Tourism Whistler working to understand and improve customer satisfaction



Visitor satisfaction was up in Whistler after a summer of sunshine and great deals but nearly one in three guests are still ambivalent about their time in Canada's top ski resort.

Tourism Whistler's figures from last summer's visitor surveys show satisfaction levels increasing seven percentage points over last year.

The Net Promoter Scores, the percentage of guests who would recommend Whistler, also went up six percentage points over last year.

But that's still not enough to put Whistler out of the "medium" category in terms of guests recommending the resort, and that is something that's on the mind of Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher, particularly in this day and age of social networking. Gone are the days of just telling a handful of family and friends about an experience, she said.

"Today, we know that at the push of a button... you can let hundreds of thousands of people know your pleasure or dissatisfaction with a destination," she said. "We really believe that this whole customer experience is that much more critical today than it ever has been because of the influence now held by every single customer."

It's so important that Tourism Whistler plans to spend more money on the research side to truly understand customer satisfaction.

"We're actually investing a little bit more in the research side on the customer experience this upcoming year," said Fisher.

"We would like to go deeper to really understand our customer motivations, as well as our customer triggers on satisfaction or dissatisfaction."

More than 2,200 in-resort surveys were done last summer, and 700 visitors completed the post-trip online survey.

Tourism Whistler's research manager Louise Walker explained that the Net Promoter Score essentially takes away the number of "promoters" (people who will promote the resort) from the number of "detractors" to end up with the number of "neutral" guests.

"We have a quite a lot of neutrals," said Walker.

Whistler has yet to get back to the scores of 2006, the first year of collecting data for the Net Promoter Scores and also its best year to date. Even then, however, Whistler was in the high end of medium in the 40 to 60 per cent range, with good in the 60 to 65 per cent range, and excellent 65 per cent and above.

While difficult to drill down to the data and determine what makes a guest a promoter, neutral or a detractor, Walker said value for money had the biggest impact on overall satisfaction last winter. The reduced rates and special offers during the summer months may have improved that value perception and may account for the increase in the scores, she summarized. That analysis, however, has yet to be done.