By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
October is a big month for Cherokee. Year after year, businesses on the Qualla Boundary, particularly those that are related to cultural and eco-tourism, depend on October sales, for the added revenue needed to get through the winter months. Sales tend to trail off during September after the prime summer tourism season, then business see a bump up in sales in October, primarily due to the fall leaf season. Then in early November, the stream of tourists stabilizes a lower rate of flow through winter months. The spectacular views of mountains filled with brightly colored leaves brings hundreds of thousands of “leaf lookers” to our area throughout the month.
Much of the Qualla Boundary’s economy depends on tourism, whether it be eco-tourism, gaming or cultural and historical tourism. Many people, through the efforts of the Destination Marketing program of the tribe, are coming to our area for the first time and some are revisiting after decades of bypassing Cherokee for their vacations. A great deal rides on the impression they get from the people they meet in our retail outlets and visitor centers.
One of the most neglected areas of tourism development is customer service training; not just on the Qualla Boundary, but in western North Carolina. It may be that owners and managers assume that a paid staff will automatically know that is it important to treat customers with courtesy and respect. Whatever the reason, front line staff are not, in many cases, making sure that Cherokee visitors are getting the best customer service.
Just as you would want a cashier to be training properly to do monetary transactions, you should want your staff to understand the importance and ways to provide good customer service. If a cashier is not trained properly, chances are you are going to lose money. If your staff is not properly educated in customer service, you’re looking at the same outcome – lost clients and lost income.
Customer service has as much impact on your bottom line as an advertisement. In fact, it acts as an advertisement. According to helpscout.net, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one negative experience with a client. “News of a bad customer service experience hits twice as many ears as praise for a positive service experience,” states the site.
The care that you use to train your staff about the importance of caring for the customer will have a direct, and potential lasting, impact on repeat customers and new business.
On a recent visit to one of our fine restaurants in Cherokee, I was greeted warmly and treated to first rate customer service with my every desire inquired about and every need met. The waitress was friendly and courteous with all the information she needed to provide for my needs. In addition to the great service, the manager came to my table to ensure that the experience was a good one. From service to environment, I could tell that an effort had been made to educate the staff on good customer service.
Compare that to another local establishment I visited today. The staff was yelling at each other while I waited to be seated. One of the staff looked over and saw me waiting, but went on for several minutes with his “discussion” with the other staff member. When he finally did come to seat me, he made it clear that he felt like it was an inconvenience and that he was upset that he was not to be able to continue his dispute with his coworker.
Clients have many choices. If they don’t get a good experience, they will find another restaurant, hotel or attraction. Worse yet, they may decide to find another destination and write Cherokee off as a place that doesn’t want or doesn’t care about them and their families. If you own/operate a business, or manage/direct a program for the tribe, pay attention to the customer service capabilities of your staff.