Column: Customer service to be tested in Seaside

<p>Jon Rahl</p>

Since 1984, the first full week of May has been annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week. This weekend kicks off the Seaside Visitors Bureau’s way of paying homage to how valuable tourism is to Seaside, as we launch a new customer service recognition program.

The program is designed to be twofold. First, most know tourism is extremely valuable to Seaside and Clatsop County, but did you know it accounted for nearly $424 million in spending for the county and $174 million for Seaside in 2012?

Second, at the root of tourism success is good customer service, so we want to know how Seaside measures up. Our hope is that by offering the free service to Seaside businesses, we’ll help individual businesses see how they are doing while also allowing us to gauge an overall customer service rating for Seaside.

So how will this program work? At press deadline, about 10 businesses signed up for the program. We asked for sign-ups for the first year of our program so we wouldn’t catch businesses by surprise and so those businesses could help us create the most meaningful program possible. We also wanted any business that was eager to measure its level of customer service to have that chance.

Beginning May 3 and running through May 11, “secret shoppers” — provided with the help of our partners, CEDR and Clatsop Community College — will visit participating businesses. Our shoppers will take mental notes about their experience, based on a short form we have developed, and if a purchase is appropriate, our shoppers will make one.

We’ll then report back to the businesses with an aggregate of all our reports to give an overall rating so each participating business can see how it stacks up against the overall number. At the conclusion of the program, we’ll recognize and honor those that went the extra mile or provided exemplary service.

Around 5,000 people are employed in jobs throughout Clatsop County that can be tied directly to the leisure and hospitality field. About 2,000 of those jobs are in Seaside, servicing close to 1 million annual visitors, which generated nearly $50 million in employee earnings in 2012. This makes the value of good customer service that much greater, and it’s why we encourage everyone to pay such close attention to their service.

The bottom line is that we never know whom we might be helping and what they will tell their friends and family. And beyond that, what they might be reporting on the World Wide Web and the myriad social channels. The value of our service can ultimately be measured in dollars and cents, and through good service, we have the opportunity to keep that dollar coming back to our community. For more information about National Travel and Tourism Week, please visit

Jon Rahl is the director of the Seaside Visitors Bureau and assistant general manager of the Seaside Civic & Convention Center. Have a thought or a comment based around tourism? Send Jon an email at


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