Virginia State Parks was the first in Virginia state government to create a full circle customer service program in 1997. What do I mean by full circle? It means we train our staff, reward our staff and ask our customers how we are doing. The mechanism for that last piece, "how are we doing?" has been our Your Comments Count survey. The whole program is called Focus for Excellence.
These surveys are a really big deal for us. We receive them and someone in our central office reviews every last one. If the survey contains a complaint or an issue that requires a response, it is personally addressed. From there the surveys are duplicated and sent to the Park Manager, the District Manager, the District Visitor Services Specialist, and possibly the central office's subject area expert on a particular issue. The original responses are then bundled up and sent off to Vincent Magnini, Ph.D., Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Virginia Tech. We have a contract for Dr. Magnini to compile the data quarterly and prepare an annual report for us. Some of the results are used as a major performance measure for the Department Director.
A message from the Virginia State Parks Director, Joe Elton
appears on every survey
Most of all, the survey tells us what we need to work on to make sure we continue to meet the expectations of our customers. We do get a lot of suggestions and we pay attention to every one. However, we do not always change our rules or policies to accommodate suggestions and comments. At the end of the day, we consider them all but have to make a decision that works for our whole system.
A ranger from Smith Mountain Lake State Park climbs a tree
to rescue a young visitor's kite
We notice that our frequent park visitors don't complete a survey every time they visit. We understand that if you told us you enjoyed your visit you might think you don't need to tell us every time. But if you are a frequent visitor – daily, weekly, monthly or even just several times a year, your opinion is very important so we would like for you to comment as often as you can. One thing we will be doing in the near future to make that easier for our visitors, to help us respond even faster to issues, and help us be more green, will be to offer the survey on line. In the meantime, if you miss picking up a survey when you are in the park, you can download a copy here.
A program at Hungry Mother State Park offers
a hands on interpretive experience
I would like to take just a little bit of time to brag about our 2010 results. In a year when we had the most visitors of our 74 years, more than 8 million, 97% of respondents said they would recommend the park they visited to a friend. Dr. Magnini pointed out that in the Travel and Tourism industry that is a spectacular result. From the report:
Overall satisfaction scores of every major park dimension [natural resources, activities, fees, facilities, cleanliness, staff assistance, and security] range between 4.3 and 4.63 ('excellent' = 5). Furthermore, no item rated by park visitors exceeded a 5% unacceptable rate and all items far exceeded a 75% good/excellent rating. These exceptional results were produced in every area of the visitor experience including ratings of cabins and campgrounds.
So, in this our 15th year for the Your Comments Count survey and 75th year since our founding, help us continue to meet your expectations by telling us how we're doing every time you visit! Please don't forget that you can already report excellent customer service by one of our staff on line by clicking here.
The survey reports that 8% of our visitors would like to
volunteer at one of our parks – WOW