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Aspen Skiing Company: Raising the bar for customers

At a glance

Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) provides one of the best ski and snowboarding experiences in the world, but it’s always looking for ways to raise the bar. We helped ASC analyze customer and employee experiences, opinions, and perceptions to identify opportunities to improve its guest experience.

What we did

  • Custom experience research
  • Journey mapping

World-renowned mountains and bluebird days attract millions of visitors to Aspen, Colorado each year. They can find the best of everything Aspen has to offer at Aspen Snowmass, a luxury ski and snowboard resort.

Operated by Aspen Skiing Company, the resort features over 5,300 acres of stunning terrain spanning four of Aspen’s best mountains. It’s an unforgettable experience for guests, but ASC is always looking for ways to raise the bar.

“We look at our business through the guest lifecycle: inspiration, planning, booking, fulfillment, guest experience at the resort, and reminiscing. The more touch points you have helps get that flywheel spinning and creates a really loyal guest,” says John Lilley, vice president of technology at ASC.

ASC wanted to understand the experience from the guest’s point of view—specifically focusing on in-person planning and booking. “That’s primarily over the phone to the call center and the various points of contact at the resort—including ticket windows, rental shops, and ski and snowboard schools,” says Lilley.

Slalom was engaged to conduct a four-week customer research project to both validate hypotheses and identify areas for improvement.

There were a number of insights and 'ahas' that give us the ability to hone in on specific touch points and get the funding we need to make improvements.

Research from the slopes

Slalom’s experience research team honed in on critical areas of the reservation and on-mountain experience. “It was primarily an in-person experiential study. We focused on various touch points, from when someone goes to the website and plans the trip to contact points on the mountain,” explains James Neill, experience design lead at Slalom.

Wayfinding—how often people are looking for locations at the resort and how successful they are at finding them—was another area of focus. “We looked at the overall design language Aspen Skiing Company employs across both physical and digital channels, as well as environmental and service design: how employees interact with guests and what tasks took time away from those guests,” says Neill.

The team interviewed 160 guests and staff members on video to capture a broad range of perceptions and pain points. Next, they combed through 16 hours of video to map attributes, patterns, and themes; built customer journey maps; and stack-ranked recommendations for improvements.

They were looking for ways to be as high touch as possible and ensure that they’re shepherding people through a world-class experience.

"Aha" moments

ASC was curious about whether its point of sale software was impacting guest service, Lilley says. “The ski industry is hampered by not being able to keep up with modern technology. It’s a complicated business model with guests who expect modern services when they engage with us.”

What the research uncovered was that the guests weren’t experiencing pain so much as the employees were. Employees were going above and beyond to work around the system to provide world-class customer service. “That was a major ‘aha’ for us,” Lilley says. “We found that our guest services personnel really bend over backward to meet guest needs despite challenges with our technology and tools. We learned that was a big stress area for our employees.”

“The potential impact is huge”

Now ASC has the right artifacts and deliverables it needs to sell initiatives internally, says Lilley. “There were a number of insights and ahas that came out of it that gives us the ability to hone in on specific touch points and get the funding we need to make improvements,” says Lilley.

“The potential impact is huge,” says a customer engagement practice lead at Slalom. “By continuing to focus on the customer experience, ASC can ensure it remains the destination of choice for its customers.”

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