You don’t necessarily expect a great customer experience when dealing with the government, no matter which level of government we’re talking about, right? Imagine my surprise when I walked away from a recent government encounter with a smile on my face and saying to myself, “Wow, that was awesome.”
It was New Year’s Day and we were headed through Vermont to New York state to visit family. It was time for a pit stop, so we stopped at a Vermont Welcome Center, an entity owned and operated by the state of Vermont, just over the border from New Hampshire.
Just inside, we were greeted by a cheery voice. “Happy new year,” the young woman at the desk said to us as we passed. Before we got to the restroom doors, however, we passed the coffee station. As in, free coffee. Two staff persons were working on filling up the coffee machine and apologized for being in our way (they weren’t). They suggested we grab some coffee on our way out. We, of course, did this and it wasn’t just institutional coffee. It was any flavor and size we wanted with one of those Keurig machines, and for the tea drinkers, they offered a wide variety of teas and hot water at the ready.
We wished we had had time to sip our coffee inside the beautiful building. It presented Vermont’s treasures in a kind of museum-quality display, open and airy. It was warm and snug, while the weather outside was dreary.
Two more staff persons at the exit door wished us a good trip and asked if we needed any maps.
Cynical me first wondered just how much money such efforts on the part of Vermont were costing its tax payers. We saw a minimum of 5 staff people and absolutely no money changing hands.
I know the tiny state has 15 other such welcome centers. How can such a small state afford the staffing, the building, the coffee and tea? And then I realized that the powers that be in Vermont must have a crystal clear idea of what it needs—-happy visitors—tourists or those just passing through—returning time and time again to their state. Whatever it cost Vermont to train their staff or volunteers and to provide us with these wonderful amenities must be showing a generous return on investment.
And isn’t that any business’s over-arching goal?