PENDLETON - Improving customer service was a significant topic during Wednesday's meeting of the Pendleton Tourism Council.

Leslie Carnes, executive director of the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce, introduced Sharyl Parker, executive director of the Oregon Restaurant Education Foundation, Wilsonville. Parker described the new "Q" program, which is intended to improve customer service and to make Oregon visitor-friendly. A central part of the program is "It Pays to Please," a seminar that teaches customer contact skills to employees in all areas of service, such as hospitality, food service and retail.

"Everyone who touches a visitor and welcomes them should be exposed to this program," she said.

It is intended to enhance existing customer service training programs. "It Pays to Please" workshops teach employees techniques intended to make customers more likely to spend more money, extend their stay, return and give great word-of-mouth advertising, she said.

Parker related that her brother stopped in an Oregon coastal town for fuel about 5:30 p.m. and asked the service station attendant if there was anything to do that evening.

"Well, the news is on at 6," came the reply.

Knowing about local events and tourist attractions is critical for so-called "front-liners," or those who are first to greet customers at any business, Parker said.

"It Pays to Please" is a 21/2-hour multimedia training session that includes:

•How to make a good first impression.

•The differences between common and courtesy and customer service courtesy.

•How to effectively say "no" without losing a customer's goodwill.

•Effective communications - on the phone and face to face.

•How to read - and respond to - subtle clues that can lead to a better customer experience.

•How to turn a problem into a customer service opportunity.

Eighteen people from Eastern Oregon, including four from Pendleton, were trained Wednesday to deliver the "Q" training. It will be available within the next month to local employers, said Carnes, who was among those trained. The others from Pendleton were Ken Jacobs of Denny's restaurant, Art Hill of Blue Mountain Community College and Staci Buchanan of St. Anthony Hospital. Others trained were from Heppner, Baker City, La Grande, Ontario and Grant County. These trainers will serve 11 Eastern Oregon counties.

Businesses that participate in the "Q" program will display window stickers and employees who complete the "It Pays to Please" program will wear "Q" lapel pins, identifying them as trained in quality customer service, according to Parker.

"We want to make sure businesses are recognized for their commitment to training," she added.

The "It Pays to Please" course costs $20 per person. Registration will be done on-line, Carnes said, noting that the registration system should be ready in a couple of weeks.

"We already have several businesses interested in scheduling training sessions," she said.

More information is available from Carnes at 276-7411 or Parker at (800) 462-0619 or (503) 682-4422 ext. 107 or e-mail

Registration and a list of workshops scheduled will be available at

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