2014 George S. Mickelson Great Service Awards

The George S. Mickelson Great Service Award honors businesses or organizations that have done an exemplary job of exceeding visitors’ expectations in customer service. It marks the culmination of a yearly hospitality program that involves hospitality training, customer comment cards, an employee recognition program, and an application for the Great Service Star designation.

Each 2014 winner receives a $1,000 credit to use in any of the Department of Tourism’s cooperative advertising programs in 2015.

Two George S. Mickelson Great Service Awards were presented for 2014.

“In today’s social media world, a good or bad experience is rapidly communicated throughout online communities. That’s why it is more important than ever to create an environment focused on customer service and visitor experience,” Governor Daugaard said. “That’s why every year we recognize two partners who go above and beyond.”

Presented to
Great Plains Zoo

photo of Jim Hagen, and Governor Daugaard
Secretary Jim Hagen and Governor Dennis Daugaard present a
2014 George S. Mickelson Great Service Award
to Kylee Breems of the Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls,

at the 2015 Governor's Conference on Tourism.

downloadable, hi-res version of this photo (300 dpi)

The Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls, works hard to understand customers’ needs and uses that knowledge to create a positive and fun encounter that goes beyond expectations.

All staff attends customer service training prior to the start of the summer season. Seasonal staff members are mentored by team leads and volunteers receive four levels of customer interaction training.

Staff members are rewarded with personal thank you notes from management and notes of thanks from the CEO. Recognition for providing great customer service comes in the form of employee bulletin boards, staff meetings, mentions at Board of Directors meetings, newsletter and reader board mentions.

The Great Plains Zoo attributes an increase in attendance, which has nearly doubled in the past few years, to this focus on customer service. They’ve also seen zoo membership triple in that same time.

In 2014, the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau also named them the Business of the Year.

(The Great Plains Zoo is the non-corporate category winner. This category recognizes smaller hospitality businesses that do not have access to a larger corporate training program.)

Presented to
Comfort Suites Hotel
& Convention Center

photo of Governor Daugaard, Secretary Hagen and Holiday Inn Rushmore Plaza staff
Secretary Jim Hagen and Governor Dennis Daugaard present a
2014 George S. Mickelson Great Service Award
to Deb Bruce, Davis Dathe and Cindy Olson representing
Comfort Suites Hotel & Convention Center, Rapid City,

at the 2015 Governor's Conference on Tourism.

downloadable, hi-res version of this photo (300 dpi)

The Comfort Suites Hotel & Convention Center, Rapid City, says its ultimate goal is to ensure that every guest leaves feeling good and longing to come back. With guest comments like, “Best place we have stayed on our long trip across the U.S.A.,” and “Thank you again for demonstrating what customer service really is about,” they are accomplishing their goal.

Hospitality training is on-going and includes 100 percent participation in the Department of Tourism’s online customer service training. Staff is also encouraged to visit area attractions in order to familiarize themselves with what there is to see and do in the community so that they can pass that information along to guests.

Employees are rewarded for the great customer service with Governor’s Hospitality Certificates displayed on their Wall of Fame; Wow Coins, which can be redeemed for gift cards to local markets; and staff parties and celebrations held throughout the year. They also honor exemplary service with their Employee of the Quarter recognition.

Community involvement is also important to the Comfort Suites. They host military personnel from Ellsworth Air Force Base annually with their “Say Thank You with Waffles” breakfast.

They are one of 17 Choice Hotels in the world to receive the prestigious Platinum Hospitality Award and they have received that honor for the past three years.

(Comfort Suites is the corporate category winner.)

Thank you to all of our industry members who participate in the Great Service Star program and to all industry staff who go above and beyond in the name of great service. Here are the finalists for the 2014 George S. Mickelson Great Service Award. In addition to the winners, these finalists deserve a big thank you for all they do to make our visitors feel welcome: Akta Lakota Museum at St. Joseph’s Indian School, Chamberlain; Best Western PLUS Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center, Sioux Falls; Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone; Cedar Shore Resort, Chamberlain/Oacoma; ClubHouse Hotel & Suites, Sioux Falls; Country Inn & Suites, Watertown; Crazy Horse Memorial, Crazy Horse; Custer State Park, Custer; Prairie Berry Winery, Hill City; Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rapid City; South Dakota State Parks, Pierre/statewide; and Wylie Park, Aberdeen.