• Customer Service Excellence

    How do you deliver customer service excellence?

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Customer Service Excellence

To hear the words “Welcome” / “Céad Míle Fáilte” and know that they come from the heart. This is music to my ears. To see a smile and a friendly face when you arrive at a hotel. This sets the tone for a lovely experience. How many times have you arrived to check-in, laden with bags and the unsmiling receptionist asks you are you checking in while at the same time presenting you with a form to fill in? No “hello, how was your trip?” Following a mediocre stay in a mediocre bedroom, you receive a post stay email asking you for feedback. I ask the question,”Why didn’t you ask me during my stay?”. Sometimes it feels like an invisible hotel with invisible staff and as a guest, you almost feel invisible yourself. As an industry that revolves around people, let’s try to connect and engage more with our guests and bring hospitality back into hospitality. 

My Top Tips

So why do so many hotels miss this most fundamental part of hospitality? Yes, everyone is busy and understandably day to day operations take up so much time. But perhaps there is a deeper reason. Maybe it’s because the culture of the organisation does not have hospitality at its heart. Creating this culture starts at the top and should flow and filter through to every member of the team.

1. GET OUT OF THE OFFICE

Just imagine if every hotel general manager and head of department would spend more time on the shop floor and less time in the office (yes, I know that KPI’s and spreadsheets are important too). However, this time on the shop floor allows you to really engage with your customers and lead your staff by example. 

2. TELL YOUR STORY

Use customer service excellence to tell your story and make your business memorable and stand out from the crowd. 

3. PEOPLE MAKE THE PLACE

Invest in your people and make sure they understand the ‘WHY’ as well as the ‘HOW TO’. Benefits to them include increased confidence, team morale, motivation and overall engagement.

4. REWARD GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE

Shout it from the rooftops when you receive compliments about your team. This will have the ripple effect in making everyone aspire to excellence.

5. ADDRESS ALL GUEST FEEDBACK

Gather it as early as possible – especially if things go wrong (and this happens) – try to turn a negative into a positive.

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Small steps and little touches go a long way.

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30 Years of Hospitality

Having had the pleasure and honour of being asked by the amazing Tina O’Dwyer of The Tourism Space to present at her recent conference in Limerick, I shared my story of how I used customer care excellence in my thirty years of happy hotel-keeping at Harvey’s Point:
  • To build our brand
  • To lead our loyal team
  • To differentiate from our competitors
  • To survive the recession
  • To grow our business

VISION / MISSION

It was our Vision to be recognised as one of the leading hotels in Ireland, delivering world class excellence in hotel-keeping and Irish hospitality. Each member of our team was aware of the importance of their role in achieving our goals of excellence. There were three essential elements to our Mission – Happy Guests, Happy Staff & Sustainable Profitability. This provided the framework for our business. All our behaviour and actions were aligned with our Vision and Mission.

OUR CULTURE – ‘One Dream, One Team’

There was (and still is) something truly special about the culture within Harvey’s Point. It was the most precious and perhaps the most important part of our strategy and it was the key to our success. Our customer focussed culture evolved over time, and while the hotel became bigger and busier during the thirty years, our core values remained the same. There was a sense of caring that was shared by the owners, management and staff, caring for each other (as internal customers) and caring for our discerning guests. As one team, we celebrated the highs and stuck together during the lows. The positive culture in our organisation energised us and motivated us to aspire to excellence, together.

LISTENING TO OUR CUSTOMERS

Every customer has a voice and that voice has to be heard in order to firstly understand and ultimately anticipate and deliver their needs. Listening to our customers was a vital step in our service delivery. We listened carefully and tried to pick up on guest cues and then act on them. The act of listening occurred well before our guests arrived, during their stay and indeed after they departed. There are so many platforms from which we learned from our guests, either face to face, through social media and from even from other guests, who visited us because of high recommendation and referral. One of our key questions that we asked our guests when gathering feedback is “How likely are you to recommend Harvey’s Point to a friend”? This ‘ Net Promoter Score’ gave us a clear indication of our ranking in customer service delivery.

LISTENING TO AND EMPOWERING OUR TEAM

We recognised that our team held the key to how our customers were feeling and they also had ideas on how to raise the bar in terms of higher standards, more efficient work practices etc. Whether front of house, back of house, long serving or just in the door for a summer season, each staff member felt a connection to the hotel and it’s growth. Our high percentage of staff retention was very much appreciated by our many regular guests. Our team had the confidence to know how to make a guest feel special. It was the little touches that counted most, be it the handwritten card in the room on arrival, the complimentary bubbles in celebration of a special occasion or even a warm handshake and a friendly smile. They were also empowered to deal with issues if and when they arose and to endeavour to turn a negative situation into a positive one. Communication was key to ensuring that any issues were followed up by management before a guest departed.

SERVICE STANDARDS

While our simple mantra was that we ‘hired for attitude and trained for skill’, it was nevertheless important that we struck a balance that was aligned with our ‘Swiss Made In Ireland’ slogan – which was to deliver the highest possible standards of hotel-keeping blended with authentic Irish hospitality. Our in-house training programme educated our staff to succeed in their respective roles. There were clearly defined service standards (SOP’s) which were essential in maintaining consistency and measuring performance.

BEING CREATIVE

In our quest for continuous improvement, were were always in search of new ideas to surprise and delight our guests. No longer is a hotel guest satisfied with the ‘equation’ ‘2B&B & 1D’, they are looking for an enjoyable and memorable experience. Ironically, it was the recession that inspired us to think outside the box in terms of how to create added value rather than discounting, which our family business could not sustain. We hosted complimentary in-house activities such as cookery demonstrations, wine tastings and regular ‘Meet & Greet’ drinks receptions for residents. This was a unique way in which to engage with our customers. Our other ‘secret’ was to ensure that every one of our team played their part in customer service. For example, chefs, house-keeping and maintenance staff were encouraged to interact with our guests as well as those who work on the frontline. So simple but so effective.

FINALLY …..

Whether in Dubai, Dublin, Dingle or Donegal, whether it’s a large business or a small business, whether the economy is in recession or booming, customer service is key. As technology advances, as marketing techniques and sales channels continue to evolve, remain true to your core principles and values. Customer Service Excellence is our most important job, it’s our biggest asset. Let’s use it.

GO THE EXTRA MILE WITH A SMILE 🙂

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

  • Independent

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  • Evoke

    How Deirdre McGlone went from a summer job to owning Harvey’s Point

  • Electric Ireland

    How Deirdre McGlone of Harvey’s Point built a thriving rural business with no footfall

  • Irish Times

    ‘It’s good to get out of your comfort zone’

  • Independent

    Hidden in the hills of Donegal is a marriage made in hotel heaven – Sean Gallagher