This time my contribution isn’t really about time management, although the ‘takeaway points’ apply to all businesses. Instead, I just have to tell you about some exceptional service.
I’ve just finished three weeks of very busy work in the UK, staying at a number of different hotels, many of them once large heritage homes now turned into hotels. The settings are almost always delightful, but the standard of service varies.
The one that stood out above the crowd by a country mile mile was Highgate House near Northampton, part of the Sundial Group. I had three separate stays there, due to the requirements of clients, and don’t think I’ve ever experienced better, more consistent or outstanding service and friendliness in any of the many hotels I’ve stayed at around the world over the last twenty years.
Here are a few samples, and there were many other instances.
On arrival the first time I asked for an extra night, this one paid by me rather than the client who’d booked me in. Ellie, the young receptionist, not only found a room but gave me a better rate than the advertised one. This was without any prompting, and her manager was within hearing. Obviously she was empowered to use her discretion. She certainly didn’t know me but she would have realised I was connected to one of their regular clients.
At breakfast the next day a smiling chef was cooking eggs to order for the guests, right where we could see him. Yes, we see that at some hotels. However, how often do you find the head chef of a large enterprise doing it? And not only did Head Chef Lee Gaskins cook the eggs to perfection and plate the hot food but also engaged me in meaningful conversation.
The genuine friendliness extended to other staff as well. Yvonne, one of the wait staff, heard my accent and immediately asked if I was from New Zealand. Turns out she has a son in Picton. Each time I came in she gave me extra care, if that were possible. By the end of my third visit she was asking for my contact details so she could connect when she next comes to our end of the world. We parted with a hug.
I suspect the atmosphere comes from the top. At nearly every luncheon Paul Williams the General Manager was to be seen with a smile, not rushing around – simply chatting with the guests and quietly keeping an eye on everything with an easy touch. How easy it is for senior staff to be busy at their desks, running an enterprise invisibly behind the scenes. Definitely not Paul’s style. Over my multiple visits we had many chats about rugby and other things. (I’m sure he’s still smiling about the Welsh win in last Saturday’s Rugby World Cup match against the Lions.) Maybe the staff would be friendly without that example, but certainly he sets a great standard.
Not only is there a feeling of genuine friendliness but also generosity. Just one other unusual and prize-winning touch was the free coffee on tap 24 hours a day. In the foyer of the bar/dining area was a large coffee machine, a plate of home-cooked snacks almost all day, and bottles of water in the fridge. Guests were welcome to replenish their cups and help themselves to water or snacks at any time. It was the next best thing to being in a private home. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. Most enterprises look for ways to clip the ticket, not give things away.
Takeaway points for any business:
- Be generous – it comes back
- Be genuinely friendly and expect your staff to do the same – you become a magnet and people want to spend time with you
- Empower your staff to make decisions. They feel valued and it flows through to your customers
- Treat people with respect and they will respect you and your property
- If it feels like home people will want to spend more time there