Problem Solver: I'm seeking out inspiration for my team to focus more on customers at our hotel
Q: I am looking at new customer service initiatives for my hotel. Is there any inspiration you can give me and my team.
A: I have found that the additional customer services which have high impact are often the simple ones. The small touches that bring a smile to customers' faces.
As an example, very often on Saturday in Superquinn, we would task one of the team to spend the day in the car park with a bucket of water and a windscreen cleaner. As customers shopped, they kept themselves busy cleaning windscreens, and to the surprise of the customer, when they returned to their car they found a note on their windscreen which said "While you have been shopping we've been washing". The reaction on people's faces was fantastic. That simple touch meant a lot to people yet cost us little.
We always gave a carnation to all female customers on Mother's Day, we lent a salmon kettle free of charge to any customer who wanted to cook salmon at home, gave out "love heart" sweets on Valentine's Day, etc.
I would suggest two things to help you identify some of these initiatives. Task your staff with coming up with some great ideas and give them a week to work on it. You will find that their knowledge of what would "wow" the customer will be the greatest in your business and they will come up with some real nuggets. Secondly, it would be a good exercise for you to spend a week observing customer behaviour in your hotel and look for the areas where you can help.
For example, I was talking to a hotel owner recently who told me that, if their receptionist identifies that a customer is celebrating a birthday or anniversary, they ensure that the chef prepares a small cake which will be delivered to their table if they are dining in that evening. A simple touch but it would mean so much to your guest. I wish you well with the initiatives and you will have great fun implementing these.
Q: Superquinn always led its sector on innovation. How did you manage to stay ahead of the market place as I am trying to do the same with my own business?
A: Thank you for the comment. We worked very hard at it, and that involved many aspects which contributed to success. I would encourage you to set aside a budget each year to fund travel for yourself and senior managers.
In Superquinn each year, we always ensured that at least 30pc of our managers and senior management team went abroad to conferences and study trips. We put a lot of focus on these teams being able to deliver and execute these ideas when they came back. We had plenty of examples of a manager seeing something in America one week and having it in action in Dublin the next.
I would encourage you to sign up some of your senior managers to a membership of global organisations in your sector. Usually these groups have annual conferences and seminars where you can hear the best of industry experts from around the world and also be kept up to date with newsletters and information sheets.
I have mentioned in previous responses to readers about the importance of ensuring that someone on your team be signed up to trade magazines and very often that does not have to be a senior member, but rather one of the staff who knows they are responsible for highlighting one of the items they find.
Finally, reward innovation. This will encourage all of your team to work harder at coming up with new ideas if they see the company recognises it formally.
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org