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Red hair and roots!

Ireland has changed and changed forever.
The last twelve years or so have seen a remarkable period of transition.
Much has been written extolling the reasons why, Celtic tigers,
economics, and so on. Regardless of why, these changes have created a
new reality, new dynamics and new problems. Yes, lots of opportunity too
but more on that later.
Ireland today has more visitors, more growth and an economic reality
that is fast tracking the need to adapt. The Ireland of DeValera "comely
maidens at the cross roads" is long gone. The Ireland sold for so long
as "red headed dancing girls" immortalised in touched up postcards is
also dead. These are no longer real and no longer reflect Ireland today.

Fast forward Ireland!

The hospitality industry has been at the battle front of these atomic
changes. Witness the rapid rise in new hotels. Imagine a former Soviet
Union girl smiling as she pours your pint. The signs are everywhere and
reflective laments for a return to "the good old days" are irrelevant.
Air travel, the internet and immigration alone have created our new
world and our new reality. That creates problems but also opportunity.
Welcome to Ireland 2006!

Experts …. In the problem!

Many years ago a kindly teacher intervened to stop a bully bullying. I
remember his line "it’s very easy to hit a sinking ship" Not that the
hospitality professionals are "sinking" but recent and constant
criticism from high profile "gurus" is not much use without offering a
solution. Sure! We should adapt and adopt quicker. Sure! Service can
improve. However, criticism without a precious prescription to fix the
problem is really not much use.

It’s a kind of Magic!

At the heart of the meaning of the word "hospitality" is the true
understanding and buy in to the word "service" For many it is lost, for
some it has become a dirty word and for a few it’s a demeaning but
necessary form of life.
It’s easy to illustrate bad service but not as easy to pull together and
define the common threads of "really good service". But those threads
are there.
If you asked 100 people to define "service" you would get 100 answers.
That in itself is part of the problem. Many courses in "Customer
Service" are plastic, pre packed, dull, boring cliché driven lectures.
No wonder it draws a collective yawn.
Just as the country and industry has had dramatic change imposed on it,
so too is the need for a change in how we teach and re invent our use of

What’s coming?

Great leaders have vision. Michael Smurfit is such a man. How many
sceptics would have gathered at his table to tut-tut his Ryder Cup
ambitions? They did but so did he! 2006 sees Ireland on view to an
incredible worldwide audience. The crème de la crème of the world’s
beautiful, rich and glamorous will be here. They will come and they will
judge. Hospitality professionals need to be ready. No, not ready
operationally, ready with "attitude". That attitude is customer
friendly, focused and warm. The majesty and splendour of our stunning
countryside is not enough to lure them back anymore, and no, the "it
will do" attitude won’t.
Opportunity lies in our own hands not in those of the Gods!

People Power and a tough lesson.

There is a common thread to good service, its people. There can never be
a great hospitality experience without. Elsewhere I painted the picture
of a wonderful cleverly designed sumptuous theatre. A place with great
big plush red velvet seats, stunning lighting and amazing sets. But, if
the actors on stage have no idea what they are doing, it will be a failure.
Great service can only ever be through your people. Invest in them,
teach them, empower them, listen to them and be prepared to be surprised.
Try filling them with fear and see where that takes you. Not long ago, I
was giving a one day "Great Customer Experience" course. The legendary
GM introduced me to the fourteen newly recruited foreign national
professionals. As he finished he added "anyone not paying attention to
Conor can go find another job". The day was already lost.

Follow the Leaders.

Sandy Lane in Barbados is world famous. Colm Hannon, now back home as
CEO of Luttrellstown Castle, made it so. It didn’t "just" happen. Not
long ago I listened to how he made it happen. One example stood out.
Most of his guests spent much of the day on the beach. Colm and his team
set themselves the challenge of how they could make their guests beach
experience even better. They gathered up their colleagues, they
inspired, they listened, they empowered and they acted. The result? Each
day a young man did nothing but clean guests oily sunglasses in situ as
they lay on the beach.

The Ideas Factory, the Solution!

It is no coincidence Colm Hannon got it right. He works through his
people. If you want to reinvent your business, your ethos, culture and
warmth, invest in your people. On the contrary, this does not mean
expensive external or internal courses. The answers lie within.
Nobody knows your hotel like your colleagues. They also know the solutions.
Gather up your people. Create a meaningful forum. Ask them to tell you
what is wrong and why. Make it a safe atmosphere. Inspire and provoke
creative low cost solutions and make them accountable for their own
ideas. Acknowledge them, reward them and motivate them. Avoid trying to
intimidate them, they will close ranks on you and rapidly.
This is what successful hoteliers do, this is what works. In short, get
them to understand what "going the extra mile" means and help them on
that journey.

A True Story!

Recently I was developing an internal group with a hotel in Co. Cork. At
the end of the day we had some spare time. I asked them to write a
charter for their own Customer Care now that we had taught them a thing
or two. Here is what they wrote;

"Our hotel is our house and we are the parents. Our guests are our
children for as long as they are here. We must mind them, feed them and
keep them safe. We must also keep them happy even if it means we have to
do more. In the morning we will send them on their way and because we
care about them, we will say goodbye properly. We dearly hope they will
come back safe and sound but we will never, ever take that for granted"

These words were written by 6 young hotel employees in twenty five minutes.

Their words say it all.

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