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Creating Really Memorable Experiences

From when our customers arrive to when they leave, we look to provide a really memorable experience - to go one step beyond what they might expect. It's like going to a hotel and fining when you go back to your room in the evening, the bed is turned down and there's a mint on the pillow.

This is the text for a talk given to the Melksham Chamber of Commerce in May 2006, covering our current experiences of creating a really memorable experience in the training business, and how we'll be going on to do something along the same lines at "Well House Manor" where we'll be providing accommodation for the business visitor too.
INTRODUCTION

We like it here in Melksham. We love it so much that we've built up a customer service based business here in the town, and we bring in and encourage people to visit the town - to eat in the restaurants, to use the shops, to stay at the B&Bs and hotels. And our business has gone from strength to strength in the last five years.

Why do people come to our business, and why to Melksham? Because we've got a d**ned fine product that's what they want, and because we create a really memorable experience that makes them want to tell their friend and colleagues that this is the place to go. This evening I'm going to tell you a little about how we've created that memorable experience, and how you can take elements from my tales and use the to create memorable experiences too.

GOING BEYOND

Have you read the books ... what do I have here?

- The little red book of Selling
- Drop the pink elephant
- Managing People and Projects
- How to thrive on Chaos
- Be a Successful Technical Trainer
- Bridget Jones's Diary (Huh - how did THAT get in the pile?)

They're good. Some of them are very good. But read them and then go one step beyond. Read them, and remember that each of your customers is an individual and treat 'em special. And each of your team members, each of your network is an individual and treat them special - like you would like to be treated too, going one step beyond.

That's things the books can't tell you. Because it's different each time. And of course if it can't be put clinically in words in a book, then it can't be presented in a speech from a platform either, can it?

[Walk around room, away from speech position. Perhaps put on hat]

[Pick on audience member] Hello, Sir, I'm Graham and I'm going to be looking after you today. And you are .... (waits for name). Good to meet you [John].

{Pick on another] And you're coming with is to, I believe. And you're ... (waits for name). [Nigel], nice to have you along.

Now - before we set off, has either of you two ever been white-water rafting before?

Await answers. {this is where the speech / role-play gets difficult to script] Go on for a couple of minutes, remembering.
 * Showing own badge
 * Please ask me questions at any time you wish - I'm
  here for you
 * Find out hobbies. Establish rapport.
 * Fill them in on where from and too. Couple of
  jokes but watch the audience.
 * Show your own enthusiasm.

Thank you Nigel, thank you John ... I'm sorry the rafting's a bit of a porkie but I was looking to illustrate a few things.

 (Go through list above)

But most importantly, empowerment. In that scenario, my boss has empowered me to interact with the customers, to talk, to say "hi" and "bye" with a friendly smile, to treat the manual more as a set of guidelines and less as a set of rules that must be followed. I can't predict the outcome.

[hold up hand] look - I've bitten my nails nearly all off worrying about how it would go this evening, but it went fine. These two quiet gentlemen turned out to be not the ogres they might have been but lovely, real, nice human beings - as I had every confidence they would. And I suspect they'll go away from this meeting with a truly memorable experience to report when they get home to the missus or the mistress or the blog.

EMPOWERMENT

I found the first few times that it takes guts to take on an unknown audience - indeed, one of the reasons I chose my first job after University was because I had to get on the phone an speak with people who I had never been introduced to - to do that job myself. I don't mean cold calling or telephone selling - that's for tougher cookies than me - but to look and listen to people and engage them.

Lisa and I were driving past an information board in Melksham last summer, and a couple were studying it and looked lost. Not our problem? Nothing to gain from helping them? Yes and yes, but we stopped the car and shouted over to them "Can we help you - are you looking for somewhere in particular? It turns out they're from New Zealand, on holiday in the UK, and they had come to Melksham by public transport for the afternoon to track down some long-lost roots - their great uncle had run a pub called the White Lion or White Swan or ... white something in Melksham. Well - I hadn't a clue. Did the Unicorn used to be the White Unicorn, perhaps? Was the Red Lion previously the White one? Oh well - this one isn't going to be easy to sort.

We directed them towards the Unicorn ... "we'll see you there" we said, and popped home to get some maps and to swap Lisa's little two seat sports car for my rather more practical larger one. A happy ending to the story ... someone suggested the White Hart in Atworth and we drove them up there. "Yes, THAT's the place in the pictures" they said excitedly as we drew up. Truly a memorable experience.

Now - Lisa has empowered me to speak to strangers and to use my best judgement in what I do (and I have empowered her similarly). If best judgement fails, it's one to put down to experience and to make for better judgement too.

The story's also a reminder of the need to follow through. If we hadn't put ourselves that one step beyond ... gone home, swapped the car and returned ... then our new friends would have been let down - so near, yet so far.

NETWORKING, FRIENDLINESS, WORKING WITH

Why Melksham? Because, because, because ... lots of reasons. And one of them is because the people here are friendly. Before Melksham we lived in a village where you were considered an outsider until you'd been there for at least 20 years. Here, we felt accepted in 2 months.

I can walk into a garage, or a hairdresser's or the bank and smile and say hello and exchange a few friendly words with the staff without getting odd glances. A few know me by name now, but most are, hey, just happy to have a customer treat them with a friendliness and respect.

We've taken it a stage further - we positively encourage that engagement at work; we're a small team of three but I want everyone so say hello to our customers, be part of the team - it's a "win - win" setup. It makes the whole team feel very much a part of the operation and it makes the customer feel almost as is they have a guard of honour greeting them. It also empowers both customers and our team to talk to each other at ease.

Can this be got wrong? Yes, it can. We prefer to place our business locally where we can, but there are a couple of places we'll avoid. In one, the staff engaged me in an argument when I went in having just come out from a shop across the road who they felt were a competitor of theirs. And there's another store where the staff are empowered to spend their day talking to each other and hiding as much as possible from the customers. These two places are the wrong sort of memorable experience.

THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE

This is the information age. Our customer's experience doesn't start when he enters our office - it starts before.

And our customer's experience doesn't end when he steps out of the door - it carries on beyond.

Have you ever travelled somewhere only to find that it's shut? We have, and we've taken to checking places out online before we visit them. And we know that many, many customers check out our web site before they even email or phone. That's where the experience starts. Designing an effective website is beyond the scope of today - though it's a fun thing to talk about, but let's just see from one or two people here what business they're in, and I'll tell you what I might look for before I even get in touch.

[[move into audience]] Hello, I'm Graham. Your ... . And what's your line of business?
 * Products
 * Selection helpers
 * Opening Hours
 * Map
 * Online ordering

Now - how is your customer going to reach you? Does he know where to park? If he's coming by public transport, can you offer him a lift? An extraordinary thing to do? Maybe, but it works ... you're getting his experience off on the right foot.

If you sell someone a cake, when does his experience end - when he leave the shop, your cheery "thank you for your business" ringing in his ear?

No - it doesn't. Does it end when he eats the cake? No, not even then. I'm writing this pleasantly full .. part of which is a due to a cake I ate some two hours ago; the memory and experience lingers in my lack of hunger pangs, though I home to finish in time for a quick kebab. "Hi, Boss , how are you doing" they'll ask as I walk in and they'll know that it's garlic mayo on Lisa's chicken, just checking with me before they actually put it on.

REMEMBER LIKE THE ELEPHANT

And that leads me into my next point - the customer experience is ongoing. It's worthwhile - really worthwhile - to know your customers, even if you have to cheat a little if you don't see each individual too often. We have notes - these computer database things are marvellous - and you can ask after the kids and family, or ask how the long commute to work is going these days [[Footnote - must tell Lisa that Sara now has two kids. Already told here that Erin's passed away and I shed a tear or two at that news]]

Why worthwhile?

Well - I'm a customer too. And I like being remembered; it may be in business-centric way "Have you stayed with us before". House number and postcode given. "Mr Ellis is it? Oh my goodness - you ARE a good customer of this chain". And in the case of an eating establishment, I REALLY appreciate it when I don't have to explain my allergy time after time.

Just a footnote - remember that you'll probably need to register under the data protection act if you store personal customer information anywhere other than in your brain.

EMPOWERMENT, ENTHUSIASM, ETHOS

Empowerment, enthusiasm, and going one step beyond. As far as we can, we practise what we preach. Lisa and I work from home - originally just the two of us, but now we're a third member of the team who's usually around, and three others who come in regularly. They're just as much a part of the team, and we encourage them to speak with customers too. "I was having a chat with your gardener and he's a real enthusiast, isn't he" says a customer to me. I smile, yes, that's the sort of interaction I want.

Working from home is both a delight and a curse; on one hand we have no commute and we love having people around a lot of the time. On the other hand, we sometimes wish we could get away from it just occasionally.

But the empowerment it brings is fabulous. In our business, customers are usually with us for a few days and although they may be nervous at first, we can very quickly give them a lead. "I'll show you how the coffee machine works, then help yourself whenever you want another cup ... and do let Leah, Lisa or me know if it says it needs servicing". Empowerment from the start. We'll typically find that when we start clearing table after lunch, the customers will join in and follow us into the kitchen with the dishes. Mind, there's subtle signals even there to encourage them - the glass panelled doors left open double-invite them; they rarely stray to Lisa's office without and invite and I've never found customers in our bedroom!

Creating a memorable customer experience isn't just about the three E's Empowerment, Ethos and Enthusiasm but so much of it is about applying them. To listening to your staff, and your customers, and yourself. To noting, and noticing. It's perhaps no coincidence that five out of six of the people who've been on our payroll over the years have been women ... Christine has just started with us, and Charlotte will be working with us this summer during her summer break after GCSEs. I've been struck by the same thing in some recent dealings with another company new to Melksham. They've a woman at the head, and the other two directors I have met are women too. And both our industry and theirs are male-dominated industries. But both our organisations are customer facing and customer service ...

When Colin Harrison asked me to present this talk tonight, I thought "goodness - what can I fill an hour with". But as I started to put all my thoughts together, I've found that I've had to leave out far more that I've put in. There's a whole book full of anecdotes and experiences we could learn from.

Looking forward, how are we going to learn from them? We're a training company, and we're in the business of creating really memorable experiences for our customers - if they don't remember what we've taught, then we've failed. "Almost like a daytime hotel" says Lisa, and it's true.

THE NEXT STEP BEYOND - ADDING WELL HOUSE MANOR

As from this Autumn, we're going to be providing a round-the-clock service for our customers, and for other visitors to Melksham too. We're going to be providing - no, not just providing but providing with an ethos and enthusiasm business accommodation for our delegates, and for others too. At the end of this month, we'll be completing the purchase of a property on which we've already obtained the necessary planning permission for the necessary changes. The lessons we've learnt during the day will be well put to use looking after customers over extended hours, the experiences we gained in restoring one of the old Spa houses as our training centre will be put to good use, and the philosophies I've talked about earlier will come further into play.

If you've got white collar visitors in town who need a good room that's rather better than they might expect at the price, near to the town centre yet in a quiet location, with full internet and printing facilities included, then please have them consider "Well House Manor". For a really memorable experience.

You see this mug I've been sipping water from this evening? "Come as a student, leave as a friend" it says on it. Very much our theme. Let me show you what effect that has - I'm going to quote a letter from Paulette who was with us last month

As we extend the business, you'll find us theme-ing on "making business a pleasure" and that's just what we hope to do. And you can do these things too.

A CHANCE EMAIL CAN BE LIFE-CHANGING

Let me finish with one final anecdote.

Did you hear the one about the man from Africa who started his email? He started "You don't know me, but ...". Such emails are renowned; they're know in the trade as "the Nigerian Scam" and usually involve asking you to help launder millions of dollars for them ....

I received an email starting in just the same way ... except .. it looked just a little different. It went on to ask if we knew of an Internet cafe or public web access in Melksham ... unusual, so I followed up. It turns out that Harry's daughter, having finished her degree, had taken a two year "overnight care" job in Melksham so that she could travel and see the UK. The job hours and description had been mis-sold to her and she was trapped in her position with no easy communication home.

We've got children - no - read that young people - of about that age and although we couldn't provide Harry with an Internet Cafe or public access point, we did suggest that his daughter pop by our place when she managed to escape for a few hours. After a couple of false start, this young lady with bright pink hair appeared on our doorstep, and Delene entered our lives.

She sat in the library, used the computer there for a while, and with cheerful thanks was on her way. "You're welcome back any time, Delene" we said and she popped by every week or two for a couple of months, and gradually the story of her plight came out.

Now - we were in no position to take on a full time employee, but we were desperately behind on some paperwork, filing, low-tech drudge minimum-wage type work that I wouldn't normally even dream of offering to someone with more qualifications that I have. However, Lisa suggested that we offer Delene a temporary "bolt hole" where she worked for us for up to 3 months on a 37 hour week, and took time off during that 3 months to make ongoing plans. We have a spare room, so board and lodgings included ...

Delene took up the offer - came to us once arrangements had been made for her charge - and settled in well.

At that time, my son Chris was living and working in Bognor and visited us occasionally. He came up about six weeks after Delene had started with us. He also came up 7 weeks after Delene had been with us. ...

My son's here in the audience tonight. His wife Delene is working a night shift answering the phones for NHS Direct. And Harry now that he's retired will be making his first trip out of South Africa to visit them here next month. We look forward to welcoming him and his wife Nellie here in Melksham for a day or two during their trip. Truly, a really memorable experience for them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, John, Nigel, Rodger, many thanks for coming along tonight. I've got a handful of our newsletters from the Autumn before last here, which feature our "Mint on the Pillow" article covering our "one step beyond" approach. Please, and questions, do ask. Anything that comes up later, please do email me or pop round - we're in one of those Georgian blocks on the Devizes Road.


Prop list -
 Books
 Badge
 Cap
 Mug and water
 newsletters
 notepad


See also Well House Manor

Please note that articles in this section of our web site were current and correct to the best of our ability when published, but by the nature of our business may go out of date quite quickly. The quoting of a price, contract term or any other information in this area of our website is NOT an offer to supply now on those terms - please check back via our main web site

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  [1290] Badges, Breakfasts and Trigger - (2007-08-04)
  [582] DWIM and AWWO - (2006-01-30)

Well House Manor - The Hospitality Business
  [4321] Are administration / review charges on hotel guests acceptable? - (2014-11-20)
  [4232] Not wanted here - hotel guests who will not be happy - (2013-12-30)
  [4202] Excellent Railfuture conference, but some setup lessons - (2013-11-03)
  [4051] On reading a new hotel review - (2013-03-24)
  [4033] Official Star ratings for hotels - still worth having? - (2013-03-07)
  [3988] Three cheers for the staff at Well House Manor - (2013-01-24)
  [3909] Every Customer Counts - (2012-11-01)
  [3838] Guest review - Well House Manor, Melksham - (2012-08-14)
  [3832] A busy day at Well House Manor - so come in and make it even busier! - (2012-08-10)
  [3743] Sunday - no longer a day of rest - (2012-05-28)
  [3660] A Pivotal Incident - learning how to welcome your guests - (2012-03-18)
  [3309] Tipping Policy - Well House Manor - (2011-05-29)
  [3164] Brown - or Mrs Sally Brown, accountant from Whitstable? - (2011-02-10)
  [3147] Hotel star ratings - towards a better system of review - (2011-01-25)
  [2936] The service that customers should receive - (2010-08-27)
  [2879] Night Porter and reception - 24 hours a day? - (2010-07-20)
  [2724] Escapee Grandparents welcome - Henfield and Melksham - (2010-04-15)
  [2593] Food and drink launch - (2010-01-21)
  [2303] Turning potential customers away - (2009-07-24)
  [2283] Everyone is in the customer relations business - (2009-07-12)
  [2007] Launch of Melksham Food and Drink Festival - (2009-01-24)
  [1877] Guests doing a bunk? - (2008-11-09)
  [1792] All the pieces fall into place - hotel and courses - (2008-09-10)
  [1622] An extra step - victory from defeat - (2008-04-25)
  [1548] Hotelympia - show report - the lighter side - (2008-02-21)
  [1445] Looking after you Christmas Customer Crowds - (2007-11-26)
  [1422] Wiltshire - speaker / after dinner talker offer - (2007-11-05)
  [1421] Castle Lodge Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - (2007-11-04)
  [1284] An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30)
  [1248] How NOT to oversell a hotel - (2007-06-27)
  [1180] Conjugation - (2007-05-08)
  [1161] A contrast in room rates and facilities - (2007-04-25)
  [1122] Hotel - online feedback forms compared - (2007-03-30)
  [1108] Express service - (2007-03-14)
  [1084] Writing terms and conditions for conferences and other events - (2007-02-17)
  [1048] Getting rid of people - hotel techniques - (2007-01-21)
  [1046] Bounce, bounce, bounce - (2007-01-20)
  [1002] Meet the neighbours - (2006-12-20)
  [988] You should think you're first in a hotel room - (2006-12-15)
  [922] Staying at your own hotel - (2006-11-12)
  [884] Drive time - (2006-10-02)
  [774] Bed and Breakfast, or Hotel? - (2006-06-22)

Solutions centre home page

You'll find shorter technical items at The Horse's Mouth and delegate's questions answered at the Opentalk forum.

At Well House Consultants, we provide training courses on subjects such as Ruby, Lua, Perl, Python, Linux, C, C++, Tcl/Tk, Tomcat, PHP and MySQL. We're asked (and answer) many questions, and answers to those which are of general interest are published in this area of our site.

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