“It’s night and day from the year be­fore."

Pre-sea­son staff train­ing at Keltic Lodge brings dra­matic dif­fer­ence in ap­proach to cus­tomer ser­vice, says GM Hud­son

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - ANNE FARRIES

When his phone stopped ring­ing at night, Gra­ham Hud­son knew he had made the right call.

At the start of this year’s tourist sea­son, the man­ager of the iconic Keltic Lodge ar­ranged a week of train­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­flict res­o­lu­tion for 12 staff mem­bers at the ocean­side ho­tel, with the in­ten­tion of al­low­ing them more author­ity to han­dle prob­lems. Would he do it again? “The re­sults were more than won­der­ful,” Hud­son said. “It’s night and day from the year be­fore. They re­ally needed the em­pow­er­ment. They did not feel they had it be­fore, and they would call me or their su­per­vi­sor on ab­so­lutely ev­ery lit­tle thing.”

“With this course, we said, ‘the worst you can do is make a mis­take and we can cor­rect it in the morn­ing, or live with it and learn from it’.”

“I don’t re­call get­ting one call af­ter hours for a prob­lem this year, be­cause the front of­fice staff were able to take care of it them­selves. They felt I had their back, they could deal with the sit­u­a­tion and I wouldn’t be up­set with their de­ci­sion.” “I was very pleased.” The course helped staff un­der­stand that su­per­vi­sors trusted the staff’s good judg­ment, Hud­son said.

“To give them the at­ti­tude that they could step a lit­tle fur­ther into the pool was good."

Ian Macneil, who taught the course that was funded by the Nova Sco­tia Depart­ment of Labour and Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion, said the main point was to em­power staff to make de­ci­sions on their own, and to han­dle is­sues that arose with cus­tomers.

“On the first day and the last day, I in­vited the man­age­ment of the Keltic Lodge to join the cus­tomer ser­vice staff in the same room. I pre­sented sit­u­a­tions that would call for a re­sponse by the staff, and asked them what they would do,” Macneil said. “I then turned to the man­age­ment to ask for their feed­back on the ap­proach.”

“The mes­sage that man­age­ment con­sis­tently de­liv­ered was that the re­sponse was ap­pro­pri­ate, and that mak­ing an ef­fort to re­spond, even if it might have been slightly in­cor­rect, was still an ef­fort to make bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice and to solve the sit­u­a­tion. They (staff) could make no bad move.”

In the past, when staff turned to man­agers, “just the time that passed would be enough to up­set the cus­tomer fur­ther,” Macneil said.

“The mes­sage from man­age­ment was ‘do some­thing’,” Macneil said, ex­plain­ing that an im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion to an in­cor­rectly-cooked steak, for ex­am­ple, could smooth ruf­fled feathers.

“The server says, ‘sorry about that, I’ll get you an­other steak, and may I of­fer you a free dessert,” Macneil said.

“In the past, they would have had to go to the head chef or the su­per­vi­sor and ask if they could of­fer this. The time that passed would lead to de­lay in pro­vid­ing the rem­edy. It was the de­lay that made the sit­u­a­tion worse, not the rem­edy.”

Hud­son said the course helped with staff re­ten­tion, which he said was “per­fect” for the sea­son.

“Ev­ery­one com­mit­ted to their dates and stayed right through,” he said. ““I think they’re go­ing away happy and with more con­fi­dence.”

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