Are you being looked after? When you go to a restaurant, check in for your flight or try out the latest store, do you come away feeling loved and cared for or do you get a serving of cold stares and gruel-thin niceties. While our hoteliers and storekeepers still have a whole year ahead of them to sort out their care tactics, here are three lessons from the world of service, all from the past few days.
Older is wiser. I have just returned from a Swiss hotel where I have stayed several times. They do everything well. We are not talking grand or five-star but simple larch-clad rooms, bathrooms that work, good coffee. In some places it borders on the spartan. One of the highlights, and one of the reasons you look forward to coming back, is the woman who takes your breakfast order. She’s in her sixties, homely, has a cheeky smile. She even gives you a hug on the first morning. Increasingly I notice how establishments with nice older staff win out over places with the cute but useless. It says something about a business’s loyalty to its staff and ideals.
Dogs are OK. In the gap between Christmas and New Year I checked in to a country hotel that has a good bar and restaurant. The dog came too. People are not very welcoming about dogs in hotels, let alone restaurants. But because this joint started life as a pub they were not just relaxed, they were positively encouraging. Dogs could go anywhere in the public areas, they could curl up by the fire and could look forward to being served water and the odd treat. But the attitude there spoke about more than liking dogs; these were people who could take things in their stride and, more importantly, trusted you to do the right thing. How many establishments really show faith in their clients?
You need a team. Trying to buy some boots for that dog trip, I went to a well-known store for outdoorsy adventures, well, muddy walks. I was served by a man who had a learning issue. I had him trying to find two different boots in two different sizes and at some point he began to get confused. Meanwhile four members of staff stood around watching as his frustration mounted. They let him sink. Twenty minutes passed and it was time to politely give up. I left admiring a man who could tolerate working somewhere that had staff who didn’t look out for each other and despising a company that couldn’t take care of someone who needed a bit of help. Service is not just an add on. It’s something that springs from a company’s DNA. It reveals what sort of people you are dealing with. We need more of the variety that comes from the heart.
Andrew Tuck is editor of Monocle.