Category Archives: Customer Care

The Art of Great Hospitality

Unless you live under a rock, or have been in space for the last five years or so, you will know that I (proudly) work with the Pride of Britain Hotels collection of hotels. I’m generally shouting about them on my social media channels, representing them at consumer shows up and down the country, or possibly even pushing a newsletter or directory of the hotels under your nose (sorry!). I am lucky to have visited all of the hotels within the collection and am extremely passionate about what they offer. I’d like to think I am a great ambassador for the Pride.

The collection is known for its ‘Art of Great Hospitality’ – something that I regularly witness when I visit the hotels. Over the last 7 days I have visited hotels in London, the Yorkshire Dales (See image below the proud owner of Yorebridge House Hotel which is one of our newest PoB members), The Lakes and even Scotland – and they have not failed to deliver on the exceptional (genuine) service you would expect to receive from such a collection. I am a great believer that hospitality is not really something that can be taught – but something that comes natural to a person. It’s about having the genuine willingness to help and assist the guests. I have first hand witnessed the teams going above and beyond, leaving a lasting impression with guests, which of course will most likely mean the guests will return time and time again (what every hotelier wants).

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We are lucky to have about 4,000 committed, professional individuals working in the Pride of Britain Hotels (of which there are now 48 – see here) all over the UK – all endorsing and demonstrating ‘The Art of Great Hospitality’.

I have felt immensely proud and ‘buzzed’ from my most recent visits to the hotels, a feeling that I can only imagine the majority of the guests departing the hotels also feel.

Well done Team PoB. Keep up the exceptional work.

Did I mention the hotels are stunning too! Here’s a shot I took today at Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire. Beautiful. Apparently the sun always shines there….

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Networking & Business Growth

I celebrated my second 18th birthday this month….and looking back, how different it was to the first one all those years ago. In 1995 it involved opening numerous presents & cards, whilst the evening’s priority was of course to drink as many alcoholic drinks as possible to ensure that I remembered nothing much about the night. I think I succeeded. Eighteen years on, and now tee-total, my second 18th birthday birthday celebration was somewhat different. It involved rising at 5:30am, getting ready for a days business networking an hour away from home, followed by a quiet night in with a DVD and a pizza. How times change!

The networking event I attended was The Business Growth Show in Northampton. The clue’s in the title. Surely I was going to meet like minded people looking to network, to grow their business, and more importantly make possibly valuable new business acquaintances. Unfortunately, my birthday wish to meet these people did not come true.

The event, which is free to attend, is sponsored by exhibitors who have paid for the privilege of having a 4ft table exhibition space. It also arranged speed networking sessions for you to grab 2 mins of time with up to 15 other attendees, to see if there was a potential to do business with each other.

So how would you turn up and more importantly prepare your mind for the day ahead? Well I set myself a goal. To make contact with at least three new people that could help me or my business, or even my clients. I presented myself in a professional business-like fashion, and went in with a positive open mind. Did others do the same – I’m kind of thinking not.

It amazes me – I walked around the exhibition hall as the show opened, looking at the 25-30 stalls, their banners, their business message – and how many came out to approach me in the aisles? Only two. Others remained behind their barrier, sorry I mean table, perhaps on their phone, iPad, or just casually gazing into space. I approached one stall that I wanted to find out more about the services offered, and the lady remained seated, behind her desk, and was not going to move for anyone. Isn’t it common courtesy to stand when someone approaches your stand? Obviously not. It displayed an attitude of ‘I can’t be bothered’ – and this was at the start of the day!

I was hoping the networking element of the day would improve on what had been a poor start to the day. I made another birthday wish – ‘Give me positive minded business people, looking for new customers, with drive & energy to succeed, who genuinely want to be here’…… Not a lot to ask surely?

Well let me introduce you to the ‘networkers’ that were there. They were the ones who had come to the event without business cards; without a pen to take notes on discussions;the ones who thought that coffee & cigarette breath was better than a fresh mint smelling breath; had dressed as if they were off out walking for the day with body warmer and walking shoes; they were also the ones who had not left enough time to shave or even do their hair (which as you know takes me ages in the morning!). So just what were these here for? It all became clear when I chatted to one of the attendees…..

I attended one of the seminars on the day, and arrived 5 minutes earlier than needed. People were already in the room. About 50 seats were set up, and in true British style, everyone spread around the room, not sitting next to each other, not making eye contact, and certainly not networking – that was until I got in the room. I was there to network – and that was what I was going to do. I sat next to someone (much to their surprise), introduced myself, and began to find out about them. Before long I realised I had chosen to sit next to Mr Positivity himself…..not.

How’s business? – “Terrible, got nothing on at the moment”
Have you been to these before? – “Yes, never get anything out them though”
I explained my opinion of events & networking – it’s all about keeping your name out there and trying to make new contacts for later down the line. Of course, for me more than ever, it’s important to have a steady constant flow of business – after all I have a mortgage to pay! Something I thought the gentleman might concur with – wrong again. “I don’t have a mortgage so I guess that’s why it’s not really that important to me. I don’t have the same pressure”. He then followed up with the killer blow – “To be honest I heard there was a free lunch, so that’s why I’m staying around”.

After a couple of hours at the show, I lost complete confidence in the event, and the attendees, and decided that my time, my passion and determination could be better spent back in the office.

Do these people annoy me? In a way yes – on the other hand, I’m happy for them to carry on the way they operate and I’ll happily pick up the business contacts that don’t wish to do business with them.

It is frustrating though – basic business skills – it’s not rocket science is it? We all know ‘People buy People’. Business is about being in the Right PLACE, the Right TIME, but more importantly the Right FRAME OF MIND. For those who know me, you will know I am a positive guy, and refuse to get dragged down to the levels of others. It’s important to associate yourself with like minded individuals to ensure you get the best results.

Perhaps next year I’ll get my boss to give me my birthday off instead of working!
Thanks for reading everyone. Keep positive!

No ‘fooling’ around on this event…

Months of planning and organising, all came together on one day – and it just happened to be April Fool’s Day 2012!

The Venue: The Heart of England Conference & Events Centre in Warwickshire.

The Client & their Guests: Award Winning Hairdressers the Francesco Group.

 Luckily I’d arranged the sunshine for the whole day and evening (all part of the service from MAUN Consulting). I arrived on site bright and early in the morning, and so took a stroll to the beach – yes the beach – in the Heart of England! A superb facility open to the public, offering everything you would expect at the seaside – from deck chairs and sandcastles, to a rock shop and even a fish & chip van! I could have easily stayed there all day. But there were things to check in advance of the day ahead, in advance of 400 people descending to the Midlands.

I had used the venue before, and knew a number of the team (who have been there for many years). There was certainly no reason to have any concern about the event – half the reason for choosing this professional venue. Already at 9.30am there were members of the venue team around and about, preparing for the evening event. The pleasing thing is that they were all ‘in the know’ about the event. It was obvious that communication between the events managers Melanie & Adrian (who I had been liaising with) had handed everything over in great detail.

It was important for the client to have a ‘prep room’ available from 11.00am – and guess what it – was all ready from 10.00am. Perfect. No unnecessary running around before the clients arrived. And as for the staff – well what can I say – everyone I came across was friendly & polite – making sure I’d got everything I needed – including a very important constant flow of coffee to get me through the day. It was great to be made welcome, and above all to be spoken to by the staff (very rarely done)!

So it was just a case of waiting around for the clients to arrive – so what to do? Well, jump onto the FREE WiFi of course and surf away. For those that know me, you’ll know one of my pet hates is a venue that charges for their WiFi. So another gold star awarded here.

It was great to see the team pulling everything together – I was also so impressed that the events team had only been given an agenda without the award winner’s names on it “just in case it was left lying around!” – Very impressive and forward thinking.

 So the FG Creative Team started to arrive. Rehearsals began. The atmosphere in the room was coming together – created with the help of effective lighting (constantly rigged at the venue), mist, specially selected accompanying music, visuals, and decor. Adrenaline started to pump as we edged towards the official start time of the event. I had 100% excitement and 0% worry. It’s one of the very places I have dealt with that have such a talented, knowledgeable and helpful group of people all working together to get the same end result – excellent service. The likes of Adrian, Jammo, Hayley, Andy, Maggie & Michelle (and so many more…) were outstanding throughout the day. We also had the pleasure of the MD, Steve keeping an eye on things all evening until the early hours, even collecting glasses and tidy the room throughout! All I wanted from the evening was to WOW the guests, ensuring that we complimented their quality brand, and above all to impress the MD and his team. From the feedback on the night it was mission accomplished. Four hundred happy guests, all fed watered and entertained at a top class venue.

The guests were even surprised with a late night work out on a Bucking Bronco. Perhaps if some of the ladies had realised they were going to be mounting a plastic bull, the choice of attire might have been a little different! Our chief photographer Stuart James (a great supporter and friend of MAUN Consulting) certainly had some ‘interesting’ shots from the activity.

What made this event so fantastic – quite simply – a superb venue with superb facilities, a superb team, superb hospitality and perhaps a just that little of perfect planning and precision from yours truly!?

Already looking forward to doing it all again in 12 months…..

And so to end on the theme we started – in my opinion you’d be a FOOL if you don’t consider Heart of England Conference & Events Centre for your next event in the Midlands. I would also recommend capturing every moment with the help of Stuart James and his camera, which didn’t stop snapping all night.

Thank you for your help with arranging such a wonderful event: & TWITTER: @heartofeng & TWITTER: @SJPhotographer

 Until the next time.



Great Hospitality is alive and kicking in the Cotswolds

Waking up on a wet & miserable Sunday morning, it would have been quite easy to stay tucked up all day, declaring a ‘duvet day’. Instead, the agenda was to take a trip from Warwickshire along the traffic-free Fosse Way into the Cotswolds for a much needed night away, and in search of the sunshine!

The advantage of living in the centre of the country is the fact that you’re not too far away from a number of very picturesque, beautiful villages, towns and popular locations.

Setting off mid morning seemed a perfect plan in order to arrive in Cotswold Country for a spot of lunch. The Manor House Hotel in Moreton in the Marsh provided the perfect location for a quality, well presented lunch, with fantastic friendly, efficient service. From the moment of arrival to leaving for our onward journey, all staff that we had contact with we’re professional, smiley, passionate about customer service and genuinely looked like they wanted to be there. What I liked most was the simplest of things, and something that is so often forgotten in hospitality today – customer interaction leading to asking customers for another drink! Well… happened in the Cotswolds – and I always oblige when someone bothers to ask the question! Gold star for getting some more money out of me.

I also liked the element of trust – again something that is sometimes amiss in today’s ever increasing untrusting world. Not once was I asked for a swipe of my card, or to pay up front for the order – and this was in a busy hotel lounge area, filled with Sunday lunch guests, village folk and potential bride & grooms attending the hotel wedding fayre on that day. Even with all of that, the hotel team, were happy to serve us our refreshments and allow me to settle the tab at the end! Thanks for the trust – it reminded me of one of many visits to Venice where the same applies. I was however a bit confused as to the reason of charging £2.55 per card transaction at the Manor House – a bit steep in my opinion, especially on a sandwich lunch bill of £20 – but it didn’t take away the feel-good factor from the visit

Leaving the ‘lunch stop’ I hoped that the same standard of service would await me at Barnsley House Hotel & Spa – a boutique luxury hotel about another half hour or so down the Fosse Way. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, I had a certain personal expectation knowing that Barnsley House was in the Pride of Britain Hotels Consortium – a collection of superb hotels such as The Goring (you know, the one where Kate Middy stayed pre wedding), Kilworth House (yes, the one with the unique outdoor theatre) and also the 5 star Chester Grosvenor Hotel – so to be honest I expected the best!

Approaching the hotel through the village of Barnsley – automatically gave a feel of luxury and tranquility. We drove up the slight incline to the hotel entrance and found our way to the reception which is situated downstairs in the main house. We were given a familiarisation tour of the hotel by a friendly member of the team….in her wellies! This perhaps would be strange anywhere else, but not at Barnsley where a farm, fields and the countryside are all a step away. We were even offered a ‘loan pair’ of wellies if we wanted to trek out! Great idea. We were taken to our luxurious bedroom (Rm 14) – and here in my opinion is where simple things were done right.

A registration form on the desk for us to sign, so no lurking around reception, scribbling onto forms whilst trying to hold on to all of our luggage and clothes. Again no credit card details requested (quite rightly so, as I had provided these on booking). However, it is normal practice at hotels to get details again with a further swipe from you as soon as you arrive! Why? Surely this creates a question of trust.

So much to mention in the bedroom awaiting for us – a hand written welcome card from the Hotel General Manager; a quirky Do Not Disturb sign on slate; an array of local quality magazines; fresh milk for your morning cup of tea; fresh mint in the fridge for your drinks; beautiful hand crafted tied boxes to store shoe shines and toiletries; an iPod docking station; DVD player with a selection of movies; and a superb ‘Pantry’ of goodies (of which I had to sample). I especially like the individual torches attached to bedroom key fobs for when you are walking from the hotel or local village pub in the evening. It’s the little things that have been thought about to ensure guests have a memorable stay – and it’s these sort of things that cost very little, but mean so much.

The hotel are lucky to also own the Village Pub (which also has bedrooms) – a beautiful little retreat for even more relaxation and fantastic service. How surprising that without having to ask for a tour of the bedrooms, the offer from Zortan (a Hungarian bar man) was put forward within minutes of entering the pub – he is obviously very proud of where he works – and quite rightly so. He kindly showed us the standard of the rooms – the best you will probably find at a pub!

It was great to see 35+ people dining on a Sunday evening. But after sampling the menu, I understand why they were so busy – my first ever cheese soufflé, a perfectly cooked rump steak, a rhubarb crumble to die for – made even more enjoyable as it was served by a team willing to interact all evening! They knew they’d done well once I offered to buy all the team a drink. Their reaction to the offer and their gratitude was truly rewarding.

A truly superb venue that has so much to offer to its guests – beautiful gardens, a private cinema, a wonderful spa, complimentary WIFI, Sky HD in bedrooms – but to top it all, a wonderful Cotswold welcome from everyone and a continued level of excellent service throughout. The service had even started prior to the arrival via their social media sites (@Barnsley_House & @The_Village_Pub). The interaction and excitement building process was done with ease and professionalism, and this continued throughout the stay with responses to my tweets! So nice to see a venue grasping this amongst other things, and doing it well. Make sure you give them a follow!

A great find and a great recommendation by Pride of Britain Hotels.
Would I come back? – sure thing – but not before I’ve ticked off all the remaining POB properties left try (for comparison purposes, you understand!).

Well done the Cotswolds – you’re doing wonders for the British hospitality industry – Keep up the good work – and thanks also for making the sun shine!

Why not check them out & make a trip to the Cotswolds soon:

Barnsley House Hotel & Spa

A member of Pride of Britain Hotels

The Manor House Hotel, Moreton in the Marsh

Thanks for reading.

Epic Fails

The panic is over everyone – I have strong evidence today that the hard economic times & business decline that has certainly been experienced in the hospitality industry over the last 12-18 months is most certainly a thing of the past. For one particular hotel brand, it must be seeing such growth on their top line sales & profits, they no longer see the need to fiercely fight to keep customers or even take cash from them!
So, how did I come to this conclusion I hear you ask? Well, it all became clear to me whilst I sat waiting to meet with a business associate in a hotel lounge in Solihull this afternoon. Now if you’re an honest kind of person, you’ll probably admit that the economy has certainly not recovered and it is as still as hard as ever to attract new business, to keep business, and every sale counts to your daily business survival. However today I witnessed hotel staff displaying actions that would send company owner’s blood boiling!
On arrival I had no worries of trying to find a vacant seat in the hotel coffee lounge – in fact there was plenty to choose from. No noise from business delegates, no screaming kids enjoying the last days of freedom before being returned to a life of education next week – the lounge was pretty deserted, as was there large bar attached to the hotel. Customers seemed far and few between, even with their prime location on a very busy main ‘A’ road.
The bar/servery in the lounge was unmanned on arrival, so I just took a seat in the corner and browsed the drinks menu that was prominently placed on all tables. Whilst I was thinking whether I should go for a skinny, mocha-chocca Americano latte with double cream (you get my drift) or a standard cup of tea, the menus were swiftly taken away from the tables from someone who I will refer to as ‘Claire’ (as that was her name!) – and someone in my opinion who should NEVER have been allowed to work in hospitality!
Remember I was sitting in a public COFFEE LOUNGE (as signposted) in a HOTEL (which as far as I am aware offer refreshments 24 hours a day in this country). So why when I and 2 other customers who arrived asked for a coffee, were we delivered a very stern, surprising and rude response of “Sorry we are closed in here”. ‘Claire’ had obviously had an extremely bad day – for whatever reason – but it was evident that she knew where she wanted to be, and what she wanted to be doing – and that was NOT AT THE HOTEL SERVING CUSTOMERS. She bluntly told me that I could order from her round the corner at the Bar and that I would “Need to pay straight away”. I admit, I’m bald and therefore look like a bit like a Mitchell Brother (in a smart suit), so fair enough for not trusting me (although there are ways to perhaps go about these things!).
Now not to bore you anymore with further conversations and comments from ‘Claire’– All I can say is that not at any stage were guests made to feel respected or wanted at the hotel – Now I don’t expect red carpet treatment – just a simple, courteous welcome, and pleasant service. I decided to tweet to the Hotel Twitter Account to let them know things perhaps weren’t as they would expect in their Lounge – but unfortunately received no reply from this – Twitter and Social Media Sites are there for INTERACTION with your customers, suppliers and potential clients – So why ignore messages? #EpicFail
Three Coffees later, it was time to leave – so I went to settle the bill (as I was eventually trusted with a tab in the end). Our friend ‘Claire’ was nowhere to be seen – and so her colleague was there to serve me. I stated everything we had drunk, but unfortunately nothing had been rung in the till – so there was no record – and because the particular bar had been closed – the till had been cashed up! I was calmly told not to worry about it – and the coffees were on the house – and so we left without paying a penny! #EpicFail2 HOW, HOW, HOW is this possible!!?? I cannot believe ANY company can afford to do this nowadays? I am still amazed.
So, to the questions that need to be asked?
How many ‘Claire’s’ do you have in your business?
Can you really afford to continue employing a ‘Claire’ in your business, to damage your brand, lose legitimate customers & miss out on daily takings?
Can you afford not to respond to your customers when they interact with you on social media?
Time to think – Perhaps time to send on someone undercover to see what is really happening at your business. You might be surprised at basic fails in your daily business.
Thanks for reading.

It’s not a lot to ask…..Is it?

My last 17 years have been spent in the hospitality/customer service industry – whether that be behind a bar; in a hot stuffy kitchen; sat at a sales desk; or running the all important wedding. During my time in the industry I have been lucky enough to visit some fantastic hotels and venues (be it for work or pleasure); meet some fantastic people; and most of all get utter enjoyment out of my job. What still amazes me in this country, is the way that basic levels of customer service/communication can differ so much from hotel, to shop, to venue, to attraction – Which college course was studied or which training academy did these people originate from?
In 2009 I visited America for the first time. I was lucky enough to visit most Disney attractions – All different in their own ways – but with one MAJOR thing in common – The customer service. Every Disney employee, in every location seemed genuinely pleased to be there – genuinely pleased to serve – and would genuinely want to help wherever possible. Sure, the hot sunny days put them all in a good mood -and how could you not be happy working alongside Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear –but no matter what time of day or night, you could be assured of a smile, a greeting and interaction (albeit a little over the top).
So why is it not like that in this country?
We all have our problems and our general moans and groans – wages; the weather; the shifts; your colleagues; customers….. But is it really too much trouble to leave them behind and do the job in hand –Smile and serve the customer!?
How many times have you approached a cashier for them to finish their conversation with their colleague? How long do we have to stand waiting to be served, whilst that all-important piece of paperwork gets completed by the member of staff? Or is it just me that it happens to?
Why when I am happy in myself and I try and pass this on to ‘my server’ does it not rub off. I start with one little question – “Hi, How are you today – Having a good day?” – the response , always pretty standard “Not Bad – Better when I get out of here…”. Are we not grateful for our employment nowadays? We all know that work is a major part of our daily routine (unless you’ve just scooped £160m on the EuroMillions). We all know that without our jobs, we wouldn’t be able to survive or have the lifestyles we do. So why is it we seem to torture ourselves whilst we are at work.
Let’s all make a promise. To smile. To be happy in our work. To try and enjoy every moment that we are there. To make others smile too.
It can’t be that much to ask. Can it?
“Have a Great Day”……

Basic Customer Complaint Handling Tips

After my recent exceptionally poor level of service from a high street bank – where the basic customer complaint service procedures dramatically failed – I have decided to write my top 10 tips for Complaint Handling.

If these steps had been followed, I would now feel like a valued customer and someone who my bank appreciates, rather than just an annoyance, an account number and a bank balance.

If companies get complaint handling right – It will generally lead to a stronger relationship with you and your customer.

  1. Take responsibility from the start and admit when you have failed
  2. Take all comments seriously and do not brush them to one side
  3. Respond quickly and efficiently, and at agreed times
  4. Ensure you follow up and keep in touch with the customer regularly
  5. Respond to the client before they have to chase you
  6. Deliver your promises
  7. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer
  8. Show the customer you care and that you genuinely want to help them
  9. Do everything within your power to resolve matters quickly – even if this means chasing your peers for responses
  10. Strive to turn the complaint around so that the complainer becomes a company ambassador

Remember – the internet is a powerful tool – If you get it wrong – it is likely the whole country will know about it! It’s not rocket science – Just the basic rules of quality Customer Complaint Handling

So who does it right in your opinion?

Thanks for reading