Here are 5 simple factors that you just cannot afford to overlook on your way to providing excellent customer service.

-Be polite (greetings, thank you, you’re welcome go a long way)

-Pay attention, listen to your customers

-Promise only what you can deliver

-Time is valuable. Especially customers’

-Provide personal attention

Practice these basics and you are well on your way to excellence! Missing any one results in unhappy customers.

Too many companies try too hard to exceed customer expectations! Establishments centre their efforts on creating the extraordinary, the wow moments and many times fall short of the ordinary. In our digital age, focusing on meeting the basic expectations on a consistent basis is powerful.

Customer Service

Paying attention to the basics such as answering telephone calls in an appropriate time and manner are non negotiable components of a pleasant experience. How many times have you experienced…your call being answered by an automated voice, press ‘0’ wait on the line for a human attendant and when one finally comes on and after narrating your concern you discover you are speaking to the wrong department and need to be transferred to the correct one…and the saga continues!

Don’t let it happen in your organization, because in this age you just can’t afford it! Because in today’s age, when a customer calls with a concern, there is a good possibility that she has tried to self serve and failed. In a sense, the telephone call and effort to speak with a human being is a desperate attempt to seek help! In most cases the customer has already interacted with the company’s website, automated telephone service and is frustrated with an impression already formed!

2 customer service basics that can really turn the tide in your favour:

-The person taking the call must be empowered to resolve the problem. Repeated transfers and making the customer repeat information is a sure way to lose a customer. This individual has to be able to take measures to correct the situation and quickly! The new world customer service is in the ‘Now’!

-The customer could be in a state of despair! Creating an emotional connection, listening and customizing solutions can be far more effective than taking the checklist approach. Personalizing your interaction based on the situation and the individual can have a very positive effect on the outcome. The word ‘Personalized’ has always carried punch, but in our new age it is the 1000 lb gorilla!

The new business climate demands organizations are staffed with well trained attentive, empathetic and empowered staff to interact with customers. Making certain that your website allows people to self serve easily might be the best decision towards proving a pleasant experience for your clients.

By Teg Brar, MSc.

If you are still playing the old customer service card and expecting to win…think again! In today’s age the customer service bar is much higher than what it used to be; the only way to win loyalty is to deliver an experience that exceeds expectations. The guest understands that no one is perfect and things will go wrong at times, however, what the new age guest demands is an honest effort to make corrections quickly. In many cases the guest is demanding this in public (online). If a business is able to resolve the problem to the client satisfaction, then it stands to gain a brand ambassador far more powerful than any ad campaign. However, if a business is not prepared to take responsibility and is sluggish in their half hearted effort, things could go very wrong as evidenced in the video below which has been viewed over 8 million times on YouTube.
The magic formula undoubtedly is to ensure that every customer is happy. There is no such thing as ‘We can’t please everyone’! The benefits reaped by adopting this customer experience approach will far outweigh the costs incurred.
By Teg Brar, MSc.

Foursquare is a location aware social platform with a fun gaming component (my previous post explains Foursquare). Already, there are several implications that hospitality businesses can take advantage of Foursquare and here are a few ways I think the hospitality industry can benefit from using this social platform.

-Cafes, restaurants and hotels can reward users with incentives for using Foursquare. For example a discount could be offered to Foursquare users who check in into that location.

-There could be a separate promotion to reward anyone who achieves ‘mayor’ status every week. Think about it, this is really an offshoot of your loyalty program…or should I say a loyalty program on steroids and very transparent!

-Guest satisfaction reigns supreme! Happy patrons will ‘shout’ tips to their friends and happily make suggestions that can benefit a business in more than one ways.

-People might use the platform to see which of their friends have checked into a certain location or how busy it is. As this social platform is in its very early stages of inception it remains to be seen if people will use it as a metric to decide if they should visit a club or restaurant.

-Hospitality businesses can easily harness the robust information available about their customers and competition. This location aware platform is more robust than the likes of Brightkite and Gowalla and early adopters can take huge advantage…just like Twitter a couple of years ago!

Read my full article on Foursquare published in ehotelier.

by Teg Brar

What is foursquare? It is far more than a ball game…Just when we thought we had our heads wrapped around Twitter, along comes another social network with an additional layer of gaming integrated in it. Foursquare“>Foursquare is the Brainchild of Dennis Crowley (dodgeball) and Naveen Selvadurai. Word has it that it was awarded the darling status at South by Southwest Austin this year somewhat similar to Twitter in 2007. Location sharing applications on mobile devices undoubtedly seem to be the future…here are some fundamental basics about how this new platform works; personally I found it quite interesting and could not help but think how businesses can benefit from it.
-Can be used on the web or with a mobile device
-Once you have set up an account, you can look for your friends that are using Foursquare.
-You can check in into different locations bars, cafes, night clubs, restaurants etc. and find out which of your other friends are at that location. Or simply discover popular venues!
-You earn points every time you check into a location and if you are the person that has checked into that particular location more than anyone else you’ll become the mayor of that spot (sounds influential) until someone else takes the honor away from you by visiting more often.
-When you are checked in at the location, you have the ability to leave tips which are your recommendations to others when they are at this location. For example, great coffee at ABC café! To do’s are simply reminders to yourself about this location.
-Foursquare is fully integrated with Twitter and gives you the possibility to tweet every check in. Currently it has an iPhone application with soon to follow Blackberry.
To follow…how can hospitality businesses take advantage of location based social networking.
by Teg Brar

The free events of Vancouver 2010 are spreading the Olympic fever to every part of the city. Vancouver is in full swing and exceeding all expectations! Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics seem much more like the Summer Olympics…and I’m not saying this just because of the weather. The whole city seems to be engulfed in the Olympic spirit, there are so many family friendly free events in the city that everyone is having such a great great time!
My good friend Austin Nairn at the Vancouver Board of Trade shared this extensive list of ‘free events’ happening during the Olympics in Vancouver. I must say that this is by far the most comprehensive listing I have seen so far!

Cultural Olympiad Free Shows: February 12 – 28th
* ALL showtimes are PM
* TBC is to be confirmed, the act hasn’t been announced yet.
* There are more shows in and around Vancouver, but these are the free ones!
Fri Feb 12th – Venice Queen – 10:15 @ Ozone
Fri Feb 12th – Bedouin Soundclash – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Fri Feb 12th – Blue Rodeo – 9:15 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th – Matthew David – 3:15 @ Ozonever
Sat Feb 13th – Jet’s Overhead – 8:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th – Five Alarm Funk – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th – Daniel Wesley – 10:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th – Califone! – 7:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 13th – Hey Ocean – 8:00 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 13th – Bedouin Soundclash – 9:30 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 13th – Jessie Farrel – 10:00 @ Livecity Downtown
Sat Feb 13th – Default/Wilco – 6:15/10:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th – Keisha Chante – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Sun Feb 14th – Mother Mother – 8:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th – Rich Hope – 8:00 @ Livecity Downtown
Sun Feb 14th – Daniel Wesley – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th – Elliot Brood – 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Sun Feb 14th – Serena Ryder – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Mon Feb 15th – Sloan – 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Mon Feb 15th – Serena Ryder – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Mon Feb 15th – Jet’s Overhead – 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Mon Feb 15th – Matisyahu – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 16th – Fresh IE – 7:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Tue Feb 16th – Alexisonfire – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 16th – Buck 65 – 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Tue Feb 16th – Eliot Brood – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Tue Feb 16th – The Trews – 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Wed Feb 17th – DRUM! – 5:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 17th – Corb Lund – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 17th – The Arkells – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Wed Feb 17th – Hawksley Workman – 9:30 @ Ozone
Wed Feb 17th – Hot Hot Heat – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Thur Feb 18th – Jully Black – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Thur Feb 18th – Keisha Chante – 8:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 18th – Corb Lund – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Thur Feb 18th – Rumba Calzada – 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Thur Feb 18th – The Arkells – 8:30 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 18th – Our Lady Peace – 9:45 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 18th – Marianas Trench – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Fri Feb 19th – Deadmau5 – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Fri Feb 19th – DRUM! – 8:00 @ Ozone
www.leadersoftomorrow.com | 604.641.1246 | anairn@boardoftrade.com
Fri Feb 19th – Jully Black – 10:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 19th – The Arkells – 7:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 19th – Dan Mangan – 8:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 19th – Sam Roberts – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th – The Arkells/ Sam Roberts – 6:30/9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 20th – Marianas Trench – 9:30 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 20th – Mother Mother – 10:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th – DRUM! – 6:30 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th – Hey Ocean – 8:30 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 21st – The Odds – 7:30 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 21st – 54-40 – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 21st – Jully Black – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Mon Feb 22nd – Colin James – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 23rd – Wintersleep – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 24th – Wintersleep – 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Wed Feb 24th – Damian “Jr.Gong” Marley – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 25th – Illscarlett – 6:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 25th – Wintersleep – 9:30 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 25th – Inward Eye – 11:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Fri Feb 26th – Tokyo Police Club – 9:45 @ Ozone
Fri Feb 26th – Inward Eye – 6:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th – Illscarlett – 8:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th – Marianas Trench – 9:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th – TBC – 8/9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 27th – The Stills – 10:15 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 27th – Illscarlett – 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Sat Feb 27th – Blue Rodeo – 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 27th – Wide Mouth Mason – 9:30 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 27th – Tokyo Police Club/Wintersleep – 9/10:00 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 28th – Five Alarm Funk – 9:30 @ Ozone
Livecity Yaletown:
David Lam Park, Vancouver
Livecity Downtown:
Cambie St between Dunsmuir St and W Georgia St, Vancouver
Holland Park:
13428 Old Yale Rd., Surrey
Ozone:
Minoru Park, Richmond
Ontario Pavillion:
Concord Place, False Creek, Vancouver
Atlantic Canada House:
Granville Island

Teg Brar

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics officially open today and World do we have a show for you! For most of us that live in Vancouver, there has been a flood of activity over the past few months. Construction, street closures and most lately transportation delays, reroutes, you name it! I thought I had seen it all when living in Sydney during the Summer Olympics of 2000…but I guess I had not! One of the really striking things in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics is the number of free events planned throughout the lower mainland. Here are my top favorite 5 freebies…
1. BC Pavilion, Vancouver Art Gallery (Robson Square, Robson & Howe Streets) This is the downtown hub for Olympic activity and live performances. Vancouver art gallery is open to visitors for free during the Olympics. You can skate at the GE Plaza open skating rink (skate rentals at $3). The International Media broadcasts will also take place from this venue. This location is also home to Ziptrek where visitors can zip midair six stories high over downtown Vancouver. Watch video. Quite amazing, I expect the lines to be long!
2. Celebration Village 2010 at the Edgewater Casino (750 Pacific Boulevard) Free daily entertainment and also features Chinese New Year festivities with lots of food vendors and shops.
3. Live City Yaletown will be abuzz with activity. Laser and waterworks show promises to be a treat. Water spurted high into the air will become a backdrop for a spectacular show. Watch video.
4. Granville Island has been transformed into the French Quarter. Visit it in heritage style by taking the shining new Bombardier street car from the Olympic Village Station on the Canada line. Watch video.
5. The state of the art will be demonstrated at the Ontario House (Concorde Place, Stadium Skytrain Station). Experience the power of innovation and imagination. Do the unthinkable and control the lights on CN tower and Niagara Falls! Watch video. Teg Brar

Free events Vancouver 2010

Happy employees provide more personal and better service and keep guests coming back. Being considerate, fair and honest with your staff are the fundamental principals of keeping your people happy and motivated. I recently had the opportunity to speak at an event in a hotel in the Greater Vancouver Area. Just prior to the beginning, a member of banquet staff was setting tables and placing pre poured glasses of water in the same room where I was scheduled to speak in a few minutes. I asked if I could have a glass of water and was told that the water was part of the dinner setup and no effort was made to meet my request!! A few years ago I was returning to Vancouver on a ‘reputed’ international airline and needed a pencil to make notes in a book that I was reading. My request was declined, there was not a single pencil on board the aircraft!! In both cases staff made no effort to stray from the ordinary and were happy to take the easy way out. In today’s competitive business environment this is just not good enough!

If your staff is happy, they will be motivated to do wonderful things for your guests! Here are a few simple pointers for hoteliers…

-Give an opportunity for the staff to experience the product from a client’s perspective. Have your staff stay at the hotel with their family at least one night a year. This allows them to ‘tinker’ with the product and get to know it intimately. They also experience the soft side of the product as well.
-Inspire them to take extraordinary actions for the welfare of the guest. Encourage them to break the rules if they have to satisfy the needs of your customers. Empowering your employees to take action and correct problems is what new age customer service is all about.
-Make recognition an integral part of your culture. Never waste an opportunity to recognize. Don’t wait till the end of the month, excellence needs to be recognized right away. Strike when the iron is hot, recognize and celebrate as soon as an opportunity arises.
-Listen and value feedback. During my days at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington DC, every employee was invited to have a ‘rap session’ with the general manager
-Listening is pointless if no action is taken. Keep your employees informed, follow up!
-Engage your employees, show them you care. Do small things like a box of chocolates on their birthday, and why not their children’s birthdays! Offer them meaningful benefits.
-Promote a culture of development and learning. Give them opportunities to broaden their knowledge and skill base. Give them a chance to learn new things and be challenged. Offer tuition reimbursement and mentoring programs.
-Open up to your staff and engage them. Show them the value of their efforts in the overall success of the product. Let them see what your days looks like!
-Serve quality meals in your staff cafeteria even if staff must pay for it. This is one of the most common pet peeves among employees.
-Pay a competitive salary, you have a better shot at excellence!
-Be transparent, share company information with employees and set up a system to obtain anonymous feedback.

Happiness is contagious…when people are happy remarkable things happen!

By Teg Brar, MSc.

Being passionate about your career will definitely help you stand out in a highly competitive job market. In challenging times, it is ever so important to steer away from the mediocre and show passion and hunger for success!
According to one study in the US, 70% people are unhappy at work. On average a human being spends practically half of their life working. There is a saying that if you can find a job that you love to do, you will never work a day in your life! So true! All great leaders have vision but it is the passion for the vision that motivate people to follow and engage with them.
A great way to build passion for the hospitality industry is to visit and observe hotels, schedule informational interview with people working in the industry and listen and interact with guest speakers at your college. Talk about their careers, ask them how they got to where they are! People love talking about themselves and will remember you for giving them the opportunity. Attending industry events, volunteering and having a mentor can also help develop passion for the hospitality industry. At job interviews you can show passion by thoroughly researching the company and the position. Having a set of questions to ask the interviewer will also highlight your passion. By Teg Brar

Seth Godin in his post ‘The problem with doing it by heart’ describes how he recently visited a noodle shop and clearly requested his noodles without the sauce! And he still gets the noodles with the sauce! The attendant responds ‘that’s the way they always come!’
The culture in some organizations discourages exceptional behavior, as a matter of fact behavior that is consistent and with the standard operating procedures gets rewarded. SOP’s if not introduced properly can themselves become stumbling blocks with employees experiencing ‘learned helplessness’. Everything goes well up until the time an extra ordinary request is received! Then the staff don’t know what to do; they either go to their manager for help or do it their way and the way they have always done it.
A key to providing dazzling service is to train, encourage and motivate staff to veer off the beaten path to please the customer. If staff feels really empowered to take matters into their own hands to make it right for the client, then an organization is on track to provide exceptional service.

Teg Brar

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