Are you proactive or reactive?

In life we can choose to be proactive or reactive. Put on a few pounds, join a slimming club, join a gym, lose the love handles, forget to go back to the gym, put on another few pounds and the cycle begins again. Or you can be proactive, stay active, eating relatively sensibly and staying at your most comfortable weight. That option takes a little more effort, on a regular basis but it gets the most consistent results.

The same can be said in all areas of business. With the challenges of the day to day activities it’s easy to be reactive rather than proactive. We only have so many hours in the day so we prioritise the problems that cause us the most pain! Customer complaints, staffing issues, not hitting the sales targets for this month, spiralling costs that no one seems to know how to control. It’s easy to become a spinning top as we lurch from one crisis to the next!

What if you took control of your day to day narrative and became a more proactive?

In a previous role as general manager of Tara Lodge, the No. 1 hotel on Tripadvisor in Belfast since 2007, I hated dealing with complaints. Not because I couldn’t handle the complaints or ensure that any complaint was dealt with quickly, professionally and with the 99% guarantee that the customer would leave satisfied with the outcome but because I had wanted to use my day to day activities to concentrate on making Tara Lodge even better. So how could I minimize the number of complaints while making sure each customer was delighted with our product, the service and the overall experience?

I read each and every online review that wasn’t a five-star review, I assessed every negative comment card received in the last year and I reviewed all the complaints that I had received in the previous twelve months. Painful as that was (everyone likes to think that their business is brilliant without a single fault) it gave me great insight into what the business failings were. I made a list of all the issues that our customer had felt so annoyed about and lo and behold I was able to see the same few problems were coming up regularly. Of course, you get a few curve ball complaints but if it’s something you really can’t do anything about focus on the ones that come up again and again. Then I took action!

I eliminated all the problems that I could immediately, I brought the more major, ongoing problems to the attention of the owner, so we could plan and schedule any changes that cost money and then I sat down with my teams and outlined what we all could do to preempt complaints. We completed complaint handling training and we developed our responses to the issues we couldn’t fix. Not trite, dishonest responses but honest, open responses with solutions to help minimize the impact on our guest. Rooms too hot in the middle of a heatwave with no air conditioning? Offer lighter bed linen, jugs of iced water and a gentle reminder that we only get about three weeks of good weather a year! The results came quickly – better reviews, less negative comments, less complaints and team members who were empowered to deal with complaints at source.

Solve the problem before it becomes a problem for another guest. Quality of the linen in question, meet with your supplier, replace the linen and introduce a procedure where your housekeepers need to inspect linens daily. Service at reception not friendly, engage and train your front desk team, highlighting the problem and making your expectations clear. And when they start to get good feedback make sure you tell them what a great improvement there has been!

Entertainment in the bar too loud, go and sit in the bar as a customer would, speak to other customers to get their opinion, and then make sure the band knows what level of volume they can’t go past. And then check that they are sticking to the agreement! By dealing with the source of the problem you eliminate any future complaints.

Certainly, it takes more effort, planning and some extra time initially but it will save you time and effort in the long run, so you can focus on delivering an excellent service to your customers helping to drive sales. The boss will be impressed as the reviews improve, sales improve, and you become a more proactive and problem solving person.

Learn how to become a proactive manager by attending our Management, Dare to be the Best, training workshops in October & November 2018 in Belfast, Omagh & Derry/Londonderry delivered by the Podd Team. For more details check out the website.

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