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a blog by Chris Barrow


I can’t believe it’s Thursday and I haven’t written a blog post all week! The reason is – just sheer workload and travel – Monday/Tuesday Edinburgh, Wednesday Gateshead, Leeds today and Birmingham tomorrow. Arrive hotel mid-evening, unpack, change clothes, bar snack, bed, wake at 5.30am, shave, shower, dress, emails, breakfast, set up workshop room, deliver workshop, load car, drive, arrive hotel mid-evening… There’s not much else to it. But the good (no GREAT) news is that this is my last week of serious travel before a big August slow-down. Next week will be 4 days in Falmouth and then a quick trip to London at the end of the week before I switch off for 2 weeks holiday, including a return to Ithaka and a week of relaxation and boating – bring it on. This working week began in Edinburgh – where the Festival is in full swing – swarming with tourists and focused on the main exhibition of this year’s event – an Andy Warhol tribute, to celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday.

I’m sure I heard a radio interview mentioning a work of his that has sold for £70 million? I must get my brushes out when I get home. I did arrive early enough on Monday to take a quick walk down Princes Street and enjoy some sunshine – and the sound of a country dancing band playing in front of the castle.

Unfortunately, the Festival made for the second noisiest night I have ever spent in a hotel – drums, cannon, singing drunks – it went on until the early hours and made for a very disturbed night. This week’s workshops are about customer service, of course – and it’s been ironic that I have endured two lousy encounters with Hilton staff. The first was in the restuarant at the Caledonian on Tuesday, when the officious manager refused to let me sit at the table I had chosen for lunch because it wasn’t part of “my group” – an area that had been partitioned off from the main tables – but at which there was no suitable room for me. I asked him a direct question: “Are you telling me that you cannot help me?” He answered “yes – I cannot help you”. And so I simply (and politely) responded: “Do I have permission to give you feedback?” “Yes” “I’m lecturing to 70 people here today on customer service – and what you have just said is the very epitomy of exactly what I am asking them not to do. If you cannot help me – go and find somebody who can.” 20 minutes later I was enjoying coffee with the Felix, the Food and Beverage Manager and explaining to him how his colleague was making me feel. Feedback given. Not many hours later, I arrive at the Hilton Gateshead – to meet with Miss Slapface 2007 – the receptionist at the front desk – who managed to check me in and upgrade me to the executive floor, whilst at the same time refusing to make eye contact, smile or make me feel in any way welcome. Quite an achievement. Needless to say – my feedback to the hotel manager the next day was polite and direct. On the positve side – about a year ago I presented at the Marriott in Newcastle’s Metro Centre and was looked after that evening by a funny, positive, helpful Geordie called Malcolm. And there he was at the Hilton yesterday morning – it made my day. As I reminded my delegates yesterday – all you need to deliver world-class customer service is:

  1. a smile

  2. a mission – and the mission is to always use the following phrase:

No problem, leave it with me, I’ll get it sorted

Simple stuff really – you wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to find sometimes.

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