Although this may be my personal blog, I regularly consult with members of my team to ensure it continues to be stimulating and thought provoking.
Last week I was discussing a project with Azmi, part of our Scottish team, when he described a fabulous experience he received when he visited the world famous Gleneagles Hotel.
I thought it showed a superb insight into how the Gleneagles Hotel ensure they give their guests the world class service they are famous for and asked Azmi to write this week’s blog.
Valuing Variation At Gleneagles Hotel
My friends and I were lucky enough to spend the weekend at a 5-star hotel recently and we all agreed that what set this hotel apart from the ones that claim to deliver a five star service, but fail, was that this one recognises the value of coping with variation in their guests’ demands. In fact, it positively ENCOURAGES variation (in the form of requests) from its guests, so much so that guests are made to feel they’re getting a very personalised service and that nothing is too much to ask for.
But it’s no use promising to meet customer demands if you don’t have work systems that are designed to cope with the variation in those demands. In this case they appear to have done that. Here are some examples:
Providing what matters: a ’standard’ menu was offered but we were informed by the waiter that if we’d like something that wasn’t on the menu, they’d make it for us. One of my friends asked for a pasta dish that wasn’t on the menu and it was provided without any fuss.
Empower the staff : staff didn’t have to ‘check’ with, or get ‘authorisation’ from, managers before a decision was made to deliver what we requested. This was put to the test when my friend asked for salsa sauce with his omelette at breakfast (honestly, he did!). The waiter said they didn’t have any in stock but he would get the chef to make some up!
Put experts at the front end: the room telephone had buttons that put us straight through to the function we wanted to speak to (no explaining to reception what we wanted then passed on to someone else and have to explain it all again) and the people answering the phone dealt with our requests one-stop (in fact our experience was 100% one-stop interactions during the whole stay)
Ok these examples may seem trivial and I don’t suppose the hotel management are consciously using a Systems Thinking approach, but they show that the hotel management do understand one of the fundamentals about dealing with customers i.e. customers don’t all want the same service. They may all want a 5-star standard of service but they certainly don’t want a standardised service.
Many service organisations don’t appreciate the value of variation. In fact they see variation in customer demand as a bad thing. Even many ‘lean’ experts focus on trying to reduce variation and standardising service levels (if you don’t believe me, look at what six sigma is all about).
Standardisation cuts costs and helps deliver outstanding service. Or so they believe. They don’t understand that outstanding service comes from designing the work to cope with variation in demand.
This difference between standard of service and standardisation of service doesn’t just apply to customers of 5-star hotels, it applies to every service organisation.
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