At the weekend I took guests from Malaysia to explore Castle Combe, Wiltshire, touted as the most picturesque village in England. It is truly beautiful with soft honey coloured Cotswold stone topped with stone roofs, a babbling brook and ancient market cross.
On a Sunday morning it is the quintessential image every overseas visitor will have dreamt of immersing themselves in when in England. We explored the beautiful church, wandered into the Manor House Hotel grounds and ended up visiting a local pub for a light lunch, we opted for the one advertising their sunny beer garden, after all it was February and what English person is going to miss out on a sunny courtyard which can be enjoyed in February when it is fabulously warm and sunny!
Did we make the right choice, it was a 50/50 chance of hitting the jackpot as both pubs were opposite each other. Did we, well it depends, if you only counted the local brew, food and courtyard garden then yes it was very pleasant enough. So now for the but....
Unfortunately it was obvious the staff had been absent when customer service training took place. The method of asking customers where they are sitting for their food order doesn't work for their waiting staff or customers.
This is how it played out: waiter or waitress arrives in garden with plates of food, they proceed to shout out the dishes they are carrying but fail to use their legs to maneuver around the garden or approach tables without plates already on. When no response is received (there were several nationalities where English was not a first or fluent language) said waiter disappears inside only to reappear with another member of staff who screeches across the garden the same order, which eventually received a response. This is followed up by said waitress muttering 'for God's sake how difficult can it be?! This is accompanied by a face like a slapped backside, infact her whole body language was warning everyone present to back off and not approach. Our guest was shocked, as were many other patrons, I made a light of it with my guests, along the lines of, 'welcome to Castle Combe, the most picturesque village in England and do enjoy British hospitality'.
I was actually embarrassed and furious that any visitor who experiences such a lack of customer service, is going to carry that memory and experience with them as much as the utter charm of this historic and charming village.
Outstanding hospitality is not difficult to get right and training staff should be a fundamental element of employing them, after all give your staff the right training and support and they will enjoy their job, do it well and develop a passion for it, ultimately your hotel or pub will reap the rewards in positive reviews and recommendations.
My recommendation to the pub is firstly train your staff in good customer service, set high standards and expectations. Make life easier for your staff by implementing a food order numbering system. Each food order is given a number, the customer is asked to listen out for their number being called. For overseas visitors it is far easier to listen and respond to 'number 10' than it is to follow the bellowing of a banshee for 'chicken salad sandwich, ham, egg and chips (its gammon on the menu), ploughman’s with stilton'. A simple solution, no cost involved and hopefully less frustrated angry staff and a better guest experience.