It's great to be back in Somerset, this time last week saw me travelling up the M5/M6 to Scotland - visiting customers.
I do enjoy driving, although 1300 miles in 4 days was a bit intense, even for me - but being on the road gives me an opportunity to see and try many different hostelries and their restaurants.
When I return home, I am then bombarded by the review questionnaires, but, for me, having a son in the hospitality business giving the right review is important, so I do spend time considering whether my less generous ratings are true and fair.
Last week was a mixed bag from a mid range traditional independent tourist hotel that served the best scallops I have ever had, to a fully modernised independent inn that looked very contemporary but served food that was totally inedible (both for evening meal and breakfast!) and finally a very modern chain that had every facility including gym, spa & sauna (bugger I forgot my kit - phew!) giving the most comprehensive and fresh breakfast all for £57 !!.
Testimonials and reviews (good or bad) should be very important to every business .
Last week, when I was with Claire from The Herbary in Troon she read to me an excerpt from a cracking testimonial they had just received from a grandmother & granddaughter who had sadly lost their daughter/mother to cancer before Christmas and had visited Claire's shop recently whilst visiting that area on the occasion of the young ladies very emotional 21st birthday weekend.
During the visit to the shop none of the above had been mentioned, conversations had just ebbed and flowed as good shop conversations should - purchase made, thanks extended, done deal. It was only upon the receipt of a thank you card did the impact of the visit to the shop and the significance of the purchases and service received become clear.
Getting to know your customer, is an important but careful balance, the greeting, their preferences, needs and even their budget, but don't be nosey or push too far. A good shop assistant has a great balance of curiosity weighed with deference and a willingness to share their own knowledge and experiences.
I think Sarah in our shop is truly gifted with this - she knows and has a marvellous rapport with all our customers, she handles all of their special orders and requirements faultlessly, and personally, making sure that their service, delivery, product and Owen Barry experience is spot on.
I could have been boastful, and rather than talk about Claire, I could have mentioned some of our testimonials and thank you's (which we receive VERY regularly ) but apart from the ones we publish on the web or social media they are just gratefully received, cards are pinned up (in private) and emails filed for reference.
We, like Claire are thrilled to receive any feedback so please keep telling us what you think.
Ooh for the sake of balance (we're just like the BBC!) we did get a complaint last week about the postage charge and actually this was really worthwhile - we were able to investigate our charges/service/responsibilities and make sure we could be on point for the next time - a great example of learning from what was a pretty negative situation and hopefully improving our service for the next customer.
I just hope the inn in Penrith with the inedible "homemade steak pie ! and veg" think my remarks are equally informative !!
Have a good one.