Friday, May 14, 2010

Service Sells... so let's invest in it...

In the most recent edition of the Atlantic Business Magazine I wrote an article about our local tourism service levels.... now I'm hearing rumours of another "hair brain idea" that our Provincial Tourism Department has dreamed up to spend $750,000 to bring Regis and Kelly to PEI (the last being Big Break Mill River).... surely if our Government can't find a better way to invest this kind of money into services for our taxpayers or infrastructure for our Tourism industry then they could at least invest it into more "service level training" for young people working in our local industry.... and then we wouldn't have to "pay" to get Americans to visit here as they would come back here through good old word of mouth... if you see Minister Vessey tell him I'm "looking for him" as I can't imagine he's part of this scheme.... the following is the article I published in ABM...

Service sells… cutting wages doesn’t
Atlantic Business Magazine
May Issue 2010
by Tim Banks
Last year my wife and I spent part of our annual “driving” getaway in an older inn near downtown Lake Placid, New York.
The attention to detail and professionalism we received from a couple of young employees at check-in was more than impressive. I even felt confident enough to just take the keys, without previewing the room as I always do, after the pleasant young clerk said, “If you’re not happy with your room just call down and we’ll make sure you are.”
It was evident that staff members had been well-trained to deliver optimal customer service to the inn’s guests.
I recently invited some out-of-province associates to meet over breakfast at a hotel near my office. When one of my guests ordered French toast, the nervous young server asked whether she wanted “white or whole wheat.” Surprised that French toast was available in whole wheat, my guest chose that. When the server returned with nothing but two slices of toasted store-bought whole wheat bread on a large plate it became painfully clear why our Atlantic tourism industry is weakening.
Formerly our best tourists, our American neighbors are getting a better bang for their buck staying at home, especially now that our dollars are on par. Tourism operators south of the border are investing in their young workers and training them to provide exceptional customer service.
I don’t know what tourism operators are doing in other parts of Atlantic Canada but in PEI a few are trying to convince the provincial government to adopt a two-tiered minimum wage strategy. Instead of respecting and working with our youth to strengthen our economy, they’re trying to peel back their wages.
We’re due for a change in attitude about ourselves, our youth, our place in the world, our capabilities and our expectations of government. It’s time to drop our parochial worldview and realize we’re part of the global economy, competing and trading with local and international players. That our local economic levers affect, and are affected by, a large variety of outside factors.
We need to believe in the capabilities of our core industries (agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism), but we also need to seek out new opportunities and develop a spirit of innovation. We need to respect our young workers and train them in service and delivery. That’s where our focus has to be to make our region successful again.
Let’s develop our young people into positive contributors to our community and encourage them to pursue their ambitions here in Atlantic Canada. I believe each of us has unlimited potential to improve our society. If we unlock the potential of our youth while simultaneously building sufficient economic activity and structure to grow our working population, our community will thrive.
The potential to build our society lies within the abilities, ambitions, resources and needs of our community and if there’s anything I’ve learned in business, it’s that anything is possible through ingenuity, hard work and cooperation.
Business leaders need to step up and mentor young entrepreneurs, providing opportunities for them within our companies, guiding them towards establishing innovative new businesses. By ushering young people into the business community we’ll strengthen our position in any economic climate.
Atlantic Canada is a great place to live and visit, offering a quality of life unparalleled in the rest of the world. Our environment, our scenery, our heritage and our people all contribute to a wonderful community that I am proud to belong to. But we all must prepare for change. We can have a strong economy with many rewarding jobs and vibrant businesses. We can have progress and prosperity now and in the future if we strive vigorously to get it. Why not start by training our young people to better serve visitors to the region instead of pulling back their wages?
At breakfast one morning at the inn in Lake Placid, I asked for a local newspaper. The employee apologized for not having one but within the hour she tracked me down and gave me a copy someone presumably had fetched in town. A sign on an employee service door at the rear of the property said, “Through These Doors Pass The Most Exceptional Employees in the Adirondacks. Winners of a 4 diamond AAA Award for every year from 1985 to 2009.”

Why can’t we be there?


Anonymous said...

Well said Tim.

Government should not be involved in these types of activities.

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct.

Unknown said...

While I agree entirely with your comments about our quality of life, we live in the best place in the world. However I'm always surprised at our ability for corrosive envy that celebrates mediocrity and disdains excellence as a quality that only those from away can master and exhibit. This negative self-image more than any other single thing keeps us from the material success that equals our spiritual strengths.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and dead on the money about lack of service here.
Being a person who trales regularly it always disgusts me when i return home and have to expereince the lack of decent customer service here. The employees here for the most part don't seem to care about the customer or their needs or wants.
The facts are simple that GOD Custoemr service will guaranttee a return customer but also a customer who will tell others about your place.
The lack of decent service in PEI has been going on for years and it just continues to get worse and worse. It is like islanders have become either arrogant or they just don't seem to give a damm.
I agree with you TIM maybe it is time that out Governments stopped with the hair brained schemes are started focusing more attention to customer service which will guaranttee many repeat customers.

Anonymous said...

The one thing you always here from people who work in Tourism is "We are so much better then any other place because we are nice people".
The time has come where being nice doesn't get you far and service is what truly matters.

With the current situation for the teachers and the nurses we are becoming a province who will settle for the second best to get things done.

The government is allowing Kindergarden teachers to now ever the school system and teach up to grade two. These individuals spent 2 years in a college setting learning to each younger students and we have BED students who spend 6 years learning how to teach kids grades 1-12 and they are not getting jobs. Settling for second best.

We are now doing the same with LPN's and RPN's.

When will the government, owners, mangers get it right and realize that you pay for what you get.

Its like buying a KIA and thinking it is as good as a Porsche.

Anonymous said...

Good article. I agree with you about poor service, but poor service is not limited to your geographical area. In fact I have experienced poor service in Lake Placid itself; perhaps that is why your inn had the doorway for "exceptional employees" -- they had them but other establishments do not. One approach to ending poor service is better training: in your example I'd be willing to bet that the server was provided with little or no training, instead he or she was told to simply go out and wait on tables! People respond to incentives, and to your point, low wages may be a disincentive to good service. In the case of servers, there is an opportunity for tips, but rarely will bad service attract a tip. Those with an affinity for entrepreneurship will know that anyway, others may need to be taught it. Employees with a sense of pride in good results generally make a business that customers like to visit too.

Matt Funk said...

I agree, Tim! I attempted to forward this argument (along with many inter-related issues) in one rather long argument last year, which you may find here: