The Old School B&B
One B&B owner who recognises the value of Welcome to Excellence is Malcolm Downes of the award-winning The Old School, Newton-on-the-Moor.
Malcolm runs the 5 Star, Gold Award B&B with his wife Kath, employing one full-time cleaner plus three part-time during the summer season. The Old School was a national Gold Award winner for Bed and Breakfast/Guest Accommodation of the Year at the 2010 Enjoy England Awards for Excellence.
Malcolm says, ‘We realised that, although we had always worked in the business, we had no formal qualifications to say that we had customer care skills. We felt having Welcome to Excellence would be evidence of our higher levels of customer service.’
So both Malcolm and Kath went on a crash course, attending Welcome Host, Welcome Host Plus and Welcome All.
‘It was great to meet people and hear what other places are doing and how. Also, no matter how good you think you are after so many years, it’s still refreshing to see things from a different perspective and go through a structured course. I definitely gained something from Welcome All as it took me to an area I hadn’t really been before. Sometimes when we talk about disability we only think of wheelchair users. Welcome All opened it right up for me and showed you can be accessible just by doing some small things. That not being fully wheelchair accessible, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything – you could be accessible to partially-sighted guests for example.
‘We did the courses and immediately applied for the Welcome to Excellence plaque, putting it up in the front porch so it’s the first thing that customers see. It creates a positive impression.
‘It should be relatively easy for B&Bs, with a small number of staff like us, to achieve Welcome to Excellence corporate status,’ Malcolm adds. ‘We use it on our stationery and all advertising, including the website. We see it as prestigious, as not everyone has it. In fact the Welcome to Excellence plaque was the first thing the mystery visitor saw when they came a few weeks later for the national awards.’
Malcolm believes it is essential for all staff to attend Welcome to Excellence. He says, ‘We want to send our cleaning staff, even though they don’t have regular contact with the customers. I think attending a Welcome course helps you to realise how seriously everyone should take customer care. It sets a standard and shows what you should aim to achieve, particularly on Welcome All.’
Graham Davison, manager of the Little Haven Hotel in South Shields agrees. He says, ‘I chose Welcome to Excellence after speaking to a member of the team. I was very impressed and felt it would be beneficial for our staff to attend.’
The privately-owned Little Haven Hotel has 62 bedrooms and employs between 80 and 90 full and part-time staff. Graham says, ‘We now send all levels of staff, from kitchen and waiting staff to supervisors and managers. They attend a few months into their service and over the past five years we’ve put people through the full suite of Welcome to Excellence courses. In fact, as it’s been a while, we are now looking at some going through again.
‘Attending a Welcome course helps staff develop themselves more quickly. In fact, several have been promoted to supervisor shortly after participating in the Welcome programme.
‘Some of our staff have three or four Welcome badges on their lapel and lots of the guests comment on them and ask questions. It creates a good impression and shows guests that we are committed to investing in and improving our staff. I’ve definitely noticed a rise in compliments from customers, as well as more positive comments in our guest questionnaire.’
Graham believes Welcome All has been particularly beneficial. ‘At the time the course was a real eye-opener. There was good feedback from staff, who felt they were more aware of attitudes to disabled people and of how they should behave in certain situations.
‘In fact, one guest pulled me over to compliment the staff and say how good she thought it was that they had done Welcome All. She was disabled herself and had spoken to staff after noticing the Welcome All lapel badge.’