Laura Alexander : Sleeping Around Scotland :
Ms Alexander, VisitScotland, quickly warmed up the audience telling of her first talk on the subject in York. Prior to the meeting the organizer apologized that unknown to him her title had been cropped to ‘Sleeping around’. She assured him that this wouldn’t be a problem. However, when sitting beside the President of the organization before the event, she did sense an ‘atmosphere’ – was the title of her talk intimidating him? Immediately before she was due to give her talk the President asked, are there any ‘no go questions’? To his shock and horror, she said she’d rather not answer questions on flavoured prophylactics! It was clear that members enjoyed this ‘Beam me up Scottie’ moment! During her talk it became clear that Ms Alexandra had a very challenging role. Imagine dealing with a humble bed and breakfast one minute then a five star hotel the next. One of the offbeat places she showed us was ‘The Wedge’ in Millport, the narrowest house in Scotland. Her normal day job involves visiting 9 to 10 properties a week and an average of 13 meals a week. The dinners are tempting at first but the feeling wears off! The job, however, is not all inspections but involves providing advice to existing and future clients. Success in the industry is dictated by customer expectations. This starts right at the outset when booking. The attitude is conveyed to the customer – interested, attentive, bored, hostile, etc is an early give away. Are the directions helpful or the unhelpful ‘you can’t miss us!’? On arrival, what sort of greeting do you get? Here first impressions are paramount. Being bitten by the host’s dog is a no-no. For women, they are looking for a mirror, plug and a table in their room where they can dry their hair. The ‘bed appearance’ also immediately conveys a positive, or negative, impression. Ms Alexander once asked if the host could open a can of dog food for her dog. When it turned up on a plate on a tray with cutlery in her room, she realized that she hadn’t made clear that it was for the dog! Hosts are encouraged to be innovative to put their personal stamp to their accommodation. This could be the provision of USB ports for internet people, coffee machines or the provision of whimsical ‘towel’ animals on the bed to greet the visitor. In one case the host prepares the breakfast menu, crunches it a bit at the edges and then grills it to char the edges to give that unique old world distressed look. The overarching aim is to deliver customer delight; ie exceeding customer expectations.
Where does Scotland stand internationally in the hospitality industry? Very well, it turns out. Other countries come to Scotland to see how we do it (Sweden, South Africa, Canada, Ireland to name a few). It turns out that some countries rely on self-certification – crikey!!
As she said in her conclusions – her favourite bed was her own and her favourite toilet was her own! A sentiment shared by all!