The recession is great news for the travel industry in the UK and Europe. This is the third dip in the UK that I am experiencing (early 1990s, 9/11 and now) and this recession will bring a sense of perspective back to all of us especially those that serve the end user with respect to delivering a minimum acceptable level of customer service.
Only those outfits that have consistent service standards, strong management and are flexible to change will prosper. In the noughties, the entrants to the labor market in the UK have only known boom where if any individual was unhappy with their job for 5 minutes, he/she would readily change as there was always a job for them. In order to retain these people, weaker managers would allow such staff to “control” the establishment’s service levels as we are only as good as the lowest common denominator. Meanwhile as the economy continued to boom, demand was increasing yet the paying companies/individuals accepted mediocrity more often than not as generally there was a shortage of supply capacity; so the next best option was barely better.
In the last 12 months we have received more CVs than ever before. It was “cool” to have 6 jobs in 5 years as you were perceived as having more experience. In reality this only shows a lack of mental resilience. What can you really learn when you have only been in one place for less than a year? What is important is being somewhere at least 2 years so you observe the same cycle at least twice: the first year will be the so called learning experience but this is only a learning experience if you hang around long enough to see how to get it right the next time the same or similar situation occurs. Or even better, use your experience to positively affect people who have made the same mistake(s) as you so that they get it right the first time. In this case you are developing your management skills by sharing quality knowledge and then communicating it at the right time and in such a way that you only achieve positive outcomes. But how many people truly have this ability? This of course will only work if you are operating in a progressive environment where the management will share knowledge in the first place.
Many hotels will now have been over geared and for them to survive this cycle , their service standards have to be right “first time, on time, every time.” Our main company Veenus places groups in 3 and 4 star hotels across the UK and Europe. We have recently introduced a highly effective system with our sister software company, V Designers, where we score hotels based on client feedback within 72 hours of the group’s departure. We have set ourselves a target of an 8/10 average for each hotel. Already we are seeing that the weaknesses that are being exposed are to do with no/low cost issues such as service. These in theory should be easy and quick to fix but only if the management is honest with themselves and then has the conviction to make the change quickly. Clearly some hotels are going to have to work harder than others to retain their position in our portfolio.
So the recession is an opportunity to raise the quality bar and only those that have what it takes to ask the tough questions of themselves, followed by having the answers and then the conviction to execute plans in a timely manner will survive and then prosper.
Ranjiv Bhalla is the director of UK-based company Veenus.