Interview with David McHattie

Interview with David McHattie, CEO National Skills Academy for Hospitality

Interview with David McHattie, CEO National Skills Academy for HospitalityAs the National Skills Academy for Hospitality launches it’s Smiles of Britain campaign today, we have an interview with CEO David McHattie, asking him just what a winning smile means for UK SMEs.

Q: How does having a winning smile help UK small businesses?

"A smile is infectious. It makes people feel at ease. It builds relationships. It builds trust. It does oil the wheels of commerce, a propensity to trust people, take their suggestions, enjoy their experience; it creates memories and a greater likelihood that people will come back and visit far more often which, in 2009, where more and more people will be holidaying at home and we’ll have international visitors enjoying the better value that the exchange rate affords them, they want things that stick in their mind.

Put it in their mind this year, next year we’ve got another great year of people holidaying at home and, as the Nationals Skills Academy for Hospitality, we want to celebrate excellence. Excellence in customer service and it starts with a smile."

Q: What evidence is there to show how smiles win SMEs more business or even better business?

"I think if people haven’t been able to measure that, there are lots of large organisations that do this type of analysis where you can compare mystery shoppers and the results of those really positive feelings that people have, that come through the research from mystery shoppers and if you actually compare those to the profitability, the P&Ls and the balance sheets, there is very, very often a huge commonality and a great link between the best mystery shoppers, the best sales lines, and the best profitability in a business.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that, from a consumer point of view, I go where I feel I’m being looked after starts with a smile, and I know, as a businessma, if that’s started at 18 behind a bar at Butlins to 20 years in this business, I’ve seen it time and time again; those that deliver great customer service, and smile and clearly enjoy giving people a great experience, it flows through to the bottom line."

Q: They say that you can hear smiling over the phone and quite a lot of businesses will be face-to-face and over the phone. Do you think that it’s true?

"I believe it’s true. I think anybody that deals with the customer experience starts from if they pick up to find out where you are, what your menu offer is, anything to make a booking. Everybody should be smiling. It does transmit itself. I fundamentally believe that and although you can’t capture a photograph down the wires of a telephone, it might motivate people to go out and capture that smile and populate the Google map on"

Q: Obviously with customer service it’s essential that you are good to the customer and you do smile, but do you think that it’s possible to tell a fake smile from a real one?

"I think I have great faith in the public generally, and particularly the British public to know what’s a fake smile and what’s a real one, and I don’t think that anybody’s going to be fooled by a fake smile if you know this sector offers fantastic opportunities for either business owners or the people that work in it, it is a true meritocracy and if you care about this industry and are passionate about it, and enjoy and are knowledgeable in what you do, that will transmit itsel. The smile will be a real one because it’s based on knowledge, skills, confidence and that does transmit. And people can tell."

Q: How do SMEs motivate their employees then to make sure those smiles are real?

"I think it’s important, number one, for them to make it clear that their job is not to run plates or just take orders. Ttheir job is to give people a great experience, so that they do want to come back next year and next week, and tomorrow, and they want to tell their friends.

There is, through lots of experience of talking to teams and working within teams, it’s quite constructive if you ask them what’s their job, and too often people will say "I take orders", or "I pull pints" or whatever, no they’re not. These [people] are really important in the economy in this country, they’re really important for that business and it’s really important for them. They’ve got very, very professional, serious jobs that give them the confidence. You’re an account manager. You are a director of those people that are coming in on that day to give them a great, great time and you know build that knowledge, build that product knowledge, build that confidence in their technical skills, make sure the business is organised and set-up to succeed.

It’s no good being really friendly and smiling if at the same time you’re organiser – the organiser oh God I don’t know where the salt and pepper pots are today, I don’t know, I haven’t got the cutlery where it should be, I’m not good to go. So help them understand what the role is, give them the freedom to go out and to, I always used the analogy of everybody in Britain knows great service. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another and we do it as well in this country, when it’s good it’s better than anywhere else in the world.

And you know analogy of [it] – I visit my gran, I go to my gran’s house, the bottom line is that she opens the door with a huge smile. If I leave less than a stone heavier than when I walked in, and know that I want, I’ve got to do that more often, I really enjoyed that, she really enjoyed it, then that analogy really works for people and it helped people to understand that they’re here to give great experiences and capture the smiles.

Please, take the photograph, make the red, the red pins on the map glow and let’s show everybody what it is, service in Britain is world class."

Q: Just to finish off, how can people learn about the Smiles of Britain campaign? How do companies show their customers that they’re supporting it and would maybe like a nomination?

" – capture them yourself; capture the smiles of your team. There’s nothing wrong with team members catching smiles of their fellow team members. If they want to, if anybody wants to contact us through the website as well, feel free and tell us and give us their logo, we’ll happily get them up there as a supporter of the campaign, and so that anybody visiting the site can clearly see that they do want you to capture our smiles and we’re focused on this, and we really want to illustrate our excellent customer service, alternatively just you know – we are developing a tool kit that will allow them to play with the logo, Smiles of Britain, where it can be smiles of Weymouth of Blackpool or a particular business. Smiles of TravelLodge, smiles of Mcdonalds, anything, we’re going to create the capability for people to create their own collateral effectively, very easily.

So I hope loads and loads of people just grab the opportunity to celebrate that we can and are in many cases, excellent at customer service."

So the message is get smiling then?

"Yes. Have a good day. Keep smiling."

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