Monday, 15 August 2011

Our Holiday: What We Can Learn From An Excellent Experience

I had an excellent holiday in Carlisle, exploring the Roman ruins and the associated tourist attractions. It was really inspiring and I can't recommend it enough. It occurs to me that there are some principles I can pass on from my excellent experience there, that can be applied to general customer service.

Excellent user experience

Having experienced some truly awful service and casual unreliability lately, I was feeling quite resentful about it all, but in Carlisle and the Northern counties I was delighted with the overall ethos of the staff in the various establishments we went to. Some of them went over and above the remit of their jobs and it's a shame I can't name them so I can thank them more personally. These people stood out the most for superlative customer care:

The Corner House Hotel

The Corner House Hotel

A few hundred yards down the road from the train station, the Corner House Hotel is a nice little family-run place. Due to this, they're not always around during the day and we had to phone them so we could check in and leave our bags in our room while we went off to explore. After a bit of a wait, the owner's daughter arrived, apologised profusely and let us in. She told us we could leave our own food in the fridge and use the kitchen facilities, which we did, buying ready meals to heat in the microwave and picnic food to eat out. Breakfast was consistently delicious and served with a smile. The casual friendliness of the staff made the stay so comfortable, we'd gladly return. The only downside was that the satellite TV lost reception from time to time, but that's not their fault and shouldn't be held against them. We stayed there for a week and enjoyed every minute.

Bus routes AD122 and 684

Bus route AD122As a rule, the AD122 is punctual, but on Monday it was held up due to the heavy traffic generated by Newcastle FC playing at home. We were stranded in Corbridge because the route 10 bus was late, prompting a grouchy response from myself since I was annoyed at the thought of having to purchase a train ticket to get back to Carlisle. We needed that bus to get back to Hexham to get the AD122. Just as we were considering giving up and going for the train, route 684 arrived. We explained the situation to him and that's when we learned that the delay was down to the home game. The friendly driver took great pains to get us to Hexham as fast as he could (within the law!) and when we got to Hexham we saw the Ad122 coming towards us. That's when the driver went above and beyond the call of duty. He signalled the AD122 and it drew to a halt. Then he told the other driver what was happening and he waited at the next bus stop for the 684 to turn around and meet him there. It transpired that the game had slowed the progress of the AD122 and it was late getting out of Newcastle, otherwise we would have missed it for sure. I can't thank either of those two fine gentlemen enough.

St. Cuthbert's Church caretaker

St Cuthbert's church, CarlisleIn our wanderings around the fair city of Carlisle, Richard and I went to St Cuthbert's Church to have a look around. Inside we met the caretaker, a friendly chap who gave us a free tour and some postcards. He also took a business card of mine and promised to pass it on for me. That might lead to something...!

Bar Solo staff

Bar Solo, CarlisleThere's not a left luggage facility at Carlisle station, but the staff there told us that the Bar Solo, which is opposite the station, offers one. For £2 a bag you can leave your luggage there all day then collect it at your leisure. We had checked out of the Corner House and spent our last day exploring the Roman remains near Newcastle, which really requires at least a weekend to experience properly. At North and South Shields we saw the Segedunum and Arbeia Roman forts and visitor centres. Richard was keen to see the end of the Wall and pick up a few souvenirs. Anyway, we toured the sites using the Metro, which also covers the ferry if you have a Day Saver ticket, and went back to Carlisle to get our luggage and get the train home. I still can't believe how cheap it is to leave your stuff there.

All of these people went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable, and it's this level of service that I aim to provide to my own clients - so they'll say the same about me. Actually, they do. See my testimonials.

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