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A trendy café on George Street, Dunedin:

As I’m sitting alone in an anonymous café – for the purposes of this blog. I’ve decided I really like Dunedin. It has that ‘European’ feel that I don’t currently have the time to experience for real and miss in Christchurch. I’m sitting in the window seat with laptop out, chai latte and decadent chocolate brownie to the side, watching the world go by – bliss.

There is a very well-dressed business-like woman sitting behind me doing almost the same thing, except her coffee has long gone and her small lentil salad has been reduced to a couple of random bean sprouts. She’s typing away furiously – perhaps she isn’t in business at all, but preparing lecture notes on sustainable practices for the Medical School just around the corner … or maybe she is, and she’s preparing a sales pitch for the latest breakthrough medication for the Zika virus … I digress, because that’s the mood in the half-full half-counter service café with yummy food.

The café staff are … well just a bit absent – not physically but certainly disconnected from what they are doing. The well-dressed business-academic-drugs woman is clearly set in for some time. She does pop her head up at one point and asks the drifting front of house girl for some water.

My mind absolutely stops wandering at this point as I’m yanked back to the reality of my own business …

The almost idle front of house girl simply points out the water at the other side of the café and walks off to play with her hair behind the coffee machine. I’m left kind of astounded. There was zero hospitality provided at this moment and certainly no offers to get the perfect ‘target customer’ a glass of water and perhaps another coffee or something sweet after her salad; no attempt at conversation or interest in her work – or smile; in fact, her plates were not even cleared.


A bustling retail store on Moorhouse Ave, Christchurch:  

I bought the family’s third Microsoft Surface Pro 4 this week. I knew exactly what I wanted. I already knew that it was on sale; as I had rung Noel Leeming already, and later James had seen them advertised in the newspaper.

We were returning customers because the Surface Pro we had bought for our eldest on Boxing Day had been a positive experience. They had been prepared to negotiate because the Pro was almost the only thing that wasn’t on sale on Boxing Day; knowing we had turned up at the crack of dawn hoping for a good deal the salesperson made sure they gave us a series of unadvertised deals that made us feel well looked after. I didn’t hesitate to return in April to buy another.

My second experience was very interesting from a sales perspective. James and I were greeted the moment we walked in the door and the young man positioned himself as our ‘gentle assistant’ the moment he arrived. I told him immediately what I wanted. The sale was a given without him even trying, but by the time I left the shop I realised I’d been part of a very sophisticated sales strategy. At the time I just thought he was interested in my life; I was thinking, in a patronising motherly way, what a pleasant young man. But he had me in his sales web from the beginning; I was caught by his simple question – is your Pro for business?

By the time I left he knew ALL about our business; including our different roles, an idea of who we worked with and where we were heading, he up-dated my details on the data base, educated me in several ways in which Noel Leeming could help support a fast growing business – including hire products and other incentives in which Noel Leeming offers in the context of doing business; he sold us extra software products and awarded me with 68 FlyBuys points. All achieved through light-hearted POS banter and without me detecting anything other than an interest in my world.

I’m not sure what kind of training the sales staff at Noel Leeming have, but my guess is that it is reasonably comprehensive. They are New Zealand’s largest technology retailer, but that’s only part of the story. Noel Leeming targets larger sales in the context of supporting New Zealand Businesses. According to their website, their clients include 75% of all of NZ’s Insurance Industry and NZ’s top 100 companies. They also have a contract to supply many government departments, including the NZ Defence Force. Of course what this means is that they have outstanding bulk buying power, and that power is passed down to the retail stores in terms of resources, time and price flexibility.

Another ‘pleasant young man’ rang me unexpectedly the next day and offered half an hour of free training on my new Pro. Fantastic – I’m already trusting that it will be well worth my time. It’s hardly surprising then, that James has decided that he likes the look of my new Pro, and I don’t like to share, so Noel Leeming will be providing us with a fourth computer.

I’m not claiming that retail has it all sorted and that Hospitality doesn’t get it right – indeed a little further digging suggests that Noel Leeming is not as consistent as they would like to be … and yes, there is an element of comparing apples with oranges. What I am suggesting is that we have a lot to learn from all our OWN customer experiences and that we shouldn’t hesitate to ensure that our own employees understand what the implications are for absent minded and thoughtless moments. In such a competitive industry you can NEVER afford to be complacent. 

09/04/16 Mrs Hospitality