For Ann Darlington, of Hall Hill Farm, customer service is an important part of her business. ‘I try to give my visitors a high quality experience,’ she says. ‘You’re only as good as your last visit and I appreciate staff are one of the most important assets in delivering good customer service.’
Hall Hill Farm first opened for visitors in spring 1981. Since then the farm has grown and developed as a tourism attraction to reach 65,000 visitors last year. As well as Anne, there are three permanent staff plus about 40 to 50 part-time and seasonal staff. Hall Hill Farm became a quality assured visitor attraction for the first time last year under VAQAS (the Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme).
Ann did her first Welcome to Excellence course in the early 1990s and since then has done Welcome Host, Welcome Host Plus and Welcome Management. Her colleague Chris, who answers the phones, has done Welcome Line. Ann says, ‘I like to send all the key staff on Welcome Host and Welcome All. Welcome Host in particular is very valuable. I’ve done the course twice and the second time I felt it had a different focus and was much more customer-oriented. It’s good to see the course has developed.’
Anne says, ‘Welcome to Excellence can make you more aware of the little things you do. For example, you might think you’re doing something right, but find a slightly better way by learning from the experience of other people on the course.
‘Staff like to go with a colleague so they can discuss it afterwards. We have regular training sessions ourselves and people share some of what they have learnt with their part-time colleagues. This is a useful for training students who are still at school and who we wouldn’t send on a full Welcome course. For example, one point Welcome Host makes is the importance of making a good first impression and in how few seconds people gain that impression. It helps young people realise that if visitors can see dirty windows or crockery piling up in the tea room, it doesn’t create a very good impression!’
Ann adds, ‘Welcome to Excellence does make you much more aware of the needs of the customer and the importance of customer care. Visitor expectations are rising and you need to raise your level of service to respond.
I am looking at providing more formal training in future and would like to become a Welcome trainer myself. Our courses could then be on specific weekends so everyone, including part-time and students, can attend. It’s a route I would like to go down.’Back to case studies