There was a tipping point in the global argument for sustainability practice, when the cause gained genuine momentum and transitioned from a fad to a movement. For me, this is when business saw the financial imperative to CSR and green initiatives, and not just the emotional.
The metaphor is basic, if you ask people to turn off lights, some will and some won’t. If you tell them it will help save the planet, you’ll get a more positive reaction. If you tell them it will save them money, then the pressure increases much more dramatically. If the act of turning the lights off shows itself to save money for business over a long period of time, then companies will invest in switches with motion sensors so they turn themselves off.
It’s perhaps a disturbing fact, but to get people to do anything on mass take a hybrid of emotive and pragmatic (or fiscal) arguments; we can hit their hearts, but we may need to go through their wallets first! Equally, if business believe there is opportunity of value from a cause, then it receives the weight of mighty brands with far reaching resources and global influence. Businesses can put pressure on consumers and governments; we get them on board and things really begin to happen.
Now, not for a second am I saying that business is solving issues around sustainability, many would be right in arguing that they are actually causing more than they are solving. Equally, that the issues around ‘green’, waste, and corporate social responsibility, are on the road to solution. There is still much to do, I would say though that business can help, and will if it sees the incentive.
The same is true for health and wellbeing, and I personally feel that we’re reaching a tipping point here to. Within our industry alone, there is some amazing things happening; the argument for better wellbeing is being made excellently on an emotional level, and the waves of change are spreading across the industry. But how can we make the business case for wellbeing, how can we show that this isn’t just the right thing to do, but the profitable thing to do?
As a business leader with over one hundred staff, across three different venues, I have both a personal and a professional interest in their wellbeing. EEF Venues have introduced wellbeing champions into each of our venues, and we’re constantly looking for ways to both protect and nurture our staff from a wellbeing perspective. Why? Because it is the right thing to do, but guess what, it’s also good business.
The way we see the real tangible effect is through customer service. We’re justly proud of our record in this respect, and are constantly showing above industry standard performance. I put this down to wellbeing.
For us, someone smiling at the door, being courteous and knowledgeable in front of our customers should be a given in hospitality; good service is expected. However, great service is a lot harder. Great service is when staff take the initiative to go and engage with customers, ask them how their day is, and have the confidence to have a friendly conversation that makes them feel welcome and relaxed. No matter how good the course, if this is done through conventional training it won’t work, it will feel unnatural and stifled. To get this right, staff need to want to do it. The only way we can really support this is through wellbeing.
People that are well looked after, that feel happy and secure in their lives give better customer service. They are authentic, and that authenticity rubs off on guests, and is impossible to ignore. Staff that have the confidence to go the extra mile really do, and when they do, it becomes great (and may I add award winning!) customer service. After that, the business case is easy, great customer service breeds loyalty and repeat custom, and ultimately business success.
The difference between good and great isn’t the hiring strategy, the incentive strategy or the training strategy, it’s all about wellbeing. It is incumbent on the business to show care and consideration for its people, not just at work but at home. It’s for us to motivate people, but also enrich their lives in a more meaningful way. Like customer service, there is no end point to this but a continual search for improvement, but if people feel that the business they work with genuinely cares, and supports them whenever they need them, they genuinely will go the extra mile.
At our best, customer service is something this industry does better than any other, we have a right to be a leading voice in discussions about service. If we, as an industry can show the link between wellness and customer service we’re creating a compelling business case for other industries to embrace it, and perhaps make an important contribution to turning this particular wellness moment into a bigger movement.
At EEF Venues we continue to look at the numbers and will be sharing the impacts of good staff wellness programmes on bottom line with the industry. If we, and others, can do this it will be both great for our industry as well as the wider business community.