What can make up for a hotel with soggy crackers, shabby furnishings, and iffy WiFi? Let me tell you the tale of my recent stay at Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden, Ireland.
After a harrowing drive on narrow winding roads we arrived just after dark. You know how you enter a hotel and get an instant impression? Well, at first glance I was getting a rather icky feeling. Frankly, if I hadn’t been traveling with four family members I might have done a 180 and searched for more posh digs.
Then something shifted—customer care kicked in—in a big way. It started when I met Roger. This gregarious chap grabbed my suitcase shouting, “The VIP’s are here! The VIP’s are here!” I glanced around and realized he must be referring to our group. From the sheer enthusiasm of his greeting I thought, “He must be the owner.” Later I learned he was the bar manager, doorman, wooer of female guests, and all around raconteur.
The complimentary welcome champagne started flowing and Roger topped off my glass so many times that I lost track of how much I had consumed. I can’t remember when I last felt so special and so valued as a customer. It got me wondering how they were transforming this prissy American into an Irish party girl in record time. Was it some type of magical spell?
Uncovering the Castle Magic
Shortly after our party of five was seated in the dining room, the charming proprietor, Paul Hughes, placed the American and Canadian flags on the center of our table, signifying our countries of origin. From a quick glance around the room I noticed there were flags on every table. There was even a Saudi Arabian Sheik seated a few tables away. Soon Paul deposited a blazing silver candelabra with a flourish. “Shh,” he whispered, “You are the only ones getting this.” Later he snapped a photo of our group, returning with a color 8 x 10 glossy, which he taped to the mirror beside our table. He winked another, “This is just for you. Now don’t tell the others.”
The following day I spotted Paul in the tea room. He was crouched on hands and knees, suit and tie clad, as he swept up crumbs from under a table. I couldn’t resist commenting on his level of care and attention and he smiled, “An owner truly cares.”
And that’s just it in a nutshell. Paul truly does care. But what’s more remarkable is that he has fostered a like-minded team. It wasn’t just Paul and our greeter, Roger, but every employee delivered exceptional care—like an owner.
My clients often wonder if it’s possible to get their employees to care as much as they do. My night at Abbeyglen Castle showed me it is possible. I was eager to learn how they do it.
3 Ways to Get Employees to Act Like an Owner
When I saw Roger and Paul the next day I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask a few questions. Now I’d like to pass what I learned along to you.
- Tip 1: Be willing to do every job no matter how distasteful. When I asked Roger how he knew what the owners wanted he said, “That’s easy. I see them do every job every day.”
- Tip 2: Know your values and communicate them often. As Roger put it, “This is not a stuffy place. If you want to dance on the piano, then dance on the piano—and people have.” He went on to say, “I worked at another hotel where the help was only allowed to use the back stairs and we could only speak if the customer spoke to us first. The surroundings were great but people just sat around all night and looked at each other. At Abbeyglen we are all about getting people to chill and have a great time.”
- Tip 3: Support employees without micromanaging. Roger said, “If the owners know you’re doing your job they just leave you to it.”
Exceptional customer service helped me to overcome my initial faulty impressions of Abbeyglen Castle and see it with new eyes. If you’re traveling to Ireland I’d highly recommend you add a visit to Abbeyglen Castle to your itinerary. Give Roger a hug from me if you do!
So, I’d say that delivering customer care like a castle owner is something that all business owners can achieve. What would you say?
Top photo from my phone and bottom photo from Abbeyglen Castle’s website