In it, staff from all departments are trained and actively encouraged to reward customers by offering complimentary goods or services beyond what they could be expected.
What makes this application of empowerment unusual is the process that underpins it. Each employee is given their own personal WOW Card to record the actions they have taken to delight the customer, which are then inputted into a staff database as a means of sharing ideas and encouraging wider participation. Moreover, staff are formally recognised and rewarded for participating: when their card has five Wows on it they are offered a drink at the bar; ten Wows gets them a free meal in the restaurant; and all cards are entered into an annual draw with a chance to win a luxury trip to New York.
Hence, employees are actively encouraged to use their authority to find new ways to develop brand loyalty – not only in response to customer complaints, but also by pro-actively seeking opportunities to exceed guests’ expectations. Like, for example, offering complimentary nibbles to accompany a bottle of champagne; or like the member of the maintenance team who noticed a guest’s expensive suitcase had a wheel missing and, without prompting, sourced and fitted a replacement wheel.
Unlike some other companies’ empowerment schemes, this one imposes no financial parameters on actions taken by staff. However, each entry on a WOW card has to be posted to a cost code and signed off by the unit’s Deputy General Manager, who may wish to discuss the appropriateness of the action and resulting cost with the member of staff.
Is there a net cost-benefit of schemes that demonstrate that a company values and trusts its staff? Certainly, in this particular case the board and investors of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin believe so and would point to the fact that their labour turnover is reducing seven per-cent a year – contributing over £100,000 to the profitability of the company.
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