Who needs New York when one resides in Newbury?

To be honest, one has been feeling a tad glum of late.  Things have not been going too well for me work wise, however I’m all about positive thinking and looking at the bright side of life.  I’m also into reading positive quotes and  poetry of which I can identify with and generally doing everything I can to keep my pecker up.  I’ve taken to writing a journal, and am having a bit of therapy to get any negativity out of my mind and must say this really helps.  Whilst maintaining a positive stance, I decided to seek the positives in the home town that I reside in,  as all too often we can become consumed with gloom.  I hope that this will be useful for any one visiting or just a general reminder to my neighbours!

Here we go then, in no particular order.

1- The Racecourse.  I’m no expert on racecourses, but I believe it to be a decent course.  I certainly have a jolly good time whenever I go.  I tend to go racing maybe three or four times a year.  I’ve got a good mate who invites me to her box, and I get very merry on the endless champers.  I love a day at the races, never win anything but it’s a good craic.

2-The Corn Exchange. I love this little theatre, I prefer going to the cinema here too, it’s much more intimate, and you can take a glass of vino in with you.  I’ve been to many a production here, and the Pantomimes are hysterical at Christmas.

3-Highclere Castle.  It’s stunning and full of Downtown Abbey charm.  Events happen here all the time.  Its wonderful for the odd tour, also it’s a fabulous Wedding venue.

4-The Vineyard Hotel.  I of course have to mention this place.  The hubster runs it, one of the most special places to dine, with the most amazing wine list.  The bedrooms are luxurious, service is sublime.  If they don’t get a michelin star this year, then I’ll be well miffed. The afternoon tea is awesome too.

5-The Woodspeen. Another lovely place to eat.  Michelin starred, but very relaxed whilst being high end at the same time.  One of the best steaks I’ve eaten demolished by moi recently.  Really like this place, plus there is a cookery school too.

6-The Walks.  There are plenty of local country walks, from The Chase at Woolten hill, to Snelsmore Common, to The Ridgeway. Great for the canine babies.

7-Golf.  We seem to have an abundance of Golf courses.  Donnington Valley is one of the best, but seriously there are loads to suit all budgets.

8-Spas. Again The Vineyard hotel and Donnington Valley both have lovely Spas where one can chill and luxuriate one.

9-Shopping.  Well, this is a tricky one, as our Town centre is a bit of a patchwork.  There are a few nice shops and chain restaurants, but also a few dire ones.  It’s probably best if you’re going to venture into Town to park at The Parkway end.  We have the usual favourites plus some goodish coffee shops.  Waterstones has been revamped and worth a little pop into for a coffee and a flick through some pages.

  • 10-Must say I’m struggling now! But Angelica’s Terrace in Camp Hopson, Newbury’s main department store is worth a little jaunt to.  It’s recently been refurbished and sells coffee, teas, Proscecco and Artisan products amongst other things. The furnishings are very glam, it’s quite lovely and you can sit Al fresco on the terrace and look across lovely Newbury!

Fuzzy feeling recognition.

We all love to be recognised.  It’s fact of life, it makes us feel proud, stand tall and harbour feelings that transport us back into our school days.  Recognition manifests itself in three main forms.  Workplace, academic based and customer based.  Too often these days we are victims of arduous work deadlines that force fake recognition which is used to show up our colleagues who have not delivered. This naming and shaming really gets me down but this culture  is becoming far too much the norm.  

Genuine recognition is lacking as Austerity is prevalent,  cutthroat tactics bed in, people are trampling over one another to be heard, kept in work, get ahead and be be promoted.
It’s a crying shame that we don’t always support, build up and champion one another. In the long term this behaviour has a detrimental impact on business.  I am a firm believer in employees needing to be in love with its organisation for clients to fall in love with it too.  We need to dedicate more time to being human and kind in the workplace.  This in turn will have positive impact in the long run and flourish the business.

Happy workforce promotes genuine and excellent service.  An example being good old Marks and spencer.  A company rigid and unwavering in its core values.  This company for me will not dilute its brand and for me this is hugely admirable.  I used to run restaurants and operated by the same ethos, despite hitting a recession and battling cut throat competitors that could deliver cheaper offers with cheaper paid staff.  I stayed however true to myself till the bitter end, and bitter it was….

Since then, my values have remained the same.  I operate with high amounts of intergrity and honesty.  I adore my staff and build them up and develop them. I am a fighter of inclusion, diversity and have a thriving and tolerant team.  It goes unnoticed as higher managers are more concerned with bottom line profit and retaining business.  I of course get all of this, but vehemently persist that people are the core.

Going back to Marks and Spencer, in my local store, there is a woman named Jenny who works on the same till both Saturday and Sunday.  Shopping in M&S is always a pleasant experience.  Quality goods and service.  Jenny is service excellence in a nutshell.  I am sure she serves hundreds of customers but she still remembers me, who I am, and asks after the family she’s not met.

I  regularly regard the empty self- scanners and Jenny’s knee deep queue and for me this says it all.

As good old Richard Branson says, “Respect is how you treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.”

What is Service Excellence?

 I live and breathe Service Excellence.  I would definitely drive out of my way to receive service that I know will match and hopefully exceed my expectations. Recently however, I have purposely visited places knowing full well that in the past, I have been on the receiving end of poor service and gone back for a second helping.

This is down to the fact that I am so obsessed by Service Excellence, that I need to see and feel the opposite to get my creative juices going, which by the way does not take long if I am experiencing even ten seconds of poor service.

I start my day by leaving my house at around 6.30am. Normally, down to the fact that I am a last minute type of gal, I  buy petrol in the morning.  My local petrol station opens at 7am, so I have a choice of a couple of others.  For me there is only one choice however, and that’s to visit Della….

Della is Service Excellence, at 6.30am she is in full make-up, hair perfectly coiffured, and personality to match.  She knows how I take my coffee, she is genuinely interested in me, her personality is zesty, a proper Irish lass in her late 60’s I would say but with boundless energy and unfailing effervescence. She is swift, does not beat around the bush, never flounders and makes me feel special.

Special by the way is what it’s all about,  genuine smiles, contact but not over familiar, smiling eyes, knowing your name and preferences like how you take your coffee.  I eye the queues every morning; Della has always the longest one, unlike her mate – another story.

It does not matter where you work and of course I realise that in five star hotels or when buying luxury brands one pays a premium for Service Excellence, however for me service Excellence starts with a kind heart.

I know, and am aware that I have a five star background with training to match, but actually it starts with the heart, and mine beats with kindness, warmth and genuine affection for all that I meet. I know when people say that they are people person or foodies, its a cliché and said to raise their profile because that’s what folk want to hear.  Deep down there is a lot more to the art of service obsession.  It’s like being a stick of rock and having it engraved though you from birth.

As a raw 19 year old student who worked part -time to fund my Hospitality career, I had it then and its been built on ever since.  At that age I mentored others in the art of Customer Service.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it can be taught, but will only be fully embraced if its a non- opt out career necessity or if it comes naturally or if the person is genuinely happy and fulfilled at work.

Those that display kindness are poo pooed and  described as soft, fluffy, walk overs, submissive -but actually for me kindness MUST make a come back, and kind people should be celebrated and snapped up….

“Clients do not come first.  Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”- Richard Branson.