Sodexo introduced ‘service excellence’ as a people development concept for front of house staff, providing them with the training, tools and enthusiasm to deliver excellent customer service. The programme has been implemented to great success at both Ascot Racecourse and across their portfolio of first class and business class airline lounges (including the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow and the upcoming United Airlines Polaris Lounge at LAX). The most recent beneficiary of Sodexo’s service excellence scheme is the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). Sodexo, in partnership with their client, launched a new service excellence initiative tailored to all visitor facing areas and operations, the unique challenges and characteristics of the site, and of course, their staff.
Called the ROYAL charter, this training programme is based on 5 key principles: Recognition, Ownership, ‘Your chance to shine’ (here meaning seizing every opportunity to excel), Anticipation and Loyalty. Positioned as a collective undertaking, front of house staff from all across the Royal Botanic Garden – from both the Sodexo and RBGE teams – were asked to volunteer as Charter champions, to assist in defining these key areas, how the programme would be developed and delivered. With all stakeholders taking ownership of the scheme, it has generated a lot of excitement from both Sodexo and the RBGE client. Heather Jackson, Director of Enterprise at the Royal Botanic Garden, has expressed how happy the client is to participate and contribute, with a one team, one direction ethos.
“Helping to facilitate the development of the training modules with our Ambassadors is immensely satisfying. As a consequence of this programme, front-line representatives from catering, cleaning, retail, visitor welcome and support services are developing a better understanding of each other’s work, challenging the ‘norm’ and striving to deliver the best possible experience for all of our visitors”.
Alongside the client, Catering Services Director Paul Mitchell, and Sodexo’s Head of Guest Services, Carl Smith, have affirmed the Charter’s objective as providing a consistent, high level of service delivery with the aim of winning and retaining a five star rating from the Scottish tourism body, VisitScotland. Established in 1670, The Garden is recognised as a globally renowned centre for plant science and horticulture, whilst attracting close to a million visitors annually. Achieving a Visit Scotland five star accreditation is therefore an essential element for maintaining their prestigious, world class profile.
As part of the ROYAL Charter, the efforts of staff are recognised with bespoke industry-standard accreditationsand beautiful silver and gold Sibbaldia pins, bestowed upon those excelling in their duties. The Charter champions are already leading meetings, chaired by Heather & Paul and making a real difference to hospitality at RBGE. For example, one member of staff suggested that with so many members of their team speaking a foreign language and a significant amount of their footfall coming from overseas tourists, this should be made apparent to guests. Now, staff wear badges to indicate if they have another language, making communication smoother and providing a personal touch.
The full integration of the ROYAL Charter is expected to take approximately a year. Established staff as well as new starters and will go through the modules, with refresher courses at intervals to see the charter continue to evolve. With this new initiative fostering a community culture amongst the entire on-site workforce, with participation from increasingly engaged stakeholders, everyone is working together with a unified goal of achieving service excellence.