Quality, Quality, Quality

(July 2009)

There are no quick fixes in an economic downturn, warns Adrian Barsby. But it’s still possible for tourism businesses to succeed if they commit to constant improvement.

The title of this article is a homage to the quote from Conrad Hilton: “You need three things for a successful business - location, location, location.” But it seems to me that quality is even more important, especially in difficult times.

Recently everyone has become an expert on the economy, casually recycling the plethora of depressing facts and figures broadcasted every day. But I suspect it won’t be long before good news becomes fashionable again and the first place they should look is right here in Flintshire. While the doom mongers have been busy peddling their end of the world stories, tourism has been quietly leading the fightback.

A quality tourist destination has to integrate public and private sectors, products with services. Above all it has to link visitors and residents. Here in Flintshire we have every reason to be proud of the enterprises who work tirelessly to find ways to exceed customer expectation.

Companies doing better than just surviving are those who have demonstrated a genuine interest in the people of Flintshire, its spectacular history and culture.

Pulling together in times of hardship is a strong British characteristic. We quickly identify those who are cynically paying lip service to service promises and offering tardy products - just as customers refuse to revisit establishments that don’t offer value for money.

Quality is a subjective experience, especially in the tourism and leisure sectors, and it is most definitely not all about being five-star. It is, though, about ensuring marketing materials and websites are well designed, truthful, exciting and reflective of the area.

It is also about striving to be best in class and never hiding from your customers, employees and suppliers. Above all it is about, at the very least, meeting your customers’ expectations and searching for ways to exceed them.

Quality should be the focus in all organisations, regardless of the economic climate, as it demands a conscientious, positive effort to avoid cutting corners. Making a public commitment to quality is probably the best thing any business can do at this time.

Having a plan about how to achieve quality will save your business from making short cuts, will protect what you stand for and develop trust. We need to provide “risk-free purchases” like never before because customers want to be rewarded with a positive experience when they part with hard-earned cash.

Quality demands a commitment to constant improvement. This inevitably leads to training, better retention of employees and the full participation of customers and suppliers.

The mentoring programme supported by the Flintshire Rural Partnership is helping businesses to improve by developing action plans and in some cases securing grants to underpin investment. Networking is an essential way to improve. Joining Flintshire Tourism Association means you can share experiences with many members running similar businesses. It’s never been more important to work together.

In place of the search for the reassuring green shoots of recovery or get-rich-quick schemes, you should concentrate on quality. If you never let up in the pursuit of quality, you will never let down your customers.

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