On November 4 & 5, a packed International Evangelical Church hosted the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) – two days of inspirational talks by some of the most thought-provoking leaders in the world. People came looking for a jolt of inspiration and went away dreaming up great things. Who knows how all this collective inspiration will change Addis Ababa? Experiencing GLS for the first time, I particularly enjoyed Horst Schulze’s seminar on crafting world-class customer service. So here’s a taste of what he had to say…
From a young age Schulze knew that he wanted to work in hospitality. Starting from the very bottom of the pecking order, he worked his way up and is now the CEO of the Capella Hotel Group: a very important person. In fact, whenever a new hotel is opened he begins by telling his employees just how important he is—an intimidating start to a pep talk from the boss.
‘But you are a very important person too’, he continues, after a moment of silence. ‘If the dishes are not washed – its a disaster. If the beds are not made – its a disaster. If I don’t come to work, however, no one will notice.’
In an industry where door-openers and diplomats rub shoulders we tend to attribute VIP status to the latter. Schulze makes it very clear to his employees that nobody can claim superiority over anyone else. His hotels are full of VIPs, but they are found in the kitchens, in the gardens and in the laundry room.
Most hotels hire people to fulfil a function. Someone who can drive, for example, is hired as a driver. Schulze has a different approach. ‘People should not be hired to fulfil a function; chairs fulfil a function. Rather, select people who are inspired by the company’s vision. Select people who are caring and who strive for excellence, regardless of how menial their tasks appear.’
In an industry where every competitor boasts good food and a comfortable room, it’s the service that sets hotels apart.
Creating world-class service is what Schulze says made the Capella Group a success. ‘Be caring, empowering and value all your employees. Show them how they play an important part in the company’s vision… give their jobs greater meaning, and you will have a much more inspired workforce who will fight to realise a collective dream.’
Being nice to people is the number one driver of customer loyalty. The first 10 seconds are crucial. ‘Door-openers, therefore, play a pivotal role in how well we do as a company. A smile, a friendly ‘good morning Mr. Ellis,’ and an open door is much more inviting than closed doors.’
Schulze’s talk is a reminder to leaders to take more time making sure your employees don’t just fulfil a function, but that they feel they are part of the bigger picture. Chairs fulfil functions, people fulfil dreams.
It also prompted me to think about how, as Christians, we don’t just have to be motivated by group success to do menial tasks: we have an even higher calling: ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ (Colossians 3:23).
As my Dad used to say, ‘its all well and good going to Christian conferences, but if they don’t motivate you to help out and do the washing up when you come home, have they really changed you?’