UK airport's Olympic training goal is royal service

Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:23am EST
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By Peter Myers

LONDON (Reuters) - The head concierge of a London hotel long-favored by Britain's royal family has been giving staff at Gatwick airport some tips on the finer arts of customer service ahead of this summer's Olympics.

John Andrews from the 100-year-old Goring Hotel has been called in as the airport readies for one of its busiest summers ever with tourists also expected to pour into London for events celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.

The family owned hotel was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who died in 2002 and was in the limelight last year when it housed Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge and her family the night before her wedding to Prince William.

Gatwick's head of terminals Paul Fitch told Reuters that the session with Andrews taught his staff how to deliver five-star service for all passengers and involved interactive tasks which gave the trainees a chance to put their new-found knowledge into practice.

"We are currently looking at how we can incorporate John's teachings into our company-wide customer servicing training programs, and indeed explore the possibility of further training sessions in partnership with the hotel."

Roughly 2,500 people work for Gatwick Airport Ltd, a figure which increases by a factor 10 when tallying up the site's airport and airline workers.

According to Fitch, who sees the training as a way to differentiate Gatwick from other airports in the UK, staff should be expected to provide an "unforgettable service," behave with empathy and be accountable for people's problems, regardless of the source.

Andrews taught staff that delivering a luxury level of service required taking such initiatives as offering to lead passengers to places rather than giving directions and asking their names to make interaction far more personal and engaging.   Continued...

A passenger arrives at the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport in southern England October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor