I first met Michelle Page from ServiceGurus at the inauguration at the Cape Chamber of Commerce’s new president.
We both had been blown away by the superb attitude displayed by the parking attendant at Absa’s parking lot at Century City.
Michelle spoke with insight on this woman being a custodian of service and that she offered the “wow factor” and did it effortlessly.
As Michelle animatedly spoke about this engagement, I realised that here was a champion for the service industry, particularly in the hospitality arena.
“Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans,” says author Ken Blanchard.
It was with this engagement in mind that I thought I would share ServiceGurus take on service excellence and client focus.
ServiceGurus train and develop anyone in the tourism industry, particularly hospitality, to create a guest-obsessed culture.
ServiceGurus is an agile, family-owned business that is run and managed by two dynamic women, Michelle and Shireen Onia.
Having grown up together, the duo always dreamt about one day opening a business together, and so their journey began with the launch of ServiceGurus in 2015.
With their combined 40 years’ experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, and their boundless enthusiasm and passion for service excellence, these women are challenging the way companies empower and enable their teams, through unconventional, hands-on customised training methods and coaching.
Michelle began waitressing at the age of 18 and worked her way up in this industry in management and marketing.
She draws huge inspiration from her mom (and large family) where they were always up for tea and sandwiches. These sandwiches were seen as gourmet cool by her school friends.
Michelle has had 25 years’ experience in this industry and models what she speaks.
Shireen is a mom of two boys and is, in fact, related to Michelle, being her niece.
After two decades of this journey, Michelle pondered what came after “the nine to five journey”. What new challenges lay ahead?
So, in 2015, with hospitality in their veins, they decided to launch ServiceGurus.
When asked about their “why”, Michelle reflected that they wanted to give back to the industry, realising that tourism affects every aspect of our economy.
Their unashamed focus on the staff in the frontline is because they realise that they are the essential touch point for tourists and clients.
When asked about three achievements they were proud of, they spoke about getting their accreditation, getting and keeping repeat business and hiring their first employee.
Some of the repeat businesses include Cape Town Tourism, the Good Food Company and Valor Hospitality
Lessons of a start-up are always valuable, and Michelle shared these three nuggets:
The service industry pivots on respect and accepting the variety of people you engage with.
Nurture a platform of relationships and never burn your bridges. The vast majority of ServiceGurus’ work is through word of mouth, so relationships are pivotal in securing ongoing business.
“The key is when a customer walks away, thinking ‘Wow, I love doing business with them, and I want to tell others about the experience,” says customer service expert, Shep Hyken.
Michelle would rather cut back on costs than reduce the quality and time of their offering.
This delivery means keeping your value system intact, building credibility and delivering with integrity.
Unsurprisingly, their values include respect, hard work and integrity.
Michelle concluded this nugget, by reminding me that every guest has an expectation, consequently it is vital not to over promise and under deliver but rather under promise and over deliver.
“Excellent customer service is the number one job in any company. It is the personality of the company and the reason customers come back. Without customers there is no company,” says Connie Elder, women’s wear designer, skincare executive.
Michelle reflects that service is never a case of competing but rather collaborating.
Every business in the hospitality industry will face moments of truth where the client is dissatisfied.
But embracing empathy and dealing with the complaint in a constructive way can move a client from being disgruntled to being delighted.
What better way to end this interview than reflecting the quote on their profile, “Our clients love working with us… and we love working with our clients.”
It is comments from their clients that point to authenticity, delivery and connection. Here’s to creating a tourism experience in Cape Town that is unparalleled in the world.
Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.