David Vaughton, managing director at EEF Venues, says good mental health can also make good business sense.
At EEF Venues we believe in ‘soft’ investments as much as on the bricks and mortar of our business. So why, and how do we define a ‘soft’ investment? For us, this can be beautiful gardens, stimulating art, better food and beverage; it’s the stuff the customer doesn’t directly pay for, but still anticipates, and certainly values.
The hard products are the more visible ones, and the ones the client physically pays for; the rooms, the building, the meeting spaces, the AV and technology, the support staff; the lines on the invoice and balance sheet.
Investments in ‘soft’ product and services are, by their very nature, difficult to justify and show returns on investment on. They sit on the budget line as a ‘value add’ with little anticipation of results or returns. As a business however, we have always been proud of our investment on soft products and services. We’ve moved into a place where we are no longer judged on beautiful meeting space, natural light, and smart AV. Our customers take this as read, it’s become expected and not ‘sold’.
Where we now find ourselves as a business, is as a proactive investor in softer services as well; the lounge and breakout areas, the wider environment, extended service levels, the personality of the business that interacts with our customers. These areas have become the core of what we are now judged on; in essence, after the meeting is over, where do we add value? We know that people come for the rooms, but they stay because of the service.
For us, loyalty is built around service, and there is no hiding place if it goes wrong. This is why we need to link wellbeing and customer service inextricably together, and make them both part of our ‘softer’ investments. We actively encourage others to do likewise.
The subject of wellness is growing and growing within business, not just the events industry. Mental health has become a major cause for concern in people’s daily lives, and business has a responsibility to make a positive influence on the people it affects. This can, and should, be looked at from both a pragmatic and emotional point of view; does a positive approach to wellness impact positively on business performance? But, also, what sort of values does our business have?
Firstly, how can we demonstrate that a positive approach to wellbeing means a positive impact on the balance sheet? How can we show, as we did with sustainability, that wellness makes money for businesses?
For us, wellness isn’t just an investment in staff wellbeing, it’s a message to our customers that we care about them, about everyone in fact. A host greeting someone at the door because they are told to is acceptable service, a host who clearly enjoys their job, and is a happy and satisfied person, engages delegates, makes them laugh, makes them feel good in turn. This is exceptional service.
This can only be done by investing in things that make our staff feel good, and by showing them that we care about them. This, for me, is the very essence of wellness and where it meets great customer service and positive business. We can track customer satisfaction, we can track return and loyalty levels, and we can relate that back to a positive strategy around our people; one that puts their mental and physical health at the core.
Then we have the ethical business perspective. What sort of a brand are we, what do we need to be to satisfy our customers? For me a business is the bit sells products and services, a brand is the bit that creates an emotion, so how do we want our brand to make our customers feel?
Personally, I have no interest to run a business that doesn’t care about wellness, in particularly mental health, but all aspects of work life balance and personal wellbeing. It’s down to us as a business to support our people to keep them productive, but to also show them how much we care, because we want to do business and live our lives the right way. Our reputation is built around what we do, what we say and what others say about us; if we take care of the first one, the second two will take care of us.
We believe that the importance a business puts in customer service, especially within the hospitality industry, should be replicated, with the same passion and commitment, in its approach to wellbeing. We need to see the two as inextricably linked, but also as completely consistent from a strategic point of view.
Similarly, a good approach to wellbeing is the same as a good approach to customer service. It needs to be a continual journey, with no real end destination. We need to accept that expectations change, that competition reacts, and that the only way to succeed is to continually improve. This is the same in our approach to wellness; again, things change, people change, new ideas are constantly being thought up and let’s face it, humans can be human after all. The only way to ensure we’re doing the best by our people is to constantly try and do better tomorrow than we did today.
This takes business commitment and investment, and it needs to be judged and evaluated both pragmatically and emotionally. It is a ‘soft’ investment, one that is difficult to show return on, but if we look harder, and link it to something as critical as customer service, we can’t go far wrong.
It’s an old adage but a good one; if we look after our people, they will look after our customers. If we look after everyone that comes into contact with our business, we enrich ourselves as well as other.