Rabbie's: How to create a culture of service excellence

Robin Worsnop is CEO of multi-award winning small Scottish business Rabbie’s. Since its launch in 1993, the small group tour company has grown from one vehicle driven around Scotland by Robin to a company that employs 170 people and runs a fleet of mini-coaches in Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and, most recently, France.

At the GW Champions Spring event, Robin gave delegates a fascinating insight into how to create a culture of service excellence in a business.

YOU NEED A VISION

Robin began with his vision: “To enable people to share memorable experiences and develop rich, lasting connections with other people, local places and cultures through travel.”

He said: “The vision is important. It’s for customers to understand what our company offers and the type of specialised tours they will go on. The vision is also for our staff. If they are clear about what Rabbie’s is aiming to offer, they will have a much better understanding of how to deliver customer service excellence.”

THE NEED FOR CORE VALUES

Rabbie’s has four core values that underpin the “vision”. Core values ensure that staff are clear about the vision and remain inspired by it.

Rabbie’s core values are:
1) Committed to delivering exceptional experiences
2) Committed to being ethical, sustainable and responsible
3) Respectful of others and promotes understanding between cultures
4) Committed to continuous learning, improvement and investment in productivity, services, customer experience, staff and the business.

A FOCUS ON QUALITY

Robin told a story about his first vehicle, a “rather basic, old Leyland mini bus”. He said: “It was all I could afford when I started out and it did the job but it wasn’t very luxurious for customers. After two months in operation and when a French customer poignantly told me, ‘This bus is not for people, it is for cattle,’ I realised customers liked the concept and the experience but I needed to improve the infrastructure.”

“My next bus was a brand new Mercedes mini bus that was far more impressive and comfortable for customers. I needed a bank loan to pay for it and I worked 7 days a week to pay this off, but it allowed me to give my customers a better experience, which proved the launchpad for future success”.

RECRUIT ON ATTITUDE

Rabbie’s recruits staff based on attitude and enthusiasm rather than skills. Robin said: “It is usually quite easy to tell if people are genuinely engaging, enthusiastic and excited about working for Rabbie’s. We can teach them the skills they will need, such as driving a large vehicle, but we can’t so easily teach enthusiasm and good attitude.”

A GUARANTEED EXPERIENCE

Rabbie’s offers: “A Guaranteed Experience – or your money back.”

Robin said: “The guarantee works very well. If customers feel they have not had the experience they deserved, and we’re at fault, we’ll give them their money back. There are no quibbles about this. We will ask them why the experience was not what they had hoped for but we will always return their money.

“This guarantee works in two ways. It gives customers a feeling that we will always try our best to give them a great experience. It also means that our staff want to ensure that customers do not ask for a refund while on their tour.

‘In reality, we have not have many refund requests but it’s a brilliant way to keep staff motivated to always offer good customer service excellence.”

REWARDS AND PROFIT SHARE

Other motivational techniques for staff to achieve high standards of service excellence include profit shares and rewards.

Rabbie’s gives a share of 10% of annual profits to every member of staff.

A further financial can be earned by “going the extra mile”. Robin said: “If a staff member does something special that we find out about through word of mouth – from a customer, member of the public or other staff – they are rewarded financially. For example, a tour leader was seen picking up litter at a tourist attraction. We heard about that and they were rewarded.

“It’s about rewards for exceptional behaviour that goes above and beyond.”

Feedback from the audience at the Champions’ event was very positive, with participants mentioning take-away tips they would implement in their own business.

Ross Anderson, Scottish Enterprise, said: “Rabbie’s employs people for attitude rather than exact skills. This is a very valuable lesson.”

Matthew Hole, Ramada Glasgow Airport, said: “The profit share ideas, especially the rewards for going the extra mile, are a win-win. They incentivise staff to offer the best customer service and because of this the company gains more customers and a better reputation so profits increase. I like this business idea.”

Barbara Smith, SPT Subway, said: “The guaranteed experience concept is such a good idea. It helps with employee engagement in the business because they want to make sure that no one asks for their money back on their shift. It seems to work, too, because Robin said they have not had many customers ask for a refund.”

 

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