Customer service figures high on the agenda for Roger and Melanie, whose international background will be reflected in their Telegraph Retreat – a special place that offers guests near and far a unique luxury experience of relaxation, romance, family time, and gourmet foods … so enjoyable that it may well become their 2nd home!
Having recently purchased Telegraph Retreat, give us a little info about your background?
We originally come from Scotland and Ireland, but have spent the past 10 years living permanently in Australia. The Celtic roots still come through in almost everything we do, but Australia’s been home for a long time now, and two of our three boys were born here. Career-wise, we come from a bit of a hybrid of hospitality, marketing and community services.
Melanie has managed a community service in Sydney for the past three years and was full time mum, European funding specialist and trained lawyer before that. Roger’s always been in marketing for around 20 years and still runs communications agencies in Australia and Singapore as part of a global network.
What is Telegraph Retreat?
Telegraph Retreat comprises three luxury country cottages where people come to relax, unwind and just enjoy the good things in life. There’s one large family cottage that sleeps up to eight plus two smaller one-bedroom cottages that can each sleep up to four. Each cottage has its own spa on the verandah, a wood-burning fire in the lounge, flowers and home baking on arrival and is fully equipped to offer the chance to get away and catch up with yourself or each other.
There’s even home baked bread for breakfast, a dinner-in-your-cottage service, a fully stocked pantry of locally produced foods, a selection of local wines and an on-site pool and massage service, so you can pull up and chill out without ever getting back in your car!
The Retreat is part of the local Customer Care Accredit program. What have you learnt about the program since taking over the business?
The program makes you think about how customers view your business from the moment they arrive, to the moment they leave – for most of our guests that can be anything from two days to two weeks, so we need to make sure we maintain the highest standards of customer care throughout. Even with Mel’s pinpoint attention to detail, there’s always something more we can do, and the program has helped us go that extra step to make sure everything’s perfect.
From the gourmet food we serve and the daily maintenance of the spas, to the new bed linen we’ve just imported from Ireland and even taking visiting children to collect the eggs from the chickens, we make sure every guest gets the ‘wow’ factor.
What benefits has being an accredited Customer Care Program member brought to, or do you see bringing to, your business?
The program gives us a benchmark to measure against and it has also introduced us to other members of the program, to share and learn from their experiences. Every business is unique, but we often share the same customers, so maintaining a high care standard is good for everyone involved.
It also brings Telegraph Retreat an independent quality recognition, which means guests are reassured that we deliver everything we promise.
Why do you think it is important we have these programs from tourism point of view?
Getting away is a big decision and a milestone in most family calendars. Telegraph Retreat has guests from Port Macquarie to every state in Australia, New Zealand and even Europe and the US so, whenever people invest their time and money in making a visit here, they have to know they’ve planned and chosen well. The Customer Care Program is like an insurance policy that they’ve made the best choices, got great value and will enjoy and remember every minute of their stay.
What is it that makes your business successful?
We go beyond accommodation to offer a unique luxury experience of relaxation, romance, family time and gourmet foods. Each cottage is remote from the others, so it’s almost like you’re in the bush alone … except for the ducks, the chickens, the kangaroos and even the odd goanna! But ultimately, people keep returning here, because Telegraph Retreat becomes their home too. We and our staff bring quality to everything we do, and our guests often become friends that return time and again.
Most of our marketing happens at our website (www.telegraphretreat.com.au) and online at affiliate sites as well as through national, local and specialist media. When we look at the traffic on our website, we’re always surprised at the split between: local visitors from the Port area, who just want to have a change of scene and spoil themselves for a couple of nights; and interstate or international guests, who want a longer stay.
How do you build customer loyalty, trust and integrity?
Again, it’s all about the quality of service. We’re available anytime guests need some help or advice on where to eat, entertaining their kids around Port Macquarie, or how to get the most from their holiday time here. We don’t hide behind signs and rules; we’re a people-business and people gravitate back to good experiences so, we do everything to make sure their time at Telegraph Retreat is just a great experience.
Do you attend the Customer Care Mix & Mingle (M & M) Networking functions regularly? What are your comments on the benefits of these events?
We attended our first meeting last month, and it was excellent! It was the perfect opportunity to mingle with other members in a really relaxed, welcoming environment and compare notes on what’s working well, what’s not and how we can do more for our customers. We were made to feel really welcome, and it’s good to know that others have the same dedication to giving great customer experiences!
What would you say to someone who was contemplating having his or her business accredited as a member of the Customer Care Program?
Just do it! It’s easy, you’ll enjoy the journey, and you’ll learn lots of valuable information about your business along the way!
And besides attitude, what advice would you give to other firms striving to excel in Customer Care?
Be your own customer. Try to view your business from the visitor’s perspective and be super-critical. Customer care is more about actions than words, so make sure you see every customer-facing element of your business through to the end.
At Telegraph Retreat, we have the chance to spend days with our customers, rather than minutes, and that gives us a great measure of what they like best. It’s also about honesty and keeping conversations going.
Since we took on Telegraph Retreat, we’ve set up our own Facebook page, so guests can keep in touch with what’s happening here all year round. We also encourage our guests to review and recommend their stay online at TripAdvisor, which provides us with honest feedback beyond the great comments we read in our cottage visitor books.
Thank you Roger and Melanie.