It’s the little things that count – an international business traveller’s perspective on Front of House services

Eloy Mazon is the chief executive of 4 Global, a sports consultancy firm who work on major sporting events, including the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and World Cups, and provide sports intelligence to international federations covering most major sporting events, throughout the world. The company has permanent offices in London, Sydney and Spain, as well as offices through joint-ventures in Istanbul and Brazil, where they are working on both the forthcoming Olympics and World Cup.

We met up with Eloy to find out what he and his customers expect from front of house services, and how service changes across the different cultures in which they work.

MITIE Client Services: Eloy, how do you find customer service differs from country to country?

Eloy Mazon: If you take a country like Brazil, they have a very different approach to how we do things in the UK. People are very friendly and familiar with you, but in other ways quite formal as they have bell boys in lifts and waiters who serve you throughout meetings. In Russia, it’s as efficient as you would imagine.

When our own customers come to us, they don’t just buy our services they buy into the whole experience of working with us. Therefore, it’s important that if we invite them to our offices in Brazil or Russia, for example, that they have a consistent experience to what they had at our London offices, whilst of course being conscious of cultural differences. For that reason we work with one workspace provider across all of the countries where we have offices. They’re not necessarily the cheapest, or the best, but it allows us to create a level of consistency of service, which is very important to us.

MITIE Client Services: What would you say makes a great reception service?

Eloy Mazon: A ‘can do’ attitude. For us, we don’t want any problems. We don’t want to worry about organising couriers, meeting and greeting clients, etc. We don’t want to know ten reasons why something is difficult to achieve. I can sympathise, but actually I don’t care, I just want it taken care of. If a visitor arrives and I haven’t finished in another meeting, I would expect that the guest is offered a drink, and kept up-to-date about when I will be free to see them. There is nothing worse than sitting in reception wondering what’s going on, and thinking ‘have they called him or did they just leave a message on his phone?’ Receptionists must put themselves in the guest’s position and not just think ‘I’ve called, I’ve done my bit.’

Receptionists are our image, and are an important part in making a meeting successful. I know that sounds extreme, but a lot of our customers are from overseas, and don’t know what to expect when coming to see us. It might have been a stressful journey, and so we want the reception to be a safe haven for them. If they arrive in a bad mood, we want our receptionists to diffuse it. I don’t think people understand how important it is. Just as if an air hostess is friendly and smiley, it can make the journey, it’s the same with receptionists – they’re behaviour can tell you a lot about the organisation.

MITIE Client Services: Do you expectations vary from country to country

Eloy Mazon: Not really. We are cognisant of the local subtleties, but we have very high expectations about how we want our receptions to be run, regardless of the country.

As a visitor, of course we don’t care if we’re visiting clients what the experience is like, but if it’s a supplier, then we want our values to be extrapolated onto them. We don’t mind too much if we’re visiting an IT company, but if we’re going to see a brand agency then we expect the experience to match what they are selling.

We have a client in Russia, where the security and reception move away from their posts and go to formerly greet him each morning. When he comes here, he realises that’s not going to happen, because that’s not how it works, but he does expect to be ‘seen’. In fact, we get a call from his secretary when he’s five minutes away and the whole team is waiting in reception to greet him when he arrives.

MITIE Client Services: What countries do you feel excel at customer service?

Eloy Mazon: They all do. I love the way each country approaches customer service. It’s different, but very good in their own ways. It’s refreshing to see how you can get good service in very different ways. ‘Different’ doesn’t mean better or worse, at least to us.

MITIE Client Services: What is most important to international guests?

Eloy Mazon: When people come to England, they want the English experience. They expect everyone to be terribly polite and friendly, and to get a decent cup of tea! If we take a British client to our office in Brazil, they will want that decent cup of tea there too!

In all honesty, most people don’t notice service, as long as it’s to a certain standard. They’ll only notice if it dips below what’s expected. When we do major sporting events, we always tell people it’s about the journey, not just the event. That means the experience includes everything from buying the ticket on the internet, getting to the airport, arriving in a new city, the transfer to the hotel, the hotel and the journey to the ground. It’s the whole journey that makes the ‘experience’ of the World Cup, not just the match. It has to feel good every step of the way. And although it’s a huge exaggeration, it’s the same when someone comes to our offices. If they’re not familiar with London, the thought of the journey and parking, etc can be quite stressful. Whereas, we let them know it’s just opposite the tube station. Once they arrive, they receive a nice greeting and go to a nice meeting room. It’s not going to make or break a deal, but it’s just a much nicer environment in which to do business. It’s the little things that count – they’re not going to change the world, but it makes a world of difference.

MITIE Client Services: What is your best example of a great front of house service?

Eloy Mazon: When we worked on London 2012, I was a regular visitor at LOCOG, which was part of another company’s office. I used to find it one of the most frustrating places to visit. For example, due to an illness I walked with a stick and sometimes crutches, but was never shown to the disabled gate, and always had to battle through the turnstiles. The procedures used for security only served to frustrate their guests, and from experience I know did little to protect the building.

I know this doesn’t sound like my best example, but at some point the front of house was taken over by MITIE Client Services. What was amazing was how quickly and effectively the service changed. It was exactly the same people doing the same jobs, but the experience was totally different. The staff became much more friendly and helpful. I was always shown through the disabled entrance, the security staff used their common sense, and the receptionists would show some sign that they recognised you. It was easy, comfortable and as a guest you were kept informed.

MITIE Client Services: Do you resonate with George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in the film Up in the Air?

Eloy Mazon: Unfortunately yes, especially his approach to packing and the importance of the type of suitcase used. You clock seconds when queuing for security, on one of those odd occasions where you don’t have a frequent flyer card for the airline and can’t bypass it. My advice is not to get behind very attractive women – it’s funny how security always take a little longer chatting to them!

With thanks to Eloy Mazon for taking part in our interview.  You can follow Eloy on Twitter here.

We’d love to hear about your experiences, leave a message below about your experiences of front of house services across different cultures.

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