Friday 29 May 2009

Nearly there?

When you take a scruffy, rundown and obviously failing pub and work very hard to turn it around into something that works, there are many hurdles along the way. The biggest hurdle can be the existing expectations of any established customer base. When something is changed in order to establish a new identity, old customers sometimes become unhappy with the changes.

The complaints that occur as a result of these changes can put doubt in the mind of the originator of the vision for change. In this case that would be me1. We've changed a huge amount over the last three years. We believe for the better. The complaints against us have been decreasing and the compliments increasing. It is still upsetting when we know that our service does not match the expectations of the few that still make their way here and find we're a whole lot different than we used to be. This has happened more than I'd like this year.

This week though, despite being very busy with a bank holiday and half term, we seem to be hitting an all time high on compliments. I received this email:

Just a quick note to thank you for the hospitality you provided to us earlier this week. The food was super, the drink good, room comfortable and your interest in us very much appreciated.

In terms of levels of customer service, it would be hard to find better. When the power went off on Weds. morning, we really appreciated your efforts to get our breakfasts on the table as if there were no problem.

We hope that you have a busy summer and continued success and will recommend The Woolpack to friends & family with pleasure.
This sort of thing just keeps happening, so perhaps my vision isn't wrong after all. Our visitors book is rammed with good stuff. It helps when the customers are fantastic people, like the ones who were kind enough to write the above.

The trouble is, I think that the average return time for most customers is around 3 years, we're a tourist pub after all. Some people say they were last here 30 years ago, some return several times a year, but I reckon the average is 3 years. This means that after any major change the customer base is likely to take at least 3 years to settle down. That puts us around half way there. I'd better not make any changes for a couple of years then.

1Actually, that is really unfair to Ann, who puts a huge amount into the vision and regularly tells me I'm off beam. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, I've been known to listen to what she's got to say.


Ed said...

I think my mate Rob was quite impressed too:

Ron Pattinson said...

Why I love your blog is that it gives the landlord's perspective.

Despite having frequented pubs for several decades, I'd never fully appreciated the view from the other side of the bar. My ideal pub would sell three Milds, Porter, Stout and maybe a Bitter. But, as that's very unlikely to provide a living for anyone (even I can't drink enough single-handed to keep a pub going), it's not surprising no-one's tried that formula.

I think the necessity of the people involved in the supply side of beer - pubs, breweries, off-licences - making a profit is often forgotten by drinkers. Without you lot, we would have no beer. Thank you for your efforts.

D+K Thacker said...

Well, after being impressed with your Blog and with Eskdale being my favourite area of the Lakes my wife and I decided to stay at the Woolpack for the weekend.
The food was superb, well presented and delicious.Room 8 in which we stayed was very comfortable and its bathroom immense.
Your Beers, The pride of Eskdale and the Dry Cascade were excellent.
We have stayed in most of the other inns/hotels in the Eskdale area but the Customer Service at the Woolpack is the best by far.
It is very evident that Dave and Ann work very hard to maitain the Woolpacks high standards in hospitality and what they do certainly works.

Thanks for a great weekend.

Dave+Kath Thacker

Unknown said...

Thanks Ron, it is indeed the main reason I write this blog; to give the view from the other side of the bar. As I'm sure you know, it is always nice to hear that people appreciate the work involved in any work of passion.

Likewise, Dave and Kath, we also enjoyed your company and that is enhanced all the more by your appreciation. I'm just sorry, when we have a busy weekend, that we don't get to spend more time with our guests.