We talked to Adolfo Acampora of Guest Delight International about mystery shopping audits and evaluations, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adolfo Acampora: It has been a hectic time, balancing WFH duties in a space that I normally use to relax and unwind. At the moment it’s just my wife and me, but we were used to travelling for leisure very often and the restriction on travel, the continued lockdowns has led to stress and strain, even as I try to work with my remote team virtually.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Guest Delight International.
Adolfo Acampora: I’m basically an entrepreneur and had set up my own company with a sole domestic focus in a single country. That was very successful, and it was through working with clients that I met up with some like-minded individuals, and we began to discuss collaborating to set up a company with global reach. We made a decision to solely focus on Mystery Shopping Audits or Mystery Guest Evaluations for the Hotel Industry. Banding together with my partner, who has a deep and storied career background with leading Luxury Hotels, worldwide, we set up Guest Delight International. Its been a rich learning experience for us as we travelled the globe to meet clients and to deliver on commitments.
Some details about our company:
Guest Delight International provides globally acknowledged mystery shopping, quality assurance, and marketing research programs in the hospitality industry in over 100 countries around the world.
We help our clients achieve excellence through quality assurance, making continuous improvement a way of life. Our customized solutions include comprehensive and in-depth audits, exhaustive analytics, action plans, and training and coaching programs.
Our audit dashboards give clients a complete view of what’s working and what isn’t, with precise insights based on observed data and information. GDI’s proprietary software and mobile application ensures that clients are provided with ‘data on the fly’.
We’ve been in business for more than five years now.
How does Guest Delight International innovate?
Adolfo Acampora: Fundamentally, for us, innovation means introducing something new into the business. This could be anything – improving or replacing business processes, extending the range or quality of existing services, developing new services or simply adding value to clients who are presently using existing services.
Usually, during our Business Reviews, we set aside some time to look at market conditions across the different geographies in which we operate. Then we brainstorm new approaches, ideas or even ways of working. No idea is a stupid idea. After the brainstorming, we look at options that can be made real and work on those. We also listen very closely to clients and come up with ways to enable them and their businesses to be successful. Our employees are encouraged to ideate and to make suggestions. And of course, we’re always scanning market research and published studies and documents.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Adolfo Acampora: 2020 was a turning point for our company. Many of our clients asked us to defer our work in the area of Mystery shopping/enhancing the Customer Service Experience. As you know, the pandemic hit the Travel & Tourism, and subsequently the Hotel industry very badly. Business in this area had a de-growth of almost 60%
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Adolfo Acampora: I’m now working from home. All our staff are working remotely. It’s a challenge to manage a global office with so many remote locations/time zones and to keep people working in their own homes, engaged. The technology we have helps, but some locations are affected by IT connectivity and productivity is affected. We’ve had to restructure our method of working – focusing on deliverables rather than on “office hours” which adds to stress and strain of having one’s family living in one’s office. We’ve also had to make the tough decisions of asking our employees to proceed on leave without pay or take reduced wages while continuing to avail of their benefits.
With regard to lessons learned, the mental health cost of this crisis will play out in the near future. I think just making sure people are connected and stay in touch is vitally important. And those human interactions we take for granted on a daily basis – passing someone in the corridor, sharing coffee in the cafeteria, a quick briefing, whatever the daily rhythm might be – you don’t realize how critical to business those interactions can be until you’re trying to manage that remotely. So this is another chance for us – to plan structured connection time to ensure no one feels “lost.”
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Adolfo Acampora: Since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the world has come to a complete halt. Everyone’s life has been affected, every day, in every way. Social distancing, travel bans, closing of educational institutions, working from home and forcing the global cancellation of events. It also affected the way that we connect with our clients. Key changes that we made was to build and strengthen the personal connections that we had developed with clients and to continue to reassure them via mail or virtual meetings of our assistance and support. We focused on the needs of our clients, focusing on sending out messages that including reassurance as well as offering them the opportunity to use our proprietary software free-of-cost to reinforce COVID-19 precautionary measures. Our responses to client requirements were client-led and based on client needs rather than what was good for our business. This has created enormous goodwill.
Efficient CRM was enabled by the available tools for virtual discussions, meetings, etc. – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, etc.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Adolfo Acampora: No, we did not benefit from any government grants.
Your final thoughts?
Adolfo Acampora: With the hotels reopening, we anticipate changes from our clients—masks, gloves, social distancing—will be the main focus areas. We’ve been in touch with sanitation experts and have already helped a few clients to prepare for self-audits and compliances. We can adapt our evaluations to whatever the new standard of business is for the industry and for society in general.
Mystery shopping is the preferred catalyst to change frontline processes, reinforce frontline behaviours, recognize outstanding service and identify opportunities for improvement. With the lens of inspection, anyone, in fact, all of us can improve. Now, more than ever, it’s good to be under a microscope!
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