On days like today, the following scribbling is often a reflection of the swirling activity in my mind and writing it seems to be somewhat cathartic ! As I revisit the world of raising capitol for my business I seem to be faced with many, who really dont seem to understand my brand. Am I not explaining it well? Is it not there in black and white or is customer service something that seems so basic to individuals that it is overlooked?
Born and raised in Ireland, I was never a stranger to hard work. My father ran a chain of 'Newsagents' as they were called then. From an early age, I stocked shelves,cleaned floors, wiped down counters and put out the newspapers. Not so glamorous. I watched or rather lived the customer experience through my father. He was and still is the shining example of what large companies such as 'Nordstrom' adopt for their brand............
One of the shops my father owned was located in the Mardyke Parade, Cork City. Extremely lucrative at the time as it was next to a hospital and University College Cork Campus. These were the days , long before gift shops in hospitals and vending machines on college campus ! Also nearby was a shelter for battered women. I was acutely aware that my father treated every single person with the respect they deserved. The person buying flowers and chocolates for the patient did not take precedence over the homeless woman spending 5p on a lollipop for her child.
Gaffney's in Cork was a brand in my mind like Nordstrom. It was the customers experience.
From here, I worked in a butchers at the age of 18 slicing meat, whilst still studying.My father told me that if you are going to slice meat for a living, "Be the best meat slicer there is" He was so right. Take pride in your work. The customer will feel this.
In 1990, I moved to London and worked for 'The London Tara Hotel' which was owned then by 'Aer Lingus' , the Irish Airline. Standards were high. Training was rigorous. They mirrored the standards my father Tony Gaffney instilled in me.
In 1992, in walked the Director for Marketing Services for Coca Cola Great Britain. It was late at night and my shift was almost over. I remember this American all too well. Tired and agitated. With every reason to be. His family were stranded in Paris. They were being transferred to London and there had been a hiccup with Visas. Not knowing this at the time, I was ready to leave. This man had to be checked in. At the time he did not have access to a bank account etc. I was also a cashier. At that moment in time I made a decision. I did not call a manager. This man needed my help. At best I was going to help him, at worst he was a scam artist and I would be down money in my till.
However , having spent years growing up with my father and working under the management of Eoin Dillon (London Tara) I felt safe to make my own decision for this customer. This is why I mention Nordstrom. 2 years ago when I was struggling to pay bills for my business, I took another job working at Nordstrom working evenings and weekends. Having climbed the ranks in Sales & Marketing over the years, it was at first a little tough to go back into basic customer service training. I decided that I needed to learn something here. I did. I learned that Nordstrom is not a good store because their Chanel make up is better than that of Neiman Marcus !
The customer matters...............End of story. Yes, it really is that simple.
Now as the owner of my own company, Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland my brand is everything to me. My brand will tell a story. The people working for me are my brand. More than the logo and the color scheme. Whilst,these are important to me, the experience my customer receives is in actual fact the brand.
In case you are wondering, the Director for Marketing Services for Coca Cola Great Britain moved back to the United States to become National Vice President, Sales for Hills Pet Nutrition, then Vice President National Accounts for Coors Brewing Company. How do I know this about Peter Leahy? Peter Leahy,is now partner and COO for Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland