Recently I had the great pleasure to take my family on a vacation to Fiji to celebrate a relatives wedding. We stayed at the Outrigger on the Lagoon which is located near the small town of Sigatoka on Fiji’s main island.
The resort is on land that is owned by the two local villages and the vast number of staff have been recruited from those villages. From the moment we arrived until the moment we departed the resort we could not have had a more wonderful time. My wife and I, our five children and nearly 60 relatives and friends were not only impressed by the physical standards of the resort, but more importantly the staff who were always smiling and happy to please.
|The talented Erami leads a water aerobics class
Despite talking about ‘Fiji time’, a reference to taking time to get things done, our experience was that requests of staff were always met by prompt responses and action, something that service and hospitality organisations here in Australia could learn from.
The culture of teamwork and the desire to create a wonderful experience for guests was self evident for our entire visit. Due to the genuinely friendly nature of the staff you could not help but make ‘friends’ with them. One of the staff with whom I had the pleasure to speak with at length was Moses Saukalou, one of the hospitality managers with vast experience who managed a large team of staff.
When I asked Moses about what drove the staff to be so friendly and willing to work, despite their relative poor pay (by Australian standards) he told me that the answer lay in their culture of respect.
“Respect is something that we value and it is taught to our children from a very young age. That is why it comes across as being genuine – because it is!”.
The staff work six days per week and many of them were multi-talented, being able to speak several languages, do public speaking, take water aerobics, weave baskets and hats and serve incredible cocktails as well as singing. And what I have just described is the skills of a single employee!
|Singing good-bye on our final morning
When the staff heard of our imminent departure during our breakfast on the final morning of our visit, they gathered in front of us and sang us a good-bye song. While the staff were singing to us another team member came forward and explained the meaning of the words to us. We were being thanked for visiting their land and they were wishing us a safe journey home. It was very moving and once again was not contrived – it was genuine. We really felt like we were leaving special people. My brother, who was with us with his family mentioned how emotional he found the experience, a comment that was uncommon from him.
It was really us who should have been saying thank you, or as they do in Fiji, “Vinaka!”.
There is a lot that can be learned from the Fijians with regard to how important it is to have respect for other people at the heart of your approach to delivering service excellence.
And ‘deliver’ is exactly what the staff at the Outrigger on the Lagoon in Fiji certainly did!
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