Company of The Year Awards 2016 - Part 4: Excellence in Customer Engagement

In the last of a four-part series looking at finalists for the Cork Company of the Year Awards 2016, Peter O’Dwyer casts an eye over those in the special category: Excellence in Customer Engagement.
Company of The Year Awards 2016 - Part 4: Excellence in Customer Engagement

Airport hotel is ‘perfect’ place to stay

The ambitious team at Cork International Hotel might accept that perfection is an unattainable goal, but they don’t accept it of excellence.

The hotel’s 90 or so staff, based in the Cork Airport Business Park, operate on a motto of passionately pursuing perfection in the knowledge that they can never attain it.

In falling short, however, excellence is attained and from that level of service comes customer satisfaction; the Holy Grail of any business in the hospitality sector.

Radio presenter Anton Savage presenting Carmel Lonergan, Avril Ring, and Aaron Mansworth with the Hotel Bar of the Year Award for The Cork International Hotel’s New Yorker Bar.

Radio presenter Anton Savage presenting Carmel Lonergan, Avril Ring, and Aaron Mansworth with the Hotel Bar of the Year Award for The Cork International Hotel’s New Yorker Bar.

TripAdvisor lists the Cork International Hotel as top of the pile of hotels, with a 95% guest satisfaction rating.

Such a strong reputation takes hard work and its staff have had to build that name over a period of turmoil in the Irish economy.

In business since 2007, the 145-bedroom, four-star hotel has come through the harsh recession, which began in 2008 when the hotel was getting off the ground.

Recent years have provided breathing space to invest in the business and ensure its facilities are up to scratch, as the service economy strengthens.

Attracting top events requires best-in-class facilities. A ballroom refurbishment was completed in 2014 and its conference rooms are due to be updated this year.

With sales growth of 20% between 2013 and 2015, that investment is paying off.

Being among the finalists of this year’s Cork Company of the Year awards is a sign to Mr Mansworth that the hotel’s way of doing business is yielding results.

“The team here, at the Cork International Hotel, are very humbled and honoured that we have been selected as a finalist in the special award category: ‘Excellence in Customer Engagement (Retail and Hospitality)’ for the Cork Company of the Year awards.

“There is a fantastic sense of pride and satisfaction that our belief of ‘passionate in the pursuit of perfection’ in everything we do is being recognised.

“We believe that this is our most unique selling point and all aspects of our business, including sales, customer care and product development follows this belief. It’s all credit to our wonderful and dedicated team, who live and breathe our motto of ‘guest on arrival, friend on departure’.

“We would like to thank Conor, and all the team at the Cork Chamber of Commerce, for this opportunity,” says general manager, Aaron Mansworth.

River Lee Hotel in rude health

Perched on the banks of the river and within a stone’s throw of the city’s university and main shopping area, The River Lee Hotel has a lot going for it.

The deluxe four-star hotel situated on Western Road is one of the area’s most eye-catching landmarks travelling either to or from the city centre.

The business has positioned itself as a smart urban hotel capable of catering for any of the multiple needs of its loyal customers.

Its 182 rooms offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city while its dedicated suite of meeting rooms for up to 110 delegates allow it to take a significant slice of corporate business that flows into the city each year.

Special occasions have a home in the hotel too with the highly popular Weir Rooms and Terrace on The Weir providing more than enough space to cater for events of all sorts.

Management has invested heavily in improving those offerings and guests’ general experience of the hotel in the past year too.

In the past year, the hotel has invested more than €2m in the service it provides, enhancing its food and drink offering with the addition of a terrace and transforming its meeting room space to facilitate the high expectations of its corporate and business clients.

Building a better hotel is only half the battle though; selling it represents the other half. The River Lee Hotel has embarked on an extensive sales and marketing campaign to promote the hotel as well as the city itself across the US, UK, Europe and newer markets such as China and South America.

With Cork’s top ranking on TripAdvisor under its belt, it’s clearly a strategy that’s delivering results.

“It is a great honour to be a finalist in the inaugural special award category of excellence in customer engagement at the Cork Chamber Company of the Year awards.

“To be acknowledged in this way by the leading organisations for business in Cork ratifies our belief that our role in Cork is that of a partner to the business, and indeed wider, community.

“My colleagues and I strive every day to reflect the genuine warmth and welcome that stems from being a much-loved Irish family and local business,” said River Lee Hotel general manager, Ruairí O’Connor.

Fota in the frame for success after large-scale investment

The magnificent Fota Wildlife Park, Cork’s largest visitor attraction, came out swinging during the crippling recession that began in 2008.

In the midst of the downturn, management at the sprawling, 100-acre wildlife park invested heavily to maintain its success.

Keeping its core values of conservation, education and research, the non-profit organisation invested in improving its visitor experience.

The first phase was improving its facilities with a new entrance plaza and education centre.

The second phase added new animal enclosures, including for tigers, and a tropical house.

Then, last summer, one of the park’s biggest-ever additions arrived, in the shape of Jamil, the male rhino, the first of his kind to call Fota home.

The arrival of the two-and-a-half year old Indian Rhino, which weighed more than a tonne, marked the culmination of much hard work by Fota’s staff in bringing the rhino enclosure to fruition.

The park has spent a remarkable €9.7m on large investment projects in the park since 2010.

That investment has, in turn, led to an increase in attendances of 25%, from 344,000 visitors in 2009 to 450,000 in 2015.

Clearly, the research, which showed that visitors wanted to see more of the larger, iconic species, like tigers and rhinos, has paid dividends.

Further proof of the strategy’s success was that records have been repeatedly surpassed over the past two years.

Both 2014 and 2015 were record years for visitor numbers.

The park had its busiest ever day in April of last year, when 6,700 visitors passed through their gates, while August, 2015, was a record month, with just shy of 100,000 guests enjoying all the longstanding park has to offer.

“As an organisation that has been built on the support of the people, we are delighted to be a finalist in Cork Chamber Company of the Year awards.

“It acknowledges the great work our team at Fota Wildlife Park do all year-round, especially, and how they have helped build a community of loyal customers who visit us year after year,” said Fota Wildlife Park director, Sean McKeown.

Its staff of 80 full- and part-time workers, during the busier summer months, have been key to sustaining the organisation, which was set up by University College Cork and the Zoological Society of Ireland in 1983.

To have thrived as a self-financing entity that relies on gate receipts and membership fees for its income, over the past 30 years, is a significant achievement.

After reinvesting so heavily in its product over the past number of years, the chances of that success continuing into the future look as strong as ever.

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