Cluster Manager, Sheffield North and Rotherham, Thomas Cook
For Shaun Bashford, flying out to Venice with two elderly clients to help them relive their honeymoon was just part of his job. But Thomas Cook recognised his dedication by honouring him for his outstanding contribution to the business
Q: Tell us about the situation which led to you winning the outstanding contribution award at the Thomas Cook Retail conference in Turkey last month.
A: The clients in question, Sir Norman and Lady Eve Adsetts, both in their 80s, are big spenders who have booked with me since I started with Thomas Cook in Meadowhall. They have been loyal to me and I go to their home to discuss their holiday plans. We had booked a Mediterranean cruise holiday for them so that they could stop off in Venice.
Lady Eve’s parents were born in Italy and the couple went to Venice for their honeymoon 64 years ago. They called to let me know that Lady Eve had a problem with her hip and they thought they would have to cancel. To travel, she would need a wheelchair and someone to accompany them. I spent a week phoning every ground-handling agent in Venice, but they all said they could not arrange this for insurance reasons.
Q: Most agents may have given up at that point. What did you decide to do to resolve the situation?
A: Sir Norman was really upset about not being able to go, and I just couldn’t let that happen. I spoke to Lady Eve about me going along and she laughed it off. When I went back to their house to cancel the holiday, I could see how much it meant to them so I mentioned it again, and they decided to take me up on my offer. I told them I could fly out the day before their cruise arrived and find out the best way to St Mark’s Square, where there was a restaurant called Do Fornini they had been to on their honeymoon.
I took a day’s annual leave and the company gave me a day off to go. When I got there, I worked out the best way to get from the port to the square with a wheelchair. It all fell into place really well. We had a coffee at St Mark’s Square, and looked at the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica where Lady Eve’s parents had their photo taken years ago and I could see in her face she was reliving her youth. I took them to the restaurant and I was about to go when they said they wanted me to eat with them. It was nice to be part of that.
Q: Did you get anything out of the trip personally? What did it mean to you?
A: I had never been to Venice, so for me it was a learning experience and it has helped me to train my staff on the destination and what it has to offer. I also went on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and saw Sir Norman and Lady Eve’s cabin.
I knew it was the right decision to go there, and when they got back, they wrote to me and to head of retail Kathryn Darbandi. I was invited to Peterborough for tea with Kathryn and UK managing director Chris Mottershead. It means so much to be recognised at that level.
Q: What is key to good customer service?
A: The internet gives customers so many options these days, so when a customer does choose to come into my store, it’s important my team excel. Interaction with the customer is crucial; this is where we can get the client’s buy-in and build an instant rapport with them. We always try to do a little bit more for customers, such as taking tickets to their homes.
Shaun’s sales tips
1. Go the extra mile where possible.
2. Listen to your customers’ needs.
3. Keep in touch with clients. Something as simple as a welcome-home call is all it takes.
2012 to date: cluster manager, Thomas Cook, for five stores in the Sheffield North and Rotherham area
2004-12: branch manager, Thomas Cook, at various stores including Wakefield, Rotherham and Sheffield
2002-04: assistant manager, Thomas Cook, Wakefield
1998-2001: sales consultant roles at World Travel Lounge and Thomas Cook, both Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield
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