Ipswich: Mystery diners help Aqua Eight prepare for 2012

An Ipswich restaurant is hoping to become the eatery of choice for people visiting Suffolk during the London 2012 Olympics

Restaurateurs Vincent and Patrick Wing Cheung, who own the Aqua Eight pan-Asian restaurant and bar, took a strategic decision over a year ago to invest in bespoke training in customer service skills.

Vincent said: “Having won Archant Suffolk Restaurant of the Year Award in 2008, we knew we had the potential to grow into a very credible, internationally-acclaimed restaurant. We had an ambition to be top of the “wish list” places to eat for anyone visiting the UK, but we knew that serving great food wasn’t enough to entice visitors up to Suffolk and into Aqua Eight.”

Aqua Eight commissioned Helen Oldfield of Affinity PR to share her expertise of the international luxury hospitality sector. One of Helen’s undercover Mystery Shoppers was sent in and the illuminating report and evaluation of that person’s entire guest experience were shared with Vincent and Patrick Cheung.

The report’s recommendations were implemented after commissioning bespoke Customer Service Skills training, designed and led by Carolyn Wood, who has trained teams in some of the world’s leading customer-facing brands, including Visa and Institute of Customer Service. Carolyn required that the Directors and all their staff be engaged in the same shared learning process. Different training activities reflected each person’s function within the overall business, with plenty of practical examples and case studies shared via video links by Affinity PR’s clients in award-winning and 5* hospitality businesses worldwide.

Following the customer service skills training, all of the agreed new policies and procedures were carefully documented in a team handbook, so that Aqua Eight’s brand values and customer care could be carried forward and learnt consistently by any future recruits.

This long term and methodical approach has already paid commercial dividends for Aqua Eight, which saw an immediate surge in bookings and has recently achieved national awards success.

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Vincent Cheung said: “By investing in Mystery Shopping and high-level, bespoke customer service skills training, we learnt how guests feel when they have memorable interactions with staff and how to create a steady stream of ‘wow factor’ guest experiences.

“The very fact that we now refer to customers as “guests” marks the biggest change in our overall thinking and practice. Now Aqua Eight is ready and looking forward to serving new customers who visit for the 2012 Olympics.”