“Everything here is about customer service.” Meet our Operations Manager Graham

August 2022

 

We spoke to Graham Scholz, Operations Manager at our High Leigh centre in Hertfordshire. He told us all about the guest-centred experience you can expect with Christian Conference Trust.

Hi Graham, tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Graham, I recently relocated/migrated to the UK from South Africa and I joined the Trust in February 2022. My position here is Operations Manager at High Leigh conference centre in Hertfordshire. It’s a new role within the company, effectively deputy to the General Manager… I’m basically making sure everything can run as smoothly as it can with regards to hospitality.

Tell us about an average day at a conference centre?

I wouldn't say there's an average working day in the hospitality industry! I guess that’s what makes this industry pretty special, no day is exactly the same. You can come in with a plan but generally the day gets hijacked. Excellent customer service is what we’re aiming for, so as soon as anything that can improve the guest experience comes up, that trumps anything else you had planned. 

So you focus on essentials like making sure everything is fully staffed and running smoothly with Front of House and Housekeeping teams, and seeing if anyone needs assistance. I also spend a lot of time troubleshooting or trying to pre-empt problems before they really become a problem. For example, I spent a lot of the last two days working on our sound boards to make sure guests get the technical experience they need here. 

What’s important to you in your work?

One of the main things I’m trying to push at the moment is changing a ‘no’ mentality’ to a ‘yes’ mentality’. Too often people in the service industry will default to a ‘no’ because it’s just simpler, whereas a lot of the time you’ve got to look at it and say: ‘Yes we can do it. How is it going to affect us, and will it improve the guest’s perception of what we’re offering?’ So trying to train staff into more of a ‘yes’ attitude. 

Another movement we’re trying to embrace is ‘the small things matter’ movement. Doing things that improve the guest’s experience that don’t cost us anything except our time. Going that extra mile if someone asks us for something. Two minutes out of my time won’t cost the company anything but will give the guest a better experience. 

What kind of experiences can guests expect?

The main thing is they know they're coming to a friendly, safe and happy space. For example we get a lot of great feedback on our food and beverage staff for how friendly and helpful they are. We’re also offering people a space a bit more away from technology (for example, no TVs in rooms), getting people to socialise with each other more.

We have beautiful grounds to rest in. A serene setting where guests know they’re going to get looked after by our team. If they’re looking for a peaceful break they’ve come to the right spot.

Who would you recommend Christian Conference Trust to? 

Any large group that is looking for an open space to gather in. So often that’s Christians, that’s our main audience, but also you could have other religious groups or just any group of individuals wanting to get away and be together! People enjoy the simplicity that we offer, the excellent value for money whilst knowing that we’re constantly striving to improve what we offer for them. 

What is the best part of your job?

The team is one of the main things. In some jobs people are nice at the very beginning but then it gets more tricky. But I'm 7 months down the line and everyone’s still nice! We all enjoy working together.

Alongside that, it’s the guests. Everyone’s friendly, everyone wants to have a chat. And that’s a big part of what we want to offer. We want our teams to talk to the guests and engage with them. It just makes people feel more at ease. It helps that the majority of our guests are very nice. And on top of that, having a friendly and dependable team. 

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

The biggest challenge is the uncertainty of what the day is going to hold. But it’s a nice challenge, it’s what makes the day worthwhile. I'm a problem solver. I want to find the best possible solutions. So the unknown is a challenge but it's an exciting one. 

What makes the Christian Conference Trust experience unique/special? 

It’s what our staff offer. That’s the feedback we get. Our staff are friendly, willing to assist. It comes from an all-round aspect of the team working well together, everyone’s willing to pull their weight. On top of that, our grounds are magnificent and beautiful to explore. Whatever the weather! We’ve got sporting facilities for tennis and football. We’ve got spaces for walks across the grounds, a little lake to relax by. Then you’ve got all our beautiful lounges, ideal if you're less of an outdoorsy person. 

A guest said to me ‘it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere’. You feel away from reality and technology. In South Africa people often talked about a ‘technology detox’ and it’s a bit like that. Of course you can still connect to wi-fi and people have their phones. But as someone said the other day: ‘You don’t have people walking down the halls staring at their phones’. People are here to spend time with people.  

What do Christian groups get from their stay?

We’ve got a large meeting space that’s ideal for worship and teaching as well as entertainment. For example we recently had a church group in for their annual retreat. They had a magician in the first night. The second night they had a talent show. On Sunday they ended with a church service. We have smaller breakout rooms so that’s an option – those work well for creches, spaces for different age groups. It’s basically a plug and play, you can lift your church up from its usual place, bring it here and we can effectively run your church for you, over a weekend (or however long you like) with accommodation and all your meals and everything else taken care of! 

At the end of the day, the biggest thing for me is: everything here is about customer service. Whatever we can do, whether big or little, to give guests the best possible experience, we will do it. Being servant hearted is a key value for us. Everything is done with that in mind.

Thanks Graham!

 
 
 
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