Look after your customer or someone else will

Look after your customer or someone else will

Ian Malcolm, MD of vehicle parts maker ElringKlinger GB, heads its headquarters in Redcar where 190 people work. His background was in accountancy, but it might have been different, he admits

I’m a sociable person, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than winding down at the end of the day with a good glass of wine, taking time over a delicious meal and catching up with family or friends.  

When I step into a new restaurant, I’m instantly on high alert. The ambience of a place is key – from the layout of the welcome area to the interior design. This is, of course, in addition to staff service which, much as with the food, has to be first class. 

That said, I’m by no means a restaurant snob. I’ll try anywhere on good recommendation, regardless of whether or not it holds a Michelin Star. I live in County Durham where there are a number of terrific places to dine on my doorstep – the Oak Tree at Hutton Magna and Ochi’s in Darlington, to name just a couple.

My love of travel has also given me a taste for different cultures, and India and North America are just some of the places which inspire me when I’m cooking at home. I don’t profess to be a great chef, but I do enjoy experimenting with flavours and trying new dishes.

I lived in New Zealand for some years and this instilled in me a passion for good wine. The country produces the best Sauvignon Blanc available, in my opinion. I also often travel to Germany, where ElringKlinger’s global headquarters are, and service there is second to none. They really know how to look after you.

Throughout university I earned my crust as a porter and barman, so I have some understanding of the hospitality industry. Many a time I’d have to deal with a rude or ill-tempered customer. But I quickly learned how to turn a tricky situation into a positive one, and funded much of my studies off some generous tips!

Today, accuracy, recording and analysis of detail are key parts of my job. Perhaps because of this I consider I have an incredibly critical eye for detail about customer service, and this applies to business as a whole – not just to hospitality.

I believe businesses, be it manufacturing or hospitality, exist to serve and look after their customer. This attitude has stood me in good stead to date. A key area of my job is focusing on excellent customer service and nurturing and building relationships with them. If something unfortunate happens or a problem with a customer occurs, often swallowing a decent sized portion of humble pie can turn things in your favour – what can you do to put the situation right for them, rather than correct the error itself?

When it comes down to it, I think I made the right career choice. Manufacturing is, I hope, at the dawn of a new era. The UK economy has had to sit up and take serious stock of the state of the sector, post-recession. The landscape is shifting and I’m enjoying being a part of that.

However, I will always wonder if and how things might have been different. My passion for travel and culture gets stronger year on year and, in another life perhaps, I might have been able to bring all these elements together with a restaurant of my own. Who knows, maybe there’s still time!