The AA’s head of hotel inspections reveals why a smile is more important than a ‘massive …

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The AA grades B&Bs, campsites, self-catering properties, hotels and restaurants

Do you work in UK hospitality and want to know how to nail customer service?

You could do worse than phone First Direct, apparently – because the AA’s Head of Inspections and Assessments, Paul Hackett, holds it up as an example of a business that nails it.

He mentioned the bank during a conversation with MailOnline Travel about the inspecting work of the AA – which assesses campsites, B&Bs and self-catering properties and dishes out stars to hotels and rosettes to restaurants – and he lamented that ‘the biggest problem in the UK hospitality industry is the hospitality itself’.

He said: ‘We should be the very, very best at hospitality. It doesn’t matter which hotel, what star rating, or B&B or guesthouse or campsite, it’s all about hospitality. And I sometimes think, and we often see – you don’t get that warm welcome, you don’t get that warm departure, that engagement, that interaction, those smiles.

‘And it’s a shame because all of that is free. It’s not about having a world-class spa, or massive suites, money buys that kind of thing – money talks. But for me, it’s the hospitality, the softer attributes that carry the most weight.

Paul Hackett, pictured, has been at the AA for 21 years, working his way up from inspector to area manager to head of inspections. This image will probably be pinned up behind every reception desk in the land… 

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