Volunteering – why I’m involved with Mellon Educate

Volunteering – Why I’m involved with Mellon Educate

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On Friday 6th Nov I will go on my 5th trip to Africa with the Mellon Educate charity. I am delighted to be going again and feel grateful to the many people who enable me to get there.

I initially became involved after seeing Niall Mellon the founder on Irish TV tell the charity’s story, the key factor for me was Niall’s actions after returning from a holiday. I have seen poverty on holiday and felt sympathy, but did very little on my return.  Many people say charity begins at home and whilst I understand their sentiment, I believe it’s great to care about anyone in need. Give time and or money to both and never miss an opportunity to be kind. My personal mantra has always been to give a little a lot.  Although we exist on an island, we cannot ignore the humanitarian issues around the world.

The first time I went to South Africa with the charity in 2009, I found it an emotional roller coaster to say the least, it was hard to reconcile the sights of families especially children living in shacks with so little with life back home. I had often watched Comic Relief on TV but the reality with all the other senses involved was very different. I recall feeling overwhelmed with the world situation and the little effect one person could have. It was good to see the building work take shape over the week and know whilst I couldn’t change the world, I could change someones world. When I was leaving, I already knew that I’d be back on another build.

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I feel strongly about the management of charitable donations and expect the maximum amount to reach the right people. I’m looking forward to all charities being more transparent and the impact that the charity regulator in Ireland will have. As Niall is not a paid CEO and ensures the operation is lean and frugal, I am happily involved. Niall recently spoke at our pre-trip briefing and was inspirational. He ensures we are all kept updated on the charity’s actions, objectives and results. I have been on 4 trips already but find these briefings give me a great insight into the area we will be working in and more information about the needs in their community.

During the week we will be building classrooms and upgrading hygiene facilities in a large Primary School in the Masiphumelele Township of the Cape Town suburb of Fish Hoek. Over the years on the trips, I have worked with the roofers, brick layers, plumbers and plasterers. Everyone mucks in and there is always a job to complete. Quality is very important and again this matters to me. The standard of work is excellent and the trades are very patient working with eager helpers. Security and safety are top of the agenda with risk well managed. We are expected to be careful and take no chances.

The charity began in 2002 and over the next 10 years was involved in building homes in townships. 25,000 were completed and over 125,000 people housed. In 2013, the charity changed strategic direction toward education and is now fully involved in a school building / refurbishment initiative.

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The charity has survived the downturn and I have met so many amazing people on this journey. In particular, the fantastic Eimear who manages the admin all year round. Eimear is extremely capable, warm, positive and is the glue that brings everything together. These people become lifelong friends and with the power of social media, it’s easy to keep in touch. On all the builds, I have travelled with a good friend Mari Humby who is famous in Wicklow for all she does in the community. For sure, this has made it easier as we fund-raise together and look out for each other on the trip.

bandsOur children’s schools get the pupils involved, this year they have been making loom bracelets for the African children and donating the bands that they no longer play with. It is fantastic to get kids to make something for somebody they will never meet. I enjoy taking photos and on my return sharing my experience. I hope I inspire a child to consider a trip in the future.   I would recommend this trip to everybody; you can work at your own level of fitness and it will leave you with life changing memories. Thanks for reading, to find out more visit

January ready – Fitness industry

89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service” (Right Now Customer Experience Impact Report)

We are all familiar with the January customer who decides that this year will be the year of change and enrols in a gym, health club or leisure centre to realise their fitness goals. Considering the quote above, how many of these new customers are leaving due to boredom? Or, is the industry failing to deliver on promises and leaving these customers languishing on unfamiliar equipment unsure and uncared for?
Below are my top suggestions for actions you can take over the next weeks to be January ready

1. Start seeing these new customers as individuals rather than just a number towards your high January sales target. Ensure you are not overselling and under delivering. What reward mechanisms do you have in place? Are you aware of how your teams are selling your business and what they are promising?

2. Learn their names and their reasons for choosing you. The fitness product is primarily delivered through people; have you invested in your teams to stop generalising and understand the unique customer in front of them. What are their needs and how can you deliver your product to this individual? How can you help them feel connected to your business? Consider group ex as a solution but ensure your instructors are exceptional at welcoming new members as well as engaging with others.

3. Consider your systems and processes, do these work for the business or the customer? Can you make it easier for your customer to do business with you? Challenge the status quo, can it be improved?

4. What do you stand for? Do your teams know? Use the time now to finalise your values and ensure your team all understand and are aligned with them.

5. What happens when it goes wrong? Are your teams empowered to quickly resolve problems to everyone’s satisfaction? Consider the lines of authority and agree what can be answered without having to go up the chain of command.

6. Put yourself into your employees and your customer’s shoes? How do they feel? Critique your facility from the customers eyes, how easy is it to navigate around? Is it spotless and does it look appealing and would you want to workout here?

7. With your employees, how well do their roles function? Are there improvements that can be made? Do they have the opportunity to feedback and contribute to the business ideas? Don’t assume everyone knows what’s expected of them, start with the simple things, they matter!

8. Show gratitude – thank your customers, your employees and your suppliers for being part of your success

9. Enjoy the gift of the fitness industry and the opportunity to change lives.

10. Smile – it’s supposed to be fun and motivating and remember the culture is driven from the top.

Customer Central offers bespoke customer care workshops for all levels in an organisation. Call 0879306912 for further information.

Tips for improving customer service in retail

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I spend considerable time in the retail sector and see many examples of great customer care and service selling. I applaud those businesses who have nailed it. Nevertheless, there are plenty of shops who have the opportunity to improve.

Below are my 10 suggested actions you can take today to improve your customer care in your retail business.

  1. Spend time calling suppliers; see if you are doing enough for them, they will have lots of valuable knowledge that you gain from them.
  2. Check your website from a user experience, test all the links and tabs to see if it is all up to date and functioning as designed.
  3. Plant a genuine warm smile on your face and ensure everyone receives it including your employees.
  4. Take any defensiveness out of your outlook and ask your employees for genuine feedback
  5. Be the face of your business for a minimum of 30 mins every day, use this time to think about the customer journey. How well does it flow? Can it be improved?
  6. Embrace digital, commit to engaging and education daily, answer your reviews and take the feedback on board
  7. Critique your shop from the customers eyes, how easy is it to navigate around? Does it look appealing and would you want to shop here?
  8. Set the standards for your team, do they all know what’s expected of them? Don’t expect people to know, start with the simple things, they matter!
  9. Coach your team, never miss the opportunity to engage and work with your team on their and your development
  10. Show gratitude – thank your customers, your employees and your suppliers for being part of your success.

Hope you enjoyed these tips, feel free to share these tips.