Mele said her staff are slowly but surely picking up more Te Reo, and feeling empowered to use it during their interactions.
“It’s not thrown in anyone’s face, we don’t do that - we have fun with it.”
She said there was sometimes hesitation about trying to use Māori in day-to-day interactions, out of fear of getting it wrong - but that there was no reason to be afraid.
“Pronunciation is a big one - people are a bit scared to talk Māori, or speak Māori words because they can’t pronounce it - but if you’re putting in an effort to understand a culture, that’s huge,” Mele said.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is around people that are Māori or can speak Māori - we don’t get offended when you pronounce our words wrong, because we just appreciate that you’re making the effort to actually try.”
Mele said she has watched as her team’s patience with customers, their mental resilience and their overall customer service has improved under the new approach.
“I’ve seen the team absolutely shine with their customer interactions, and the empathy that they’re showing our customers is amazing - I’d like to say it has a lot to do with our strategy,” she said.
“It starts at the concierge - when customers walk in they get that warm welcome with a beautiful smile - it’s not just a ‘kia ora’ they’re getting when they walk in - that welcome is warm, like my culture is warm.
“We’re quite often getting comments from our customers saying ‘I just come in for a chat because you make me feel good’.”