The Essence of Service Communications

Say you’re managing a property with a focus on service excellence. In other words, you’re one of those general managers that recognizes that, above all, hospitality means the gracious accommodation of the guest who resides in your property. How do you manage guest communications, while at the same time not intruding on their privacy?

A recent stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon provided a demonstration of excellence in this regard. Combining both in-person as well as written communications, the staff demonstrated a warm rapport with me as a guest over the course of my four-night stay, with the most memorable aspects being:

  1. Know thy name. I was greeted by name upon arrival by the doorman then escorted to my room by a front desk staffer. Both are standard at the luxury level and it never ceases to amaze me how associates communicate this information amongst themselves as I never once introduced myself to anyone.
  2. Personalized welcome card from the GM. While I have come to expect these as most of us do when traveling in luxury properties, this one was clearly not mass-produced as it reflected facts consistent with my specific visit including length of stay and prior arrangements made directly with the concierge.
  3. Dining rapport. When dining at the property’s Varanda Restaurant the first night, the sommelier already knew it was my first time in Lisbon and was eager to talk to me about Portuguese wines. He had studied up on Canadian wines (any modern oenophile should!)and had a few good reference points so I wasn’t intimidated by all the foreign names.
  4. Communication between shifts. By our second breakfast, the servers not only knew my name but also my preferences. They observed that I did not like seating near the window from the previous breakfast and alternate seating was immediately provided.
  5. Remembering details. Each night when I returned from a dinner arranged outside of the hotel, there was a member of staff to greet everyone entering the lobby. This associate knew what restaurant I had visited and asked for my opinion – both far and above what a more generic greeting might elicit insofar as a response from returning guests.
  6. Above give a little bit extra. At the concierge’s suggestion, I booked a car and driver for a full-day tour of the nearby town of Sintra. To my surprise, there was a ‘care package’ of snacks, water and apples in the car as well as a map with suggested locations to see on route. Topping this all off, there was a note from the concierge in my room upon my return trusting that the journey met our expectation.
  7. Anticipation based on past preferences. When dining one evening in the hotel’s Japanese ‘pop up’ restaurant, we ordered and the waitstaff was concerned that we had over-ordered. Rather than blindly accepting the order, they delayed the last course whereby, upon noting that we were ‘slowing down’, cancelled it. When asked how they knew to do this, the response was that it was anticipated from our previous eating experiences on property.

I asked the general manager, Guilherme Costa, how he inspires his staff to achieve this level of hospitality excellence. To paraphrase his response, he noted the kind and sociable character of the local Portuguese team, coupled with hospitality-focused managers and extensive use of the brand’s CRM data. No doubt, this is one of the reasons that Four Seasons properties continue to excel worldwide!

Importantly for you, though, nothing described is beyond the reach of any property. At the core of any service communications is training and a passion on all levels to do your best for every guest. While I could drone on about the importance of using your CRM to craft a modern hotel experience, service excellence still boils down to your team and its ability to listen then communicate effectively.