Widely considered the world's leading provider of luxury accommodations, Four Seasons Hotels engender famous loyalty from clients and employees alike. The company has 65 properties in 29 countries, yet it manages to make every guest feel special, their needs anticipated and met, their money well spent. What's the secret? Chris Hunsberger told us how they do it at his Georgetown facility which is in the midst of a major renovation.
Staff We begin with our people. We treat every employee with the utmost respect and provide them with ongoing training.
All new staff receive two days of classroom orientation, followed by a day spent touring the hotel and meeting one-on-one with each department head. They also receive a manual outlining Four Seasons standard operating procedures. For example, all employees are instructed to answer the phone within three rings. When talking with a guest, employees use the guest's name at least three times and end the conversation with, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” Department heads periodically spot-test employees on Four Seasons standards.
Employees who are hotel school graduates may elect to participate in the Four Seasons management trainee program, which provides opportunities for cross training in every department. In addition, all employees must receive 24 to 36 hours of ongoing training each year. Each hotel has a training manager who organizes a monthly calendar of training classes in a broad range of topics from conflict management to leadership.
Clients Four Seasons strives to anticipate the needs of all guests. We begin each morning with an operations meeting in which we review all arrivals. In a PowerPoint presentation, we show photos of VIP guests, such as diplomats and CEOs, and we make sure a guest relations manager is on-call when they arrive.
Our guest history database is very important. We log every guest stay into it, noting any special requests or issues that arise. For example, if Mr. Brown requests a certain brand of tissues or water, we will indicate these preferences in his profile and supply those brands in his room prior to his next visit.
We share information with our Four Seasons sister hotels. For instance, if a frequent guest of our New York or San Francisco hotel makes a reservation for our Washington hotel, we will send for the guest's profile.
If a guest is unhappy with any aspect of their stay, we note it in their guest profile, and a member of the management team apologizes by phone or letter. Prior to the guest's next visit, we review the situation and take steps to ensure that the problem does not happen again.
Where possible, front-line employees may resolve guest complaints themselves. We provide conflict resolution training and outline appropriate remedies, beginning with a simple apology and escalating as needed. Tangible remedies require a department head's approval, but employees may use their judgment if their manager isn't available.
It's been especially challenging lately because we are in the middle of a major remodel of our Washington hotel, and the work affects our lobby. To minimize the disruption, we have deliberately overcompensated. For instance, when construction affected guests' means of entering the hotel, we added more staff at the hotel entrance. Four employees were assigned to greet and direct each guest, and a fifth escorted guests to the front desk. Similarly, if guests in our Garden Terrace lounge complain about construction noise, the waiter or manager apologizes, and if the guest continues to complain, there are instances where we will offer a complimentary drink because of the disruption. We use guest comment cards to evaluate all departments. During construction, ratings have been the highest they've ever been.
Teamwork Teamwork is critical at Four Seasons. A few weeks ago, a water main burst in our lobby. We sent a hotel-wide “code red,” and 50 managers rushed to the lobby and immediately went to work to clean up the water. And within a very short time, our engineering staff created a new front desk and concierge desk, complete with IT capabilities.
We like to ask our guests, What will you remember? To that end, we strive to make every stay unforgettable.