What makes a stay in a luxury hotel, or any kind of visit for that matter, be the best? What do guests most desire and how can a hotel respond? The answer, I believe, lies in the details of personalized service. For affluent passengers, with routines that never stop, good service is everything. The innovative architecture, design, style, technology and ammenities are very important, but without good service, everything falls apart.
First, you have to consider that a hotel is not just a place to sleep. At a high level, it encompasses a total experience where everything flows harmoniously. The common thread that weaves everything together is service. I am going to sound like a broken record but I will say it again. A spectacular infrastructure isn’t worth anything if the service stinks. You leave with a bad taste in your mouth—the flavor of bad service stays with you forever, not how pretty the hotel was.
Service is not something that’s created one day to the next. It’s a product of a long term (huge) investment and understanding of people, systems, and the hotel’s identity. The entire purpose of service is to attend to its guests, and this is defined (and driven) by the employees and company standards and regulations (i.e. company culture). Service really should be viewed as a “return on investment” where the quality of the team and the guest experience are always the central axis.
Ask any person today what luxury means and the answer may surprise you. Real luxury is not necessarily rare or exotic jewels, nor the presidential suite, gourmet food, and top wines. The biggest luxury today is time. We all run at 1,000 miles per hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. In particular, affluent travelers (for business or pleasure) are seeking to reduce the inevitable stress around their trip by using good service and help (transporte, hotel bookings, activities, dinner reservations, etc.). Good service assures comfort, convenience, and resolves their problems, allowing them to make better use of their little time. Besides being more productive, it frees up time to simply enjoy. Is there a bigger luxury than that?
In our business, we are fortunate to have experienced many of the best hotels in South America. Those that truly stand out, do it because of their amazing service. It’s a consistent, comprehensive, impeccable service that gives confidence and let’s the guest sit back and savor the stay. It is also emotionally satisfying since it feels sincere and makes the guest feel welcomed, assisted, even a little loved. The guest relaxes and doesn’t have to worry about a thing (tchau stress). Just enjoy. Be.
Behind good service, there’s a humble attitude of wanting to help and taking responsibility for how utterly important this is. The guest responds by trusting and opening up to the experience since they recognize that the service is there whenever they may need, or want, it. For me, good service is when you receive what you need, but many times, you have no idea how they made it happen. For example, how did they know my favorite flower are pink tulips and it shows up in my room beside pistachio macaroons (another “detail”). It’s when service anticipates your needs and surprises you. Doesn’t it feel nice? Who doesn’t love to be pampered and surprised? You feel joy, gratitude and special. That’s what good service should strive to do, emotionally.
In Chile, there are a handful of luxury hotels that understand service at this level. There are many others that pretend to be luxurious on a material level, but quickly into your stay, things start falling apart because service is lacking. It becomes the theme of your trip instead of just enjoying. You cannot lie with service. It’s either good or it’s not. Chilean hotels tend to look outside and say “Why does Argentina have such good service” (which is not the case everywhere, ojo). It’s time to change this isolated island perspective of thinking everything originates or is better elsewhere. Change the focus to giving amazing service and investing in the guest experience. After all, without the guests, there is no (hotel) business.
This article was published in Spanish in Placeres Magazine in May 2012.