For those who haven’t read the first two editions of this Mille Club series, membership qualification is simple: just offer rates of more than a thousand (hence ‘mille’) dollars, pounds, Euros or equivalent. Whereas American Express since 1987 espoused the selling line, “Membership has its Privileges™,” the opposite applies to your property if it wants to uphold four-figure nightly rates. Aptly expressed, as a member of the Mille Club, “Membership has its Responsibilities.”
If you’re a member and wish to retain this status amongst your guest cohort, you need to understand that luxury guests have options. Yes, there may be a much smaller comp set in your local market for this hotel category, but luxury guests have the capital to go elsewhere, meaning that you aren’t competing against only a handful of local outfits, but dare we say the entire world.
This optionality means that the luxury consumer has great expectations, made even more cognizant once they cross the threshold of four digits in the price tag that they see. As such, you need to set aside your knee-jerk-accountant mode of operation and consider the following:
- Your guests are typically travel-savvy, not geographically confined and cosmopolitan, meaning that they will expect your hotel to deliver the same quality level as the world leader.
- Your guests have a mindset of high standards set by their own residence(s), meaning that every little detail counts and you must, at the very least, match what they get at their own domicile.
While there is a ton that goes into making all your operations sing in harmony so that you can grow rate to this ‘mille’ point and then beyond, this singular blog post focuses on only one aspect of the guest experience: the arrival.
Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Think about today’s travel experience. Even with business or first-class air, by the time your guests get to your front door, they have experienced crowded airports, ground transfers and local traffic. With today’s typical air traffic delays and security clearances, even the simplest short-haul trip turns into a multi-hour ordeal and perhaps a bit of lower back pain. Your property is not only their destination but a refuge from this travel agony.
Ask yourself when your guests arrive:
- What do they see first?
- What about the other senses (smell, sound, touch or taste if you offer welcome refreshments)?
- How is the lobby/entry temperature managed: too hot or too cold?
- And importantly, how are they greeted by members of your team?
Flowers and art
For many years, the two of us worked with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (mostly Larry). This brand firmly understands the importance of the guest experience. Visiting and working in two dozen of their properties worldwide, one commonality was the abundance of fresh floral arrangements in the lobby. They are not alone. In Las Vegas, where casinos vie for ultimate wow factors, properties such as Wynn/Encore and ARIA, go out of their way to deliver over-the-top floral arrangements that in themselves are tourist selfie attractions.
But it is not just flowers that can convey a true and unique sense of arrival. In a property we helped conceive, the William Vale in Brooklyn, the lobby features an oversized, custom-designed art mural covering more than just one wall. Another property we visited, The Logan in Philadelphia, captures the imagination with art throughout their public areas. The Hazelton Hotel in Toronto, our hometown, has an extensive collection of art, starting with a fascinating sculpture gallery in their lobby and continuing throughout the public areas.
These lobby elements consume ongoing service costs or significant sunk fiscal expenses. An accountant, or a naïve hotelier, would argue against these expenses as they fail to generate directly measurable revenue. Yet these hoteliers and their owners understand the power of memorable first impressions. These unquantifiable elements make all the difference.
The ballet of staff
Apart from the physical space, all arrivals involve greeting your guests. An arrival may include a car valet, doorman or bellman as well as a member (or more) of your guest services team. Executing a flawless arrival sequence requires a degree of choreography. If run smoothly, the process reassures the guest that their decision is appropriate.
One of the best in our experience is The Savoy in London. The day after we checked in, we watched to see if the treatment we received was flagged as special. It was not, as everyone received the same ‘clockwork’ greeting, a flawless performance if there ever was one. Another example of perfection was witnessed at the Peninsula Beverly Hills where the front desk agent, after entering information into the PMS perfunctorily, escorted us personally to our rooms and in doing so detailed various aspects of the property. Bravo!
As a member of the Mille Club, take a close look at your lobby from the standpoint of the guest. Understand what they will experience. Use your cellphone, record a video and play it back in your next executive committee. From there, watch how your lobby staff reacts to guests and consider ways to make every guest feel that they have arrived. Now seek suggestions from your entire management team on how you can set a standard that creates immediate, positive memories.
To conclude, first impressions count. Scratch that; they are everything. Mille Club member hotels not only given them some thought but make them perfect, which requires an ongoing effort.
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