One of Kathleen Taylor’s favourite stories describes the experience of a guest at a Four Seasons hotel.
Sipping her green tea from the comfort of a couch at the Armani Hotel in Dubai, Taylor fondly recalls a woman who checked into one of the Four Seasons, but who did not enjoy the music playing on the hotel’s clock radio.
“She did not pick up the phone to call the front desk to ask for it to be changed or to request a CD, but instead, she tweeted that she hated the music she was hearing on the radio,” says Taylor. “Fortunately, our social media manager at that hotel was monitoring everything that was happening on Twitter, so she picked up the tweet immediately, went to the guest’s room with a collection of CDs and offered her a different selection of music.”
That kind of service turns a negative into a positive. Not only was the guest content with the way the situation had been handled, but she immediately got back to the Twitterverse, praising the fact that there had been a service response to her previous rant. In fact, through the power of social media, the situation eventually unfolded into a positive story that was picked up by mainstream newspapers.
Service is clearly vital to Kathleen Taylor; she happens to be the CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts worldwide — and the first person to hold that position after the founder, Isadore Sharp.
“Most of the guests’ best memories often come from something we call service recovery, where some mistake has happened. This is a business managed by hundreds of people every day, so something is going to go wrong,” she says.
But to Taylor, it is not about who to blame, should something go wrong. It is about what to do to better the situation.
“What did we do about the man who had coffee spilt on the sleeve of his jacket? Well, one response might be to give him a bottle of water to wipe it off…but we did not do that. We said, ‘Sir, can we have your jacket for half an hour, we will get it dry cleaned for you,’” she says.
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