Good Service is Not Enough: Global Travel Reshapes Guest Service in the 21st Century.
By Michael Squires
Tuesday, 4th July 2006
Well-traveled guests transform concierge duties - expect more personalized services faster.

A recent survey of leading full-service luxury and boutique properties confirms what many hotel management teams have known for some time: the number of well-travelled hotel guests is increasing and they are demanding more services than in the past.  Price is no object for A-list travellers who want a club floor, professional spa and wellness center, and personalized attention that measures up to the service they receive abroad.  Good service is no longer enough. 

David Benton, vice president and general manager of The Rittenhouse, a Five-Star luxury hotel with an international clientele in Philadelphia said, "There is a growing guest demographic that travels a great deal and wants luxury, but not in the way it is normally presented.  They want 24/7 service and all the amenities, but in a more personal, hip style.  Not in a ‘grand hotel' format."  Benton explained that widely-travelled guests expect personal service that extends beyond good manners and a smile.  "A one-on-one relationship is the biggest factor in luxury; it is not about iPods and flat screens.  At The Rittenhouse we designed our service offering to be comparable to the international market so guests will have the same level of attention when they return home to the States." 

When weekend guests arrive at The Rittenhouse its concierge team offers chocolates, champagne and strawberries, and the manager on duty personally greets them.  "It is like welcoming friends back into your home.  We also employ The Concierge Assistant™ software from Gold Key Solutions to record guests' dining, activity requests and amenity preferences so we can offer them what they like without having to be reminded.  This technology allows us to provide services more professionally and run our guest services operation more efficiently."

Vikram Sood, hotel manager of The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, rated one of the ‘Top 10 North American Resorts' by Conde Nast Traveller, agreed that global travel is changing the way his property delivers guest services.  "We are seeing more people willing to spend a great deal of money for a quality experience," Sood said.  "They are more educated and they value luxury and a unique environment.  It is all about exceeding expectations. The wellness piece is becoming crucial.  Our guests expect spa treatments and fitness programs to be world class, and this drives us to deliver the best.  India and China are strong markets for luxury travellers, as is Dubai; luxury travel is global now." 

To accommodate guests who expect highly personalized service, the staff at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island calls all guests prior to their arrival to offer to provide reservations for meals, entertainment, activities like golf and tennis lessons, and create itineraries that his staff presents to guests on their arrival.  "We use The Concierge Assistant to track our guests' choices and the system automatically prints an elegant daily itinerary on letterhead to present to guests when they check in. 

Guests value this because it saves them time so they can begin their recreational activities at once.  The Concierge Assistant technology makes our guest service staff more proficient so they can focus on their guests instead of paperwork."  The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island also offers a club level with a private concierge who stands ready to assist with dining, spa, transportation, tours or any other arrangements. West coast properties are also seeing a greater demand for individualized service.  Brendan Carlin, hotel manager for the Mosaic Hotel in Beverly Hills, California said, "The demand for luxury boutique hotels has increased because guests receive personal treatment in a smaller property; they do not get lost in a crowd. 

Travel is more global now and every luxury property is trying to outdo the last hotel.  Five years ago no one used high thread-count sheets, now it is the norm because experienced guests know the difference.  We level the playing field with European properties by using The Concierge Assistant software."  Carlin explained that property management systems have not evolved with the emerging need for more personalized guest service and The Concierge Assistant is a valuable tool for tracking guests' preferences so staff can be proactive in providing meeting their needs.  All members of the Mosaic Hotels staff are trained to be concierges and use The Concierge Assistant system to track what guests eat and drink, their favorite travel provider, restaurant preferences and other personal requests. 

The Mosaic Hotel is in the heart of Beverly Hills and adjacent to the international banking district of Century City.  Most of its guests are high-end business executives in the finance, entertainment and fashion industries.  "Up-scale properties like The Mosaic in metro areas are in demand and can develop a loyal following if they do a good job.  We maintain 65 percent repeat business and guests tell us they come back because we know who they are and what they prefer.  They do not have to remind our staff.  The Concierge Assistant is a great help to our operation."

Maria Wittorp-DeJonge, is Chef Concierge of The St. Regis Hotel, New York on Fifth Avenue. "I have seen a definite change in what guests expect from an ultra-luxury hotel," Ms. Wittorp-DeJonge said.  "People seem to have more money today; they are educated travellers who recognize great service.  They want a Bentley, not a Town Car.  They want cashmere sheets and they are willing to pay for excellence."  At The St. Regis Hotel, New York the concierge center is respected as a high-volume revenue-generating desk.  "We handle so many requests for limos, restaurant and theatre reservations that tracking them accurately is essential; our guests expect it.  We use The Concierge Assistant software to record all guest requests and link them to the right providers."  Technology enables the concierge team to run a paperless operation that generates limo reservations, restaurant dates, maps and itineraries quickly for guests on tight schedules. 

The concierge desk at the St. Regis Hotel, New York is so busy it is expanding to five terminals for its Concierge Assistant system.  The hotel also uses the software to generate guest activity reports to maintain optimum staffing to meet all guest needs.  "In the past five years guest service standards have definitely risen," said Maria Wittorp-DeJonge.  "Our guests are more knowledgeable about travel and the area where they are staying.  For concierges this means working harder to be one step ahead of clients who are used to getting the best."

About Gold Key Solutions
Gold Key Solutions' The Concierge Assistant™ improves guest services and staff communication by creating orderliness and accuracy throughout the entire Concierge process for hotels of all types. The Windows-based software application increases staff efficiency and reduces expenses by automating all guest services activities and reporting which allows managers to put in place a standard of excellence that may be continually refined. The Concierge Assistant is used by over 250 full-service Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood, St. Regis, Four Seasons, Le Meridien, Conrad, Fairmont and many other quality properties. The Concierge Assistant is also employed by many residential living properties and professional concierge companies to optimize services to clients.

Contact: Gold Key Solutions
Newton Gore
Phone:  (818) 865-0006
Email:  newt@goldkeysolutions.com

Michael Squires is president of Softscribe Inc.
Phone: 404-256-5512
Email: mbs@softscribeinc.com
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