Will new Vail hotel set local service standard? | VailDaily.com

Will new Vail hotel set local service standard?

BIZ/NWS 4 seasons service KA 12-11-10

VAIL, Colorado – The Vail Valley wouldn’t be what it is without great customer service, but the valley’s newest hotel intends to step up that game by more than a few degrees.

If you’ve been to the hotel before, it’s likely that the parking valet will remember your name. There are more employees than there are rooms or condos. And everyone, absolutely everyone, wants to know how you’re doing and how they can help.

“We really believe in the connection between our employees and our guests,” Four Seasons CEO Katie Taylor said at Friday’s ribbon-cutting celebration for the hotel. Making that connection starts with hiring the right people, Taylor said.

“We’ve interviewed tens of thousands of people to hire a few hundred,” she said.

The Four Seasons’ reputation for service is well-known in the hospitality industry. And people in the valley are paying close attention to what the new hotel is doing, even if they already share much of the new hotel’s customer service philosophy.

Michelle Cappell, co-owner of Elite Limousine, has been in the transportation business for 17 years. She said what she’s seen at the Four Seasons so far is similar to what her company tries to do.

“It’s all about going the extra mile, and making your guests feel special,” Cappell said.

That starts with calling customers by name, knowing kids’ names and more. It includes calling regular guests before they usually fly in to ask if they’re coming again this year.

“We want to make people feel like they’re part of the valley,” Cappell said. And that takes the right people, she said.

At Manor Vail, general manager Bob McCleary said hiring the right people is essential.

“We try to hire people who people like,” McCleary said. “You can’t train somebody to be nice.

“All people take home is a memory,” McCleary said. “And people appreciate genuine warmth, concern and compassion.”

These days, employers can be a little more picky about who they hire. The idea of hiring the right person can be a little trickier when a resort economy is buzzing and employees are hard to find.

McCleary said there are ways to find the right people, even when a pulse is often the main qualification for a job.

“That’s been a challenge for many years,” McCleary said. “We try to be a good place to work. People talk to other people, and we usually have a pretty good applicant flow.”

At the Four Seasons, Taylor said her company operates by one of the oldest rules – the Golden Rule – and it applies to guest and employees alike.

Company uniforms are designed for comfort and style, there’s always good food in the employee cafeteria and first-season employees will usually see top managers out in the hotel. It’s all about getting people ready to greet guests with genuine smiles and concern, Taylor said.

Not all lodges can be the Four Seasons – and not all should be, McCleary said.

“What the Four Seasons does is good for them and their guests,” he said. “But we need to focus on what’s unique about our property.”

Jim Lay, general manager of Rocks Modern Grill at the Beaver Creek Lodge, said his company tries to keep people as happy as possible, and actually gets some group business from companies that are still gun-shy of holding events at brand-name hotels that might raise eyebrows among stockholders.

But both said having the Four Seasons in the valley will probably get those properties to step up their customer service.

“Competition is always appreciated, to really set the mark for people,” Lay said.

Chris Romer, executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership, one of the valley’s major reservation centers, said the Four Seasons will almost certainly get other companies in the valley to look for ways to improve the service they provide.

“All ships rise with the tide,” Romer said. “Everybody already strives for great customer service, but when someone like the Four Seasons comes in, everybody strives to achieve that level – and that benefits the guest.”

And, while the Four Seasons’ reputation precedes it, Cappell said people still may be surprised by the standards that hotel sets.

“No one’s prepared for what they’re going to do,” she said. “It’s all about the guests, and that’s great.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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