Hotel Excellence

This is an interesting piece from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive
Abigail’s Hotel (above) is a not-so-hidden gem coming at you from Canada’s prime real estate along the west coast. It’s likely not on many consumers’ bucket lists or hoteliers’ ‘leaders to watch’ catalogues. After all, the property is not affiliated with a major chain or a representation firm such as Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels & Resorts or Relais & Chateaux. Yet, with Abigail’s near perpetual ranking as the top property on TripAdvisor for Victoria, British Columbia (out of a total of 57 listed hotels), I decided that a further inspection was warranted.

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province – with a population of 330,000. Located off the mainland on Vancouver Island, Victoria is considered a haven for Canadian retirees and my quick survey of the tourist scene confirmed this. The downtown waterfront district is dominated by Fairmont’s majestic Empress Hotel, with other major chain properties located snugly around the rejuvenated port area.

Abigail’s Hotel is about five minutes by car (ten minutes walking) from the center of town. I was encouraged to walk, but not knowing our way, felt more comfortable driving – a trip we did several times each day as parking was just a few dollars a day and free in the evening.

The heritage property houses 23 rooms and was built in 1930, having been converted from an apartment building in the 80s. Comprising two separate buildings wrapped around a small motor court, the property’s Tudor style façade is quaint and inviting. My room comprised a well-decorated, modest-sized bedroom with fireplace and a somewhat triangular-shaped bathroom. Well equipped, comfortable for sure, but certainly not fully up to the modern standards one would expect in a luxury property.

The well-appointed common rooms comprised a reception room flanked on either side by a living room to the right and a breakfast room to the left. Walk straight ahead and you are in a small but very pleasant courtyard. With no elevator, this property would not meet any accessibility requirements. Regardless, it was an exceptional experience.

What I just described in the past few paragraphs would have you scratching your head as to how Abigail’s has achieved its top TripAdvisor rating. It certainly isn’t the physical attributes or amenities of the property that delivered these accolades.

What drives the excellent rating is the service: personalized and professional. With a small but dedicated staff, Abigail’s has found the expert balance between helping and being overly obtrusive. Breakfasts are made to order by a chef and supported by efficient and happy waitstaff. A complimentary happy hour provided excellent snacks in the pre-dinner hour. Free wireless was also on tap. Throughout the stay, it was impossible to find fault. This level of service would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a property of 200-plus rooms without enormous (and not affordable) staffing levels. This supports my hypotheses on achieving high TripAdvisor ratings.

1. Service is more important than physical structure.

 2. Guests do not like to pay for extras and your ratings may suffer as you add costs. The final bill at Abigail’s had two lines: room and tax.

 3. Positive staff attitude trumps any fancy new room features. This is something to keep in mind as you seek to add items: the guest benefit might not be there!

4. Creating a relationship between staff and guests is paramount.


It’s All About Service – and other stuff too!

I liked this from Hotel InterActive – a great site. These are ‘lessons learned’ from successful Asian hotels and very valuable lessons they are too – for any sized hotels anywhere. The picture? Bali! Ah! Dream on Richard!

It’s All About Service: By and large, the service levels experienced in all properties were at a palpably superior level than that previously witnessed in similar North American hotels and luxury properties in Europe.  This was accomplished not just through higher staff levels (anticipated), but by what appears to be a stronger and more adroit commitment to service.  Little touches in areas like valet, room service, housekeeping, F&B, front desk and concierge accumulated into something far greater.  In fact, try as I might, in three weeks of travel, only one service deficiency was noted, and it was trivial.

Paying Attention to the Details: Every luxury hotel guest expects comfortable and elegant accommodations, a broad array of food choices, and service efficiencies.  What sets these Asian properties apart are details normally not seen stateside.  Some examples include: newspapers delivered with gloves to avoid ink stains on your hands; rather than pillow-chocolates, a small cake at turndown service; notes handed out in leather folders; multiple amenity packages including full shaving and dental kits; jewelry boxes inside the room safe; a stationery kit of goodies to help handle minor business requirements; in-room espresso maker (not just a coffeemaker); multiple lighting configurations for various times of day and ambiance; a unique two-piece martini glass set; contribution envelopes to support local charities as a deposit for your coin change; and proper folios for your departure invoice.

Continuous Innovation: These properties continue to test new ways of improving their guest relationships through product enhancements.  In one hotel, they were experimenting with a dedicated floor for couples.  Another property was testing new menus. Still another was encouraging customers to create wild, new drink combinations.

Expert Maintenance to Support Quality Construction: As expected, the woods, marble and granite used for room furnishings were all immaculate.  While the properties ranged in age from 7 to over 20 years old, they all have the feeling of a newly opened hotel.  This was largely a result of superb maintenance levels.  No visible marks or scuffs were noted on door frames or hallway corners.  Upholstery was fresh, both in look and smell.  All electronics were up-to-date and far beyond what is the norm for North America.

Visible Leadership: Without exception, it was commonplace to see a member of senior property management in the reception area each morning, and often in the evening as well.  While the primary role appeared to be greeting guests, they also served as a reassurance that the team was performing its duties.  One evening, I met a general manager in the restaurant after 10PM, as he was waiting for a VIP guest to arrive from a delayed flight.  Of note, he was telephoned from the arriving limousine a few minutes in advance to efficiently orchestrate the arrival.

Take Barclays With You – When You Die!

A friend sent me this true story – perhaps knowing how much I just love Barclays Bank (Zambia) Ltd!

A lady died last January. Barclays Bank billed her for service charges on her credit card for February and March. They then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been £0.00, now it was somewhere around £60.00.

A family member placed a call to Barclays Bank:

Family Member: ‘I’m calling to tell you that she died in January.’

Barclays: ‘The account was never closed. The late fees and charges still apply.’

Family Member: ‘Maybe, you should turn it over to collections.’

Barclays: ‘Since it’s two months past due, it already has been..’

Family Member: ‘So, what will they do when they find out she’s dead?’

Barclays: ‘Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!’

Family Member: ‘Do you think God will be mad at her?’

Barclays: ‘Excuse me?’

Family Member: ‘Did you just get what I was telling you, the part about her being dead?’

Barclays: ‘Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor.’

Supervisor gets on the phone:

Family Member: ‘I’m calling to tell you, she died in January.’

Barclays: ‘The account was never closed. The late fees and charges still apply.’

Family Member: ‘You mean you want to collect from her estate?’

Barclays: (Stammer) ‘Are you her lawyer?’

Family Member: ‘No, I’m her great nephew.’ (Lawyer info given)

Barclays: ‘Could you fax us a certificate of death?’

Family Member: ‘Sure.’ ( fax number is given )

After they get the fax:

Barclays: ‘Our system just isn’t set up for death. I don’t know what more I can do to help.’

Family Member: ‘Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don’t think she’ll care.’

Barclays: ‘Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.’

Family Member: ‘Would you like her new billing address?’

Barclays: ‘That might help.’

Family Member: ‘ Finchley Memorial Cemetery , Great North Road, Finchley,
London, Plot Number 1049.’

Barclays: ‘Sir, that’s a cemetery!’

Family Member: ‘Well, what the f*** do you do with dead people on your planet?’



We’ve been clients of Africonnect since 2005 and were in fact one of the first establishments in Livingstone to use their services and to have wifi broadband. We’re delighted they’re expanding and developing and all in all the service is good, though I complain a lot….We are an ‘ISpot’ open to the public for internet connection at reasonable rates as well as providing a generally good service for our guests. If we had a criticism? Their PR.

Africonnect has commissioned a high speed fibre optic cable link to connect Zambia to the rest of the world. Africonnect Managing Director Mark Bennett said in Lusaka today that the move was part of the continued integration of Africonnect into the Vodacom Group network. Mr. Bennett said at a media briefing in Lusaka today that the company has commissioned a direct fibre link directly into South Africa with ultra low latency.

Zanis reports that he said quicker, more reliable and more robust connectivity into South Africa will improve efficiency for all customers who are connected to the headquarters, suppliers, customers or websites located in South Africa. Mr. Bennett further said in addition to the new fibre installation, Africonnect has commissioned more resilience through a second terrestrial link to Europe, and has bought more satellite capacity, which will offer 1:1 back- up in case of any fibre cuts or scheduled maintenance.

He said part two of the international fibre installation will include the commissioning of an MPLS link into the Vodacom MPLS network located in Johannesburg. He said this will be live in the next weeks. Mr. Bennett noted that the network expansion is now well under way while the upgrading of the Copperbelt network that will create an MPLS backbone between the Copperbelt and Lusaka has been completed.

He said the network upgrading will increase capacity in Kitwe, Ndola and Chingola. He further said as a commitment to the growth of the Copperbelt, the company has also introduced new services in Luanshya, Mufulira and Chililabombwe. He added that Africonnect has begun wireless broadband service in Mazabuka and Siavonga.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bennett has disclosed that with effect from 1st March this year, Africonnect will introduce new low cost; pay-as- you- go wireless internet access. He said for the past five years, Africonnect has offered its high- speed iConnect broadband service via fixed monthly subscriptions with higher cost equipment. He said the company is now introducing a service for homes and small businesses with a start- up cost of under K1 million, including equipment and an initial K300,000 of surf-time. Mr. Bennett has since said the new pay as you internet access will be available throughout Lusaka, with other towns following shortly.


Guest Rights

This from Hotelinteractive interested me, and certainly at Chanters Lodge we do try to live within these service principles.

“This week GuestRights unveiled its Guest Bill of Rights, a list of the top 10 customer service principles its creators feel a hotel should guarantee whenever someone stays at a hotel. The idea is simple: a straightforward list of promises that imbues guests with confidence that the hotel they booked will provide the experience they expect.

1. Guests have the right to guaranteed reservations.
Reservations will include room type and will be available at the rates quoted. All approved discounts and other offers will be honored. Rooms will be ready at the stated time of check-in.

2. Guests have the right to clearly stated prices and policies.
There will be no hidden fees or charges. Basic amenities will be offered at no extra charge. Prices for food and all additional products and services will be reasonable.

3. Guests have the right to clean hotel rooms.
Rooms will be regularly cleaned and kept to the highest standards.

4. Guests have the right to well-maintained hotel rooms.
All features, amenities and utilities will be in good working order. These include all televisions, lighting, electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning (where appropriate), among others.

5. Guests have the right to clean and well-maintained facilities.
All advertised features and amenities will be in good working order and available for guest use. Restaurants, grounds, and other common areas will be well-maintained and clean.

6. Guests have the right to a satisfying dining experience.
Food will be fresh and well-prepared. Restaurant and room service will be prompt and courteous.

7. Guests have the right to be safe and secure.
Reasonable measures will be taken to provide a safe and secure environment for guests and their belongings.

8. Guests have the right to be treated with the utmost respect.
Staff members will be well-trained and will make every effort to respond to guest inquiries accurately and in a timely and courteous manner.

9. Guests have the right to have all reasonable requests honored.
If a room is unacceptable to a guest for any reason, a good faith effort will be made to move the guest to a room that meets the guest’s satisfaction. Efforts will be made to satisfy every guest in all other areas as well.

10. Guests have the right to have all complaints properly addressed.
A good faith effort will be made to promptly resolve all complaints and customer service issues in accordance with generally accepted good hospitality practices and to the satisfaction of the guest, whenever possible.

Got me thinking though, do hoteliers have rights? For example, not to have hotel property stolen? Customers to respect non-smoking regulations? Guests to have the means to pay? Guests to give “utmost respect” to hotel property, facilities and staff?

I guess we do but no-one talks too much about that do they?

The picture? A rainbow by Victoria Falls