Earlier this month, Building Engines sponsored a breakfast in Chicago featuring Michael Nenner, Director of Rooms at the Four Season’s Ritz Carlton Hotel as our guest presenter.  This event was part of our Executive Briefing Series which we hold at various cities around the country every quarter.  – Mr. Nenner’s presentation was titled “Be My Guest: Why Hospitality Matters in Commercial Real Estate.”

This was truly one of our better presenters and topics as Mr. Nenner provided a condensed version of the famed “Four Season’s University” course that companies send their executives to from around the world to learn about the customer service program and techniques that have made Four Season’s the brand it is and the Ritz Carlton a winner of the Best Hotel in America award 7 out of the last 15 years.

He provided many entertaining stories of “over the top” customer service as well as detailed examples of how Four Season’s set’s detailed standards for service and measures them at many levels and in great detail.  For instance, one of their most important set of standards relates to cleaning a room.  The Four Season’s room cleaning standard has 247 items!  These include the position of the note paper and pencil on your desk.  – Go to any Four Seasons hotel in the world and you will find the paper and pencil positioned exactly the same way. In addition to the training of their staff to know and perform these standards, Four Seasons has inspectors and inspectors for the inspectors. – It all represents a truly impressive commitment to quality.

The point that Mr. Nenner stressed the most and that ties everything all together is that everything begins with their people. – The Four Seasons hiring and training process is as detailed and well thought out as anything else they do. Sure , the physical property and amenities are important and they have leading systems and technology in place to support their efforts. But, they fully understand that if so much of the value of their brand is dependent on the interaction between staff and guests, then they absolutely have to hire the right people for the job. – People who are positive, upbeat, have high energy, take pleasure in service.

They evaluate people in interesting ways, beginning with the interview when the applicant is filling out paperwork; they’ll send someone into the room and observe the applicant…did they say “hello” and introduce themselves without prompting, interact with the person, or offer them assistance if the person pretended to look “lost?”   As important, if not more so, than the information that they put down in their application, it is this ability to connect with people on a personal level and the desire that makes someone qualified to work at Four Seasons.

At a time in the commercial real estate industry where so much is out of your control, and tenant retention is absolutely critical to survival; Michael delivered a powerful message that customer service is entirely within your control and can make all the difference in the near and long terms.  It takes a commitment to the creation, maintenance and measurement of standards and an understanding of the type of people you need to deliver on those and create your brand of service excellence.