INTERVIEW: “Luxury Service – What makes it?” by Marco Novella
How do you define service in luxury hospitality?
MN: In today’s society, service in luxury hospitality can be presented in a variety of ways, from the traditional and formal ‘white glove’ style which is usually found in palaces, to the standardised and consistent service found in large luxury chains with hundreds of hotels, each with hundreds of rooms. At Grace Hotels, our style is based on a friendly and personal approach, with team members displaying genuine warmth through unscripted conversations. Whilst a manual with standard operating procedures provides the strong framework for a luxury experience, these should only guide 50% of the interaction with guests. The other 50% should be driven by the personality of the guest and their willingness to interact.
What makes the difference between good service and great service?
MN: There are three main elements which we should always remember when delivering quality service: i) we cannot say ‘no’ and should always ensure we are available to assist; ii) we should be accurate and as fast as possible; iii) personalisation is key. Good service is set by standards. Great service is achieved through going above and beyond what the guest expects. It is personalisation which provides the differentiating factor here, offering the opportunity to trigger an emotion which is rarely seen when service is formulaic and predictable.
What can a team member do, as an individual, to ensure we deliver on our promise?
MN: Firstly, it is important that we learn the mechanics of our respective roles – effectively how to do our job. This may involve training on particular systems, understanding procedures, learning the differences between room categories or learning the ingredients of a particular dish and how it is cooked. This practical knowledge and ability, together with a solid grasp of etiquette (including eloquent speech) and appropriate grooming, forms the foundation for success.
The second part is where we let our own character and personality shine through to create the genuine service we strive to deliver.
Hospitality is about the enjoyment of meeting and interacting with people in a way which makes them feel comfortable. It is great to show that we have fun, as it creates a warm environment for guests. Above all, when engaging in friendly conversation or answering a request, remember not only to listen but to continually observe. Look at the guest’s facial expressions, their body language and the speed of their response, which can all be subtle indicators of a guest’s mood and willingness to engage.
What is it that sets Grace Hotels apart from many others, when it comes to the guest experience?
MN: Our ‘Bespoke by Grace’ offering is a wonderful point of difference to many other brands. Not only does it allow guests to personalise numerous aspects of their stay prior to their arrival, but it also offers a strong sense of distinction between each location. Our Bespoke Experiences allow guests to enjoy the destination in unique ways, meet local people and create stories of their travels. Everyone loves to have a story to tell!
We are the ones who create the material for people to sew together into a patchwork of memories that they take with them for years to come. We should also be story tellers ourselves, drawing on our rich knowledge of the destinations in which we work, things which made us laugh and things we have learned from inspiring people we have met along the way. Above all it is you, the team members, working both individually and together, who set us apart.
Lastly can you tell us about a memorable example of great service that you have personally witnessed, and what made it special?
MN: Passion, creativity and the desire to do well will always contribute to memorable service. In a previous role when I worked in Italy, we had two guests who were getting married and the groom wanted to surprise the bride with a special transfer from her villa to the wedding venue.
Busy with last minute preparations for the ceremony, he left it to us to decide, so we set about eliminating all the things we did not think were particularly special: luxury car, sports car, horse and carriage and so on. We had taken the time to get to know them and discovered both their sense of humour and their sense of adventure, so what could be more fun for a wedding in Italy than a classic 1950s Ape Calessino, Piaggio’s famous three-wheel ‘half motorbike – half car’, cherished for its place in Italian vintage culture?!
The minor challenge? The closest one was 100 km away and the maximum range of this humble vehicle is a mere 20 km. Still, we could not say no. We hired a truck to bring it to the hotel ready for the big day and the result was a heart-warming moment that will stay not only with the happy couple, but with all who were involved, for a long time to come.
Marco Novella is the Chief Operating Officer of Grace Hotels