I just read an excellent blog post called “The Real Secret of Thoroughly Excellent Companies.” The author, Peter Bregman, discusses how the Four Seasons in Dallas has earned his loyalty. To understand how the hotel delivers such great experiences, Bregman sat down with the hotel’s general manager, Michael Newcombe. Here’s one of stories he heard from Newcombe:


During his meeting with the front desk staff, he learned they were slower than usual in checking in guests because rooms weren’t available. Then, in his meeting with housekeeping staff, someone asked if the hotel was running low on king size sheets. Most CEOs wouldn’t be interested in that question, but Michael asked why. Well, the maid answered, it’s taking us longer to turn over rooms because we have to wait for the sheets. So he kept asking questions to different employee groups until he discovered that one of the dryers was broken and waiting for a custom part. That reduced the number of available sheets. Which slowed down housekeeping. Which reduced room availability. Which delayed guests from checking in.

He fixed the problem in 24 hours. A problem he never would have known about without open communication with all his employees.


My take: I’m writing this post while sitting in a lounge at The Ritz-Carlton in San Juan; enjoying some quiet time while my daughter is at a Jonas Brothers concert with a friend. Before I even read Bregman’s blog post I was thinking about how much better my experiences have been at Four Seasons hotels. It’s not that I have a large sample of these experiences, but we periodically get to vacation at these resorts.

While we are having a great time at this hotel, and there’s nothing to complain about (except maybe the water pressure in the shower), there’s also nothing memorable. At Four Seasons hotels, employees go out of their way to see if visitors need anything and always greet people with a nice hello. At this Ritz-Carlton, the doormen haven’t even been opening the doors. And the concierge wasn’t able to offer any suggestions for activities other than handing over a poorly copied page describing tours from the resident tour agency.

Does this make The Ritz-Carlton a bad hotel? No. But it is certainly not delivering customer experiences at a level to maintain it’s branding as a 5-star hotel.

Four Seasons, on the other hand, makes customer experience everyone’s business. Michael Newcombe understands that delivering great experiences takes more than just smiles from front-desk employees; sometimes it even requires fixing a dryer.


The bottom line: All employees are in the customer experience department.

This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.