A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to join a field trip to the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver with the Vancouver User Experience Group (VanUE). Not only were the lobster rolls are amazing (we got a live demo below!), but we had an inside look at how Four Seasons designs the guest experience.

Food demo at Four Seasons Yew Restaurant

Thanks to Jennifer for the photo. She has shared more on Flickr too!

Some of my other highlights from the tour:

Standards are dynamic

Four Seasons has very precise standards for all hotel operations, everything from how long a guest waits for coffee to what gets captured in the guest database. All staff are aware of the standards and trained rigorously on them. Managers monitor standards every day by being in the lobby, watching the restaurant, and looking at how efficiently the work is being executed.

Everyone is aware of standards, but staff have the flexibility to treat a guest like a person and "tweak" standards when they don't make sense in a certain situation. During daily briefings, staff talk about standards and share stories of how they may have adjusted them.

I think it's amazing that all levels of standards have been thought through and are monitored daily. Staff always know where the bar is set and have a solid foundation to base all their actions on. Standards are not sitting collecting dust though; they are assessed, adjusted, and alive during the daily operation of the hotel. It would be amazing if design standards on a project were so integrated into the life of a project and beyond...

Anticipate and personalize

Four Seasons does many things throughout the hotel to anticipate the needs of people. For example:

  • At the bar, staff put down a napkin and coaster to indicate they are paying attention and ready to take an order (as well as signalling to other staff that the guests are taken care of)
  • At the restaurant if someone in a group orders water, the server brings water for everyone. (I hate it when servers just bring the one water, and everyone has to then order separately!)
  • During the "turn-down" service to prepare a room for bedtime, staff move the alarm clock to a 45-degree angle, remove excess pillows from the bed, move shoes from the middle of the floor, put remotes in easily accessible areas from the bed/sofa, etc.

Anticipating the needs of users is what we do sub-consciously all the time, but real personalization takes time, thought, and care. When done well though, it can create a smooth seamless experience for a user.

Surprise and the wow-factor

In some situations it may be possible to surprise a guest, and Four Seasons gives its staff the discretion to go the extra mile. For example, a guest may have forgotten a coat in a parked car, and the valet may offer to get it. At the car, the valet notices the guest left a cell phone in the car too, and picks it up just in case the guest wants it. When they see the guest, the valet may ask "did you also need your cell phone?", and if the guest responds positively, the valet will give them the cell phone too. It's common sense really, but if and when it happened, I know I would be very pleasantly surprised.

Four Seasons has many anecdotes like this, and I love to think about the wow-factor in our designs that inspire this kind of delight.

Four Seasons staff provide the ultimate hotel guest service and, true to their impeccable standards, they planned this event perfectly. Thank you to VanUE and Four Seasons Vancouver for this wonderful event!