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  • The Storyteller

Case Review: Brown's Hotel, London

This was a stay peppered with service hearts everywhere.....

Day 1:

The porter asked, "Where did you come from today?" and when we replied, he followed up with "How's the weather in Geneva?" Positive engagement without compromising on efficiency. We felt warmly welcomed right away. 💖

At right about the same time, I overheard another porter said in an upbeat, jovial manner to the little girl (probably around 4, 5 years old) as he helped her out of the taxi behind us, "You are very well-dressed, young lady. Did you have a photo-shoot today?"💖

Even before entering the physical building, I was already feeling I had arrived at a joyous and wonderful place!

The receptionist acknowledged the background noise and informed that they were having a Christmas event in the adjacent for families of the employees. She showed empathy and we appreciated she did not choose to ignore the commotion. And how lovely that the hotel celebrates the festive occasion by involving the team's families too, and not by relegating them to some windowless room in the basement for some unceremonious "festive celebration" 💖

When I complimented the lobby's Christmas decoration, the receptionist informed that this year, it was a collaboration with Fortnum and Mason, and that they partner with different designers or shops each year. The information provided more insights than a mere "Thank you" and also demonstrated interest and product knowledge. 💖

While being escorted to the room, I requested for a small tube of glue to be sent to the room. The employee asked if I was doing any DIY and said he would check with the concierge and if necessary, would head out to buy one for me. (Contrast this to the response given by Kempinski Budapest). The natural conversation and willingness to help were very much appreciated. 💖💖💖

Eventually, the hotel recommended for one of their engineers to look at how he could help glue back my boots. When the person came to collect the items, he addressed us by name (with salutation of course) and thoughtfully enquired if there was a particular time I would like the boots to be returned by. Key emotion: Personalised and cared for 💖💖💖

Later in the day, after the boots were returned - all fixed and well! - we received a call from the Front Desk asking if we were satisfied with the resolution. Key emotion: Individual 💖

Day 2:

While waiting to speak with the concierge before stepping out, the doorman came forward to offer to hang our coats which were draping on our arms. How thoughtful! 💖

I noticed how the staff readily helped take photos for guests doing selfies in front of the Christmas Tree - anticipatory service 💖.

We asked the Concierge if he could send a short list of recommended places for evening drinks to our room while we headed out for lunch. He asked if we needed suggestions for lunch and dinner, and we accepted with appreciation. He helped us book a popular fish restaurant for arrival in 30 minutes. Upon our return to the room later in the afternoon, I noted how his typed letter made positive reference to our lunch, making the correspondence much more personalised rather than a fact sheet of addresses. 💖

(We had a lovely evening at Cecconi's and Mr. Fogg's - usually a private members' club, but thanks to the Concierge and the privilege of being a guest at Brown's Hotel, we were put on the guest list and granted access.)

Day 3:

We headed down for our breakfast. The same waitress greeted us, but I was not sure if she remembered us from the previous day. When I ordered a hot chocolate for myself, she said, "Ah yes, I remember...and to make it less thick." The ability to recall guest preference is one of the most personalised service gestures ever. 💖

After settling the bill for check-out, we left the luggage in the porter's care while we headed out for lunch. I asked if one of the books displayed in the room - Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill - was available for sale. The porter said he would check with the relevant department and place the book together with our luggage. Upon our return, the same employee acknowledged he hadn't received the information just yet. (Minus 1 for lacking seamless collaboration) Sensing we were in a hurry to leave as the cab had arrived, he suggested, "I'm sure we could get hold of another copy of the same book. Could we send a new one to you, totally on us. ..." He managed to turn a disappointing situation to one that surpassed expectations. We were happy with the decisive resolution put forward. Key emotion: Individual and appreciated 💖💖.

(The book is now displayed proudly at home, reminding us of this memorable stay at Brown's Hotel.)

So much for the good news. There were also other service encounters that were less than impressive during the stay:

  • At the Donovan Bar, our empty glasses sat on the table for rest of evening without being offered a second drink. Besides, we waited for almost 13 minutes for the bill while the waitress appeared to be chatting frivolously away with the barman - despite us having reminded her to check on the bill. There was no acknowledgement for the delay. Overall impression: Lack of service readiness (Minus 1)

  • Housekeeping was not detailed and didn't tidy the room and bathroom as per required standards. Used cups were also not removed or replaced. Furthermore, the housekeeper used the master key to open the door right after ringing the doorbell once. Overall impression: Untrained and inattentive staff, not respecting guests' privacy (Minus 3)

  • Lack of consistency in breakfast service: on first day, the hot beverage was poured out for guest but this did not happen on the second day. The direction of milk jar's and pot of hot chocolate's handle was not conveniently placed. Overall impression: Lacking service details (Minus 1)

  • We would have liked to have simple coffee-making facilities in the room, even if it wasn't a sophisticated machine. This is a rather basic room amenity for luxury accommodation. (Minus 1)

  • Receptionist should have automatically extended the key card when late check-out was confirmed, a clear case of lacking anticipatory service. (Minus 1)

  • Upon our return to the room at 2pm, we couldn't open the door and requested for the Housekeeping employee nearby to assist. While she did so readily, she should have first verified our identify, especially since we had never met before. It cast a doubt on how well-trained the staff are for such situations, and how secured are the rooms for the guests. (Minus 3)

Service Bank (Positives/Deposit): 17 x 💖

Service Bank (Negatives/Withdrawal): Minus 10

Net Service Bank: 7 x 💖

Reflective thoughts: Some of the positive interactions above are random and based on guest-specific situations/requests (e.g. the superglue for the boots). However, most of them could be easily prepared for a designed response. Note that this is different from a usual service standard.

For example, placing a Christmas tree in the lobby? What is likely to happen (guests taking photos and compliments about the set up)? How can we prepare for better service and response? (offer to take photos, perhaps offer polaroid shots?, provide information about the decoration, etc.). Try the following:

1. Identify three things that your hotel has recently set up or implemented.

2. Anticipate the questions or actions from guests.

3. Design a positive, thoughtful, anticipatory response in order to create a positive impression.

Next, review the encounters that caused a withdrawal to the Service Bank. What could teams do to prepare themselves for these situations?

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