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  • The Storyteller

Service Recovery at Four Seasons Seoul

The check-in process was average. Nothing to compliment, nothing (much) to complain. Well, our luggage was placed somewhat in the middle of the lobby unattended throughout our time with the Front Desk though.

The room was luxurious, as expected of the Four Seasons brand. During the stay, there were some slight hiccups such as the wrong door being buzzed by Housekeeping or the lack of personalised service at the Concierge desk - all disappointing but nothing terrible.

Then there was the laundry which we thought was exorbitantly high, even for a luxury hotel brand. The pressing for a man's white shirt and a dress amounted to about USD80. As these were our garments for our friend's wedding the following evening, my husband and I felt we had no choice but to proceed with this costly pressing.

The next afternoon, I headed to the lobby cafe as I was meeting my Korean friend, Sophia, whom I had not met for more than 20 years. (She now lived in Chicago and happened to be back in Seoul to visit her family during summer.) I checked out the pastries and cakes in the glass counter, keeping in mind what I might order later on. As I contemplated to take either the high seats (four to one table), which allowed me a better view of the entrance, or the regular tables at the adjacent section, an employee nearby asked if I would like a table. I said yes for two and followed her to a (regular) table several metres away. Two menus were promptly presented.

Sophia arrived two minutes after and we were ecstatic to meet each other. After some hugs and embrace, we settled down to order our drinks - a USD20 iced chocolate and USD 18 coffee. She was shocked at these prices and herself being a regular at other Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton hotels, she was surprised at the sky-high prices in this Seoul property. I agreed with her mentally, but since I was inviting her, I didn't want to fuss about the prices and simply wanted for us to enjoy our time together.

At this point, I asked the waitress if they had the dessert or snack menu, and she asked us to check out the cakes at the same deli section. Sophia and I happily made our way there and very quickly, we noticed from the hanging boards behind the counter, that the very same drinks we had ordered was about 45% cheaper. Turned out that if we had ordered from the deli and sat at the high tables, the cost would be significantly lower. We felt the zoning was not clear at all, and the price difference was way too much. We felt foolishly fleeced by simply choosing to sit a mere few steps away.

Back in the room - I received a message on the hotel app, asking for our stay feedback. I put in a short note about the experience at the café and suggested for the zoning to be made clearer for guests so as to avoid any future misunderstanding. Shortly after, I received a call from the F&B Manager in the room. He acknowledged my feedback and made me feel understood. During the conversation, I passed a comment about the pressing cost. He said he would also share the input with the Laundry team. At the end of the call, he thanked us for our stay and offered further assistance. It was a very pleasant call and what mattered most was that he cared enough to take actions promptly and reached out. I certainly appreciated that he made me feel listened to.

That very evening, we received a surprise set-up in the room when we came back after dinner. On the centre table, there was a silver ice bucket topped with ice, a golden tray with two rock glasses complete with nicely-cut orange peel, and a bottle of Old Fashioned from the hotel's famed bar Charles H. There was also a handwritten card from the F&B Manager, wishing us an enjoyable time at our friend's wedding.

This thoughtful gesture was very personalised because the evening prior, my husband and I had visited the hotel bar and ordered the same drinks - two rounds I recalled. The fact that the manager had done some "background check" to deliver a valued surprise, instead of say, a box of chocolates or macarons, made this a truly impressive recovery. We also appreciated that the handwritten card made mention of the event we were attending.

Throughout our entire stay, it is this service recovery that we remembered the most.

Service Bank: What is your verdict? Is it an overall negative or positive balance?

Reflective thoughts: What is your impression of the F&B Manager? How do you envision his team to be? What are your ideas in terms of making the deli and cafe sections more distinct, so that such misunderstanding can be avoided?

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