For Corinthia, quality is infinitely better than quantity and we do take this principle very seriously. So much so that we employ a quality expert almost exclusively for that. And this, apart from the quality managers we have in each and every hotel. Meet Walter Hess, Director Rooms and Quality, who joined Corinthia in October 2017. Here he explains why being a stickler for details does pay off in the end.
“Quality is a combination of the tangible and the intangible,” he says as I sit down in his office, almost lost in my thoughts about this peculiar role.
“With the right amount of money tangible quality can be bought e.g. Frette linen, Villeroy & Boch chinaware, Bang&Olufson sound system,” he continues.
“However, intangible quality such as intuitive and seamless service or emotional engagement with guests does not magically appear overnight, no matter how fancy the furnishings of a given hotel or resort are. Intangible quality is a process that starts with recruiting the right talent, providing the appropriate training, as well as managers leading by example. Over time, quality does evolve into a state of mind and eventually becomes part of one’s DNA,” he says.
So how does he draw satisfaction from his job if it is largely intangible that what he supervises? After a days’ work, what is it that makes him feel satisfied, I wonder.
Which tangible results determine that a particular service is fit for purpose?
In my role, I like to see myself as an enabler and as a coach who provides the leadership team at each property with the necessary guidance & encouragement to achieve high guest satisfaction, one guest at the time.
There is a sense of elation when a hotel improves its score in a mystery shopper audit or garners positive mention on social media platforms. The colleagues at each hotel deserve the credit for these achievements. Myself, I am merely a facilitator in the background — a capacity that suits me just fine and hardly leaves me short of satisfaction at the end of any given day.
There certainly must be a way you gauge the customer’s satisfaction. Is there not?
At the end of 2017, Corinthia signed up its properties to a service called ReviewPro – a highly regarded service provider within the hospitality industry. This platform furnishes a three-pronged approach in gauging guest satisfaction. Firstly, it enables us to obtain instant feedback from ‘in-stay’ surveys that are sent to guests shortly after arrival. Secondly, the system sends ‘post-stay’ surveys to guests after departure. Thirdly, ReviewPro has an online reputation management tool that produces amalgamated feedback from social media such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia, to name but a few sources. The feedback gathered via this platform is reviewed regularly and used diligently to enhance product & service in each property. Lastly, with this invaluable tool we can also benchmark ourselves against competitors.
Speaking of benchmarking, each Corinthia hotel is subject to bi-annual mystery shopper visits by a company called Leading Quality Assurance. Properties are assessed with help of international luxury 5-star standards, allowing for performance comparison with other established hotels around the globe.
So why are customers drawn to Corinthia?
Regardless of origin, age or gender, everyone appreciates a warm personalised welcome, a meticulously clean room with a comfortable bed, rounded off with unobtrusive service. Moreover, consistently ‘getting it right’ is paramount in our profession. When the opportunity presents itself, we endeavour to ‘wow’ our guests with a special touch, may it be in form of a birthday cake, a bouquet of flower and a hand-written card for an anniversary or simply lending a pair of cufflinks to someone who inadvertently forgot his/hers.
You have 20 years of experience working in the industry. How is Corinthia different from the rest?
It is the ‘Spirit of Corinthia’ that sets the company apart from other hotel groups. This spirit embodies attention to detail, authenticity and a grounded style that avoids any form of ostentation. In a futile world where one trend is chasing the next, guests do appreciate this approach to genuine & personable hospitality.
What about you? Why Quality Director?
Well, as you said I’ve been working int he industry for the past 20 years. Upon graduation from Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland I was hired by a Canadian luxury 5-star hotel group and spent nearly 14 years with this company. During my tenure, I was fortunate enough to work alongside seasoned leaders who recognised my intrinsic affinity with details and provided me with opportunities to further develop my talent in that regard. Within months of starting, I was invited to lead a peer group to drive ideas for guest experience innovations — an assignment I enjoyed tremendously.
Whilst working for Dubai based hotel group for four years, one of the company’s core value ‘good enough never is’ inspired me further to pursue quality at every opportunity. The CEO at that time was known to have very high expectations and his candid feedback kept us on our toes.
In my case, becoming a Quality Director was a natural outcome based on my experiences accumulated over the period of two decades.
So if you’re meticulous about meeting standards and customer expectations, you’re suited for the job..
It starts from having a penchant for the particular and it does help being focused & organised. With hospitality being a people’s business, it is also important to stay nimble & flexible and, finally, have a sense of humour.
Corinthia is synonymous with luxury. What does it mean for you?
As I said before, the world around us is moving at a very fast pace and sensory overstimulation is difficult to avoid. Part of my role is visiting each property at least once per calendar year, some of them multiple times. Whilst traveling & exploring can be fun, I do value staying put every then and so often and appreciate quiet moments to clear my mind. As such time for myself, family and circle of close friends is a luxury I cherish and do not take for granted.
Apart from Director of Quality, Mr Walter Hess is also Director of Rooms. He focuses on other operational departments for which he provides support & guidance to properties within the portfolio; be it Front Office, Guest Relations, Housekeeping & Laundry, Spa & Fitness. He also supports properties in the form of task force visits, lasting anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks. Lastly, he is also involved in pre-opening tasks e.g. site visits, competition surveys, preparing the critical path, compiling lists for OS&E (Operating Supplies & Equipment), pre-opening budgets and the like.