Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Book Review: Four Seasons

Score: 4.5/5

I picked up this book quite a while back but finally finished it this past weekend.  Many people probably don’t know that Four Seasons is a Canadian company.  This book is an autobiography of its founder Isadore Sharp, about how he entered the hotel business as an outsider and through determination and some luck, created the well known five star hotel chain as we know it today.

This is a great book and I’ve learned lots about Mr. Sharp’s courage and commitment in excellent customer service.  I’ve enjoyed the book and hope you will, too.

Here were some of my favourite moments in the book:

About Excellence

“Excellence is often just a capacity for taking pains.”

About Courage

Not long after Sharp entered the hotel business as a building contractor, while arranging the financing of his second hotel, he realized if the hotel didn’t prove successful, he would be in debt for the rest of his life.

He went ahead, and now his chain is 150 hotels strong.

About Excellent Customer Service

A black-tie event was held at Four Seasons Chicago.  Every gentleman was wearing a black-tie except one, who complained to his wife that he looked like an idiot because she didn’t say this was a black-tie event.

A Four Seasons employee, Hans Willimann, overheard this and leaned toward the couple…

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.  I work here.  I understand your dilemma, and I think I can help.”

Hans invited the man to follow him to the uniform office.

“Khaled, this gentleman doesn’t have a tuxedo.  Can you help him?”

Khaled invited the gentleman to have a seat in his office, excused himself, changed out of the tuxedo he was wearing, put on his civilian clothes, and rushed to the laundry to press his very own tuxedo for the guest to wear.  The pants were a little bit too big, so the staff seamstress came up and fixed them, and the gentleman rejoined the party.

The next day Hans received a lengthy and effusive letter of praise from Mr. Steingraber expressing his gratitude.  The letterhead indicated that he was the chairman and CEO of a major global strategic consulting firm, A.T. Kearney.  And he felt that if his consultants had the kind of attitude that Hans and his banquet manager had demonstrated, the company could be twice their size.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for gifting this book to me. It's made a big impact on how I think about the meaning of "service". Very inspiring stuff! - taneem

Brian Keng said...

I love that last story. Excellence in customer service. I think too many people (myself included) focus too much on the numbers. Profit, margins, etc. Many forget that there is a reason that companies enjoy superior profits like excellence in service. The only caveat is that you have to be ALWAYS that good, not just sometimes, ALWAYS. That's why it's so hard. And that's why the few who do it reap the benefits.