Listen to Frontline Magic Podcast:
For Lucy Gain and her sister Amelia, purchasing a large 5 star hotel in their early twenties wasn’t quite in their plan… until it was! The Queenstown hotel’s numbers showed that it hadn’t been reaching its full potential; but the sisters were ready to take a calculated risk – confident that some quick wins could help turn the hotel around.
The sisters are no strangers to the hotel industry – having built up The Spire in Queenstown, New Zealand to critical acclaim. The duo sold it ten months on from purchase after it won recognition as Australasia’s leading boutique hotel, New Zealand’s leading ski resort, and New Zealand’s leading boutique hotel.
“After our success with The Spire, Hotel Montreal was a chance to take something special and put our own stamp on it,” says Lucy. Infact,
In the podcast episode Lucy shares a story of how her front-desk staff receive flowers sent by customers who were blowed away by the service they received.
" At Hotel Montreal we had some guests staying for months and she would notice their struggels or challenges every day, doing small things to help them in their daily lives and the customers just loves that. She would buy lunch boxes for their kids, set out dog-poop bags in the reception or simply just ask them how their day was."
The Kiwi entrepreneur is refreshingly candid, and simple, about what works – pointing to good, old-fashioned altruism; intuition; attention to detail and treating staff like family.
Here’s what we learnt about creating a 5 star customer experience when we caught up recently…
A rising tide lifts all boats
Queenstown (New Zealand) and surrounding areas rely on tourism, with many businesses serving the same customer base. When running The Spire, in her earlier days, Lucy intentionally built strong relationships with these other businesses – supporting them where she could. In return, they were quick to recommend her hotel as a wonderful place to stay. “These relationships created personalized and unique experiences for our customers,” says Lucy. Recently, a group of guests from the hotel visited a local coffee shop and were introduced to some of the team there; which resulted in a lunch with Hollywood actor Sam Neill at his local winery – now that’s 5 star, and a win/win for all!
Past experience doesn’t dictate future success
When hiring, Lucy tries to look beyond past experience because what made for a 5 star experience in a previous role might conflict with what’s needed in a new role. “Look for people who have the same values as your business – for us, that’s a genuine interest in connecting with people; intuition that helps build relationships and flexible thinking. Everything else that helps our business run operationally can be taught, but it’s these people skills that are fundamental to our success.”
Get in touch with your senses
Lucy’s also learnt that delivering a 5 star experience – every time and for every customer – requires paying a lot of attention to the little things. “To be truly memorable, we need to activate all the senses – think about what the customer can see, hear, touch, smell and taste,” says Lucy. Senses can trigger a memory; or create a moment. Lucy’s hotel makes use of personalized scent, fabrics, art and more to create feelings of nostalgia and new memories and she’s convinced it’s the difference between blah...and aaaah!
It’s a family affair
With two sisters owning the business, the Hotel Montreal is already ‘a family affair’. Lucy’s challenge?
“Take it one step further by truly caring for, respecting and trusting your team as if they were family.” Not surprisingly, Lucy’s staff join the business and want to stay – they have the confidence to make decisions; share feedback with the team; and feel appreciated for the hard work they do.
“Shining a light on frontline achievements – big and small, and making that recognition personal, brings the team and management closer together.”
Lucy’s final ‘gold star’ tips on creating magic for your customers?
- Take risks! Sometimes, trusting your intuition is the best thing you can do.
- Don’t be afraid to be distinctly you – and let that show through your brand. Create something different and you’ll be remembered!
- Focus on a niche. You don’t need everyone coming through the door; you need the right people coming.
- Make your space one that customers want to be in – young and old. Make sure they feel welcomed and embraced.
- Be a bit unpredictable. Keep things fresh and exciting. Surprise people and they’ll want more!
As they say in New Zealand - ka pai (well done)!