Customer Service Takes Systemwide Commitment, says Townsend Hotel Manager

    Steven Kalczynski is a bit of an expert when it comes to customer service – he has more than 30 years of hotel experience and is the managing director for The Townsend Hotel, a five-star venue in Birmingham, Mich.

    Steven Kalczynski is managing director for The Townsend Hotel.
    Steven Kalczynski is managing
    director for The Townsend Hotel.

    To that end, he has spent decades perfecting his ideas on what makes customers happy. At The Townsend, the use what he calls “The Basics,” or 20 things that every employee needs to do to deliver what he calls “spectacular service.”

    “We’re in the relationship business. The more we can develop relations with our customers the easier it is going to be to exceed expectations,” Kalczynski said. “They’re not expensive. But there is a commitment. It needs to go from the top all the way to the bottom.”

    He knows of which he speaks: AAA recently released its 2014 Four-Diamond awards for hospitality industry excellence, and the Rugby Grille at the Townsend Hotel was on the list once again. And that’s just one of the hotel’s many honors.

    So what are five of his best tips for being a customer-service ninja? Here are some of “The Basics of The Townsend.”

    Townsend Hotel Exterior
    The Townsend Hotel, is a five-star venue in Birmingham, Mich.

    1.    Have the right person in the right seat. The drive toward customer-service perfection “is all for naught if you’re not hiring properly,” Kalczynski said. He looks carefully at how potential employees react to him and within the hotel. Are they smiling? What’s their physical reaction to stress? “Sometimes, it’s the intangibles that make a big difference,” he said.
    2.    Be an expert in your area. When someone has a question, you should know the answer. There is no one who knows what you do better than you. Everything The Townsend does should be unprecedented – it should inspire guests to say, “Another hotel wouldn’t do that.”
    3.    Sell the features. Everyone who works at The Townsend is a salesperson for the organization, Kalczynski. They should share the hotel’s best features and make appropriate suggestions for how the guests can use them.
    4.    Use telephone etiquette. If you’re assigned to the phones, pick up a ringing phone within three rings. Smile when you talk – the person on the other end of the line can feel it. Kalczynski feels so strongly about this one he will interview potential phone-using employees on the horn to see how they handle themselves.
    5.    Take responsibility for your area. Kalczynski tells the story of one concierge who took it upon himself to drive a guest’s forgotten medicine to the airport in his own car to deliver the missing item. “It’s those things that really, really make the difference,” Kalczynski said.