At Fora, when we’re describing what we do, we often refer to “members’ club style service” and “hotel style hospitality”. But what does this mean?
In a nutshell, we are referring to Service Excellence – anticipating and responding to our Residents’ needs, so that they have best experience possible while they are here.
And to make sure we achieve that hotel-style hospitality consistently, Fora is proud to announce that we are working with Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), one of the most prestigious hospitality schools in the world and training providers to some of the world’s leading hotel brands including Ritz and Four Seasons.
The Fora EHL partnership began in earnest with an intensive three-day Service Excellence training, delivered to all Fora HQ and Front of House staff by one of EHL’s leading consultant’s, Wei-Cheng Chen.
To find out more about him, EHL, and the evolution of service at Fora, we caught up with Wei at the end of the initial Fora training session.
Hi Wei, how did you become a service excellence consultant at EHL?
I’m originally from Argentina. After several years of working in hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, I decided I wanted to further my studies so went to EHL as a student. When I finished my studies I was employed by EHL, initially in the marketing team before moving over to consultancy.
Tell us about EHL…
Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne was founded in 1893, and as a non-profit foundation, education is at its heart. EHL is the oldest hospitality school in the world, a genuine pioneer of hospitality education. The school is very well connected to the hospitality industry; EHL qualifications are respected throughout the industry with alumni at many of the world’s best-known hotels and restaurants. One of the unusual things about EHL is that all the students are expected to be smart and presentable, which means suits and ties in class! In addition to teaching at the school, we also provide service consultancy and training to businesses all over the world. The school is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in the United States, and it is the only hospitality school recognised as part of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland.
Can you tell us some of the other organisations that you have worked with?
EHL works with the Olympic Committee, helping to ensure that the hospitality aspects of the host city are up to standard. That is just one example. But we have helped many other organisations with service excellence including; Swiss Air, Accor Hotels, Hilton, Bicester Village, Pernod Ricard, and Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland. We have also trained customer service staff at many banks, hospitals and clinics.
What are you doing for Fora?
Fundamentally we are sharing our hospitality experience with the Fora team, to equip them with the knowledge, skills and mindset that is required to deliver service excellence. This begins with an initial three-day training session which we have just completed. EHL is also helping Fora to develop service excellence process and procedures, and these will form the basis of training future Fora team members.
What difference can this kind of service training make to an organisation?
Service is about attitude, this training makes people aware of good service and how to deliver it. We do have practical advice about how to communicate, organise and deliver service functions, but really it’s more about mindset change than anything else.
What’s a typical or common mistake that leads to poor service?
Indifference. If you are indifferent toward the person or problem, that’s no good. And that is why training aims for mindset change, attitude is as important as knowledge. Research shows that 68% of customers leave because of an attitude of indifference towards the customer by employees. So for good service, the people delivering that service are absolutely key.
Where have you enjoyed the best service?
The best service is when you don’t realise it’s happening and then there’s a wow effect. A while ago I stayed at a Park Hyatt hotel. While I was out of the hotel I bought some small mangos – I love mango – and left a couple that I had not eaten on the desk in my hotel room. The next day the fruit basket in my room was filled with small mangos. The housekeeping staff had seen that I love mango, ordered some and changed my fruit bowl without me saying a word. I was so impressed. On another trip, this time to Japan, I happened to be away on my birthday. I was given a birthday card signed by all the reception staff at the hotel. I didn’t ask for the mango, I didn’t ask for the card, but receiving both was delightful to me and gave me a very positive experience. The staff anticipated something that would delight me. That is service excellence.
The Service Excellence programme at Fora is now underway.
Fora HQ and Front of House staff have been through initial training, EHL are formalising service delivery processes which will form the basis of future Fora employees training.
Fora’s co-founder Katrina Larkin comments: “The work with EHL is part of Fora’s commitment to delivering a positive experience to all of our Residents every day, and I, alongside the rest of the team at Fora, am excited to see the results from this partnership.”
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