Why price doesn't matter at the Four Seasons

Here's a great essay on customer service—a must-read for anyone in the meetings and/or hospitality business. A snip:

    Want a definition of a remarkable experience? How about, Reading my mind?

    Really, that’s all your prospects, customers and clients want. They want what they want, the way they want it (preferably, without having to ask for it) – no more, no less...

    The Four Seasons...always seems to know what I want before I do. If I want assistance there is someone there ready to give it. If I want to do it myself, they leave me alone. They read my mind, and as a result I pay significantly more for a room than I pay elsewhere. Why? Because the staff there has been trained to respect their customers and treat them as they themselves would expect to be treated under the circumstances. They pay close attention to what their customers are doing at any particular moment and “read” their level of need. That’s how they always seem to be reading my mind. It’s a level of attention for which there is no substitute. I simply can’t find that feeling having someone read my mind anywhere else at any price.

Are you reading potential attendees' minds when you're putting together a program? Or do you have a standard you adhere to, regardless of whether or not it's what people really want at that point in time (like the writer's other example of a restaurant that was so attentive it got in the way of what he was trying to do)? And how do you read people's minds a year in advance, when you line up session speakers for a big conference?

We in the press have a similar dilemma when we try to decide what to cover, when. Especially when it comes to something like Katrina—how much is too much? How far in time beyond the disaster should we continue to report on it? While we don't always get it right, we try hard. One of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten about Medical Meetings was at a show last month, when someone asked me how we always managed to have the story she wants to read, when she wants to read it. For at least that one person, we're giving Four Seasons' service, and that makes me very happy.

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