WanderlustWhat exceptional service means to Jumeirah

Jumeirah’s Chief Commercial Officer, Alexander Lee, shares his passion for the hospitality industry and tips for holding oneself to the highest standards

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Dubai is a city of world firsts, setting the scene for exceptional standards and extraordinary guest experiences. Jumeirah is a Dubai national champion and an acclaimed luxury hospitality leader, making up many of the iconic silhouettes of Dubai’s world-renowned skyline, as exemplified through the city’s flagship hotel, and global icon, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, which transformed the way luxury was defined.

Here, Jumeirah’s Chief Commercial Officer, Alexander Lee, explains how he became so passionate about the hospitality industry and how the group maintains such impeccable service, quality and standards for their guests.

 

What inspired you to work in hospitality, and what do you most enjoy about it?

There are so many reasons why I love working in the hospitality sector but probably what stands out the most – and what drove me to embark upon this career in the first place – is that we are making people happy. Our business is all about the guest – he or she is at the heart of everything we do. So, whether you’re a concierge providing personalised recommendations for an unforgettable holiday experience, a member of the housekeeping team working behind the scenes to ensure all spaces are spotless, or even on the management side like myself, looking for ways in which to elevate their overall experience, we’re creating special moments that bring joy and delight.

There is also such diversity in the hospitality sector, it’s a global ecosystem, from our guests to our colleagues, to the experiences we offer across our property portfolio - there is a real sense of variety. Our current portfolio spans 23 properties in prominent destinations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East with a view to expanding our portfolio into Indonesia in the coming year.

No two days are ever the same. The world of hospitality is dynamic, agile and always interesting, so it keeps me on my toes! Another reason why I enjoy it so much.

 

To you, what is the essence of exceptional service?

For me, it’s all about anticipating and meeting the individual needs of each guest and offering that all-important personal warmth and human connection when doing so.

We are a service industry, crafting experiences for our guests. We’re not selling tangible goods as such, strictly memories of their travels. Their moments and memories are curated by our employees. You may build a great hotel, but the magic comes from our team that surprises, cares for and goes beyond the call of duty to ensure that every guest has a memorable stay. People will remember those employees, the family meals and those fun activities.

 

How do you maintain that consistent level and standard of service?

We define our guest experience through three pillars; sublime gastronomy, surprising design and architecture and signature service. These pillars guide all that we do, and in the case of signature service, set out standards that define what is to be done and how. However, we have a saying that “quality is a thousand details” and I believe exceptional service is about a thousand nuances, nuances that introduce elements of surprising innovation with impressive execution. Our colleagues therefore have the freedom to act as they see fit but always with the aim of upholding our service vision. A blend of consistency and flexibility is the ultimate goal.

Nevertheless, a strong training programme is very important to ensure that teams not only understand that vision, but also the standards which must be achieved. We work with the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management to help us develop our colleagues and attract the next generation of talent, so we can continue to offer outstanding services to our guests. Our Jumeirah colleagues also have access to dedicated social platforms to share best practices with one another and elevate their skill set through collaboration.

It’s also important to keep colleagues motivated because if they’re not, standards will inevitably slip. The key is to be agile, and to adapt as the customer’s behaviours change, to ensure an exceptional guest experience, every time. A great example of this is when COVID-19 hit and our stringent safety measures were first introduced. We had to quickly adjust and conduct Group-wide colleague training to ensure their successful adoption. Taking just a small example, pouring water or offering dates to our guests had always been part of our DNA and a cornerstone of attentive and immediate service. In-line with the social distancing measures, our service needs had to become more discreet with greater distance where guests signal for the interaction they require.

 

How does Jumeirah go above and beyond guest expectations?

The magic comes from our many colleagues who surprise, care for and go beyond the call of duty to ensure that every guest has a memorable stay.

On a more macro level, we also closely monitor consumer behaviour, industry trends and preferences so that we can quickly adapt, using those insights to further improve our service offering and strengthen the brand. One example of this is during lockdown; while the hospitality sector was facing one of its greatest challenges, we used this time to carefully plan and anticipate what our guests would want after things started to open up. We knew safety was going to be key, so the first thing we did was put practices and policies in place to change colleague and consumer behaviour, closely monitoring their adoption day in, day out, to ensure their safety. We invested all our energy in doing things right and went above and beyond. As a result, Jumeirah Al Naseem was the first hotel globally to be safeguarded by a third party, in our case Bureau Veritas, a global leader in quality control. 11 further hotels have since been certified.

We also believe that consistent innovation allows us to stay at the forefront of guests’ minds and continuously exceed their expectations. While focusing on safety, we also saw lockdown as a time to be creative, to reinvent our service and to be agile in the dining space, by opening pop-up experiences that cater to new expectations. This included French Riviera, our French Mediterranean concept on the beach at Jumeirah Al Qasr, and most recently Sal, a chic new beach club and striking Southern European dining destination on the Terrace at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, to give those in the UAE an unforgettable experience.

 

Can you give an example of when you provided a service that went above and beyond normal expectations?

In-line with guests wanting more customised, contactless experiences we digitalised a number of our services so that many items are now bookable from our platforms without colleague interaction, if desired. For example, guests can now use their smart devices to plan and manage bespoke holiday itineraries through our e-concierge service, now live across our global portfolio. They can even get food delivered straight to their room, restaurant table or sun lounger with Jumeirah e-menu, now available at Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Mina A’Salam and Jumeirah Al Qasr in Dubai.

 

What sort of improvements have you seen in Jumeirah’s service in 2020?

We are known for our distinguished service at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. The most important enhancement, in my opinion, is that we have become more agile in responding to guests’ differing needs and expectations. We’ve adopted brand differentiating technologies to enhance our guest’s experience across the entire guest journey, from our website and contact centres to contactless check-in and service on demand, through our e-butler and e-concierge mobile applications, which we’ve rolled out in multiple languages. We really are focusing on delivering services that respond to the uniqueness of each guest and crafting that personalised experience for everyone who walks through our doors. On top of that, our service offering has evolved with new and improved facilities and experiences available to our guests, ready to surprise and impress them. Jumeirah was also quick to adapt its guest service model to protect its guests and colleagues and set an industry benchmark when becoming the first hotel group in the world to secure the Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label for Jumeirah Al Naseem, which proved pivotal in restoring guest confidence and supporting business continuity under challenging conditions.

 

Looking ahead, do you plan to add to your guest experience in 2021 and beyond?

Absolutely. We will always look for ways in which to add to and enhance the Jumeirah guest experience – this constant innovation is what allows us to stay at the forefront of guests’ minds and create a really compelling offering.

We also believe that the future of travel is going to be about the memorable moments and experiences worth sharing, even more so than they have been in the past. These cannot be achieved by a commoditised delivery, rather an identity-led experience that guests feel is unique. That, once again, will be about the uniqueness of the offering; whether that’s through service, design or product experience.


Visit our ‘Hotels’ section on the Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts website to explore the full list of unforgettable Jumeirah destinations.