Branded Customer Service example - The Burj al Arab

Recently I have spent time reading the book, Branded Customer Service and discussing different experiences based on the book.  The basic premise of the book is that you need to unify your brand marketing and brand deliverance.  In other words, the brand should not just be in the domain of marketing - everyone in the company should understand what the brand needs and how they can deliver on brand service.

For anyone considering taking a seminar in customer service, I would suggest rather than spending your money there, stay at the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai for a few nights.  This hotel is very well known and it clearly advertises itself well.  On the home page, they state "Acknowledged as the best hotel in the world."  Their most well known brand message is "the only seven star hotel in the world".

Does the Burj meet these expectations.  My wife and I had the privilege of staying there for two nights last year in one of their panorama sweets (one step up from the cheapest room in the hotel).  We have visited other well regarded hotels, such as the Marriott Resort and Spa in Bangkok and the Hyatt Regency at Poipu Beach in Kauai.  The Hyatt in particular is considered one of the top ten resort hotels in the world.  We can say with certainty that it is not fair to even compare these hotels to the Burj - such is the huge difference in our stay.

First, words can do no justice to how gorgeous this hotel is inside and out.  For pictures of the inside of the hotel that we took see here.  The room that we stayed in was approximately 2500 sq ft and had two story panoramic views of the surrounding area.  However, as beautiful as the hotel was, it was nothing compared to the customer service received.

There is no main reception for the hotel.  Each floor has its own private reception, allowing you to get to know the personnel that help you.  Upon entering the room, complimentary fruits, cookies, and dates are placed in the room - with the cookies and dates wrapped in Burj al Arab packages.  Several newspapers and magazines are also provided.  In the bathroom, a full line of full sized Hermes products is provided both for him and her, which if you buy in the stores will set you back several hundred.

We had our own butler who proceeded to show us every detail of the room - it took over a half hour to see everything.  The room is so large that coming to the door is a chore - so they have remote controls that allow you to see who is at the door from every television (there are several) and unlock the door for him.  The butler actually stops by quite often to make sure you have everything and would from time to time bring more tasty snacks - such as cookies, fancy cocktails, and Foie Gras.  All of these were complimentary.

In fact almost everything at the hotel is included.  There are no fees for watching movies.  Just let them know what movie or CD you want and they will deliver it.  If you wish to surf the Internet or do any work, a laptop with Internet access is provided for you.  Monogrammed canvas shopping bags are provided in case you wish to walk about and access to the Wild Wadi water park is free.

One time we mentioned that we were going for a walk on the beach.  Within minutes they delivered complimentary beach sandals.  After our walk (less than an hour), our room was completely remade and on the bed were two bottles of foot balm - in case our feet were tired from the walk.  In fact, every time we left the room it was remade on returning.

Breakfasts were simply incredible - with top notch sweets prepared at local bakeries or flown in from Europe.  The plates and silverware were also a sight to behold.  The plates were from a well known manufacturer (I forgot the name) specially made for the Burj.  We saw the silverware in one of the malls and briefly entertained the option of buying a set for home - until we saw the pricetag was $20,000!

Other small things helped as well.  A pillow menu is provided so you can better sleep.  The hotel is so luxurious that guards stand at every approach to the hotel.  A limited number of people are allowed into the hotel (no cameras allowed) for $50 a person each day.  Other than those people, no one except guests are allowed within several hundred meters of the hotel.  We were of course allowed to photograph because we were guests.

One experience in particular occurred to me as on brand.  I had brought along a tripod to help take shots and I was photographing the interior of the hotel with the tripod.  As anyone who photographs a lot will know, many places have rules against tripods. After taking a few shots, a manager approached me and apologized, but said that tripods are not allowed.  I showed him my room key but he said that applied to guests as well.  However, instead of simply saying "no", he offered to schedule a personal photography session at some time when I would be allowed to use the tripod!  I was so stunned that I said I did not want to trouble them, and I folded up my tripod and apologized for the inconvenience.  However, if I had wanted to they could have scheduled a time where I could have taken all the tripod based shots I wanted.  We are planning on returning to the hotel again in the next several years, and I may take them up on the offer then.

While we stayed there we felt like celebrities - and evidentally the hotel is also popular with them.  We were told that three days before we arrived Will Smith checked out, and that Madonna had been there quite recently.  While we were staying there, Roger Federer was also there.  According to the butler, their rooms were the same as ours.

So in my opinion, was the hotel on brand.  Absolutely.