Fairmont Hotels wins my loyalty through great customer service

I travel more than I’d like to and I stay too way too many nights at hotels. Like every other frequent traveller, I know what it’s like to be stared through, made to feel like an anonymous widget being throughput at the security line, in the airport, on the plane.

But Fairmont Hotels delighted me tonight when, out of the blue, they upgraded me to a suite. Not just any suite, but the Prime Minister’s Suite. Now they’ve got a customer for life.

I stay at Fairmont Hotels because they were once a Canadian chain that traced its lineage back to CP Hotels. And they have some of the most unique properties in North America. All of the great old railroad hotels in Canada. The Chateau Frontenac . Banff Springs . Lake Louise . A few years ago, CP Hotels merged with Fairmont and picked up properties like the Copley Plaza in Boston and the Fairmont San Francisco . Yes, they aren’t the trendy properties that people flock to for something new. But they have something special. Every one of these hotels has character.

And Fairmont has worked hard to achieve a level of customer service that matches the architecture of their hotels. For the past two days, I was at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. And from the time I checked in through every meal to check out, I had the feeling that people actually cared about whether I was happy at their hotel. The Waterfront’s employees make it a special place by acting special. They really seem to like working at the Fairmont and they project a sense of pride in the hotel and the job they do there. Yes, it’s intangible. But I truly feel it.

So, that brings me to tonight. I flew from Vancouver to Toronto. And because I had a morning meeting, I could only take a mid day flight. All the direct flights were full. So, I had to route through Calgary. That means 8 hours with a connection. A long day after a meeting and an arrival after 10PM in Toronto.

(The fact that the first news I heard when I stepped into a taxi was that my hometown Ottawa Senators had just completed one of the greatest NHL chokes of all time by being eliminated in four straight games from the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Pittsburgh only added to my sense that this was one of those days…)

But when I pulled myself out of the taxi and went to the registration desk of the Fairmont Royal York my day changed completely.

First of all, Fabio Gamberdella, who frequently checks me in when I arrive at the hotel (Fairmont, you’ve got a great employee in Fabio) told me that my room has been upgraded from the standard room I’d reserved. That’s nice. (And it’s even nicer that Fabio addresses me by name and actually remembers me.)

But when I arrived at my room, I discover that I haven’t just been upgraded to a nicer room. I’ve been upgraded to the Prime Minister Suite. Let me say that again. The Prime Minister Suite. Nice. More than nice. Spectacular.

Fairmont didn’t need to do this. I was staying in one of the lowest priced rooms in the hotel on my corporate rate. So, I’m not exactly a high roller.

Fairmont could have simply left the room empty tonight and put me in the type of room I’d reserved. But they didn’t. And that was very, very smart of them.

Many other businesses would simply decide that because the higher value unit had not rented, they would simply leave it empty and deliver to the customer exactly what he had paid for.

But Fairmont has a database. And they know that I stay with them over 90 nights a year. And tonight Fairmont made me feel special. And that’s worth a lot. It’s definitely earned my loyalty for some time to come.

Now, the cynic would say that Fairmont should do a lot more for a frequent traveller who spends more than one in four nights every year at their hotels. And they do. Of course, I’m a member of their President’s Club frequent frequent guest program. And I receive all the privileges and perks that their marketing material promises.

But what was so special about tonight was that the upgrade was unasked for. Unexpected. And announced to me by Fabio, an employee who treated me like someone he recognizes.

Why aren’t more businesses smart like this in the way they treat their best customers?

And so that you know what I’m talking about, here’s a video that conveys how I feel about Fairmont tonight.