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Kurt Siejkowski, Wilshire Limousine Services director of sales and marketing, and Ryan Kerzner, director of business development for WLS, who serves as the onsite transportation liaison for The Peninsula Beverly Hills, on the roof pool deck overlooking downtown Los Angeles.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — When guests enter The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel
, plenty of eyes cast toward them. Far from being looky-loos, these eyes reflect the attentions of a hotel staff with a 3-1 to guest ratio, one of the highest in hospitality.
Like its ornate, tiled, plush surroundings, the hotel cultivates immaculate service derived from customer details. The Peninsula has been the only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star-rated hotel in Southern California every year since 1993. It offers 195 guest rooms, suites and private villas, and sits just one block from the famed intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.
Of course, no five-star hotel would survive without chauffeured service, and the go-to provider, Wilshire Limousine Services of Los Angeles, supplies vehicles and liaisons to match hotel standards. The WLS house fleet includes a 2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost, a 2015 Cadillac Escalade, and a 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550. They fit right in with their exotic valet-parked peer vehicles (Bentleys-Rolls-Ferraris-Range Rovers) in the semi-circular drive. The house cars provide complimentary drop-off and pick-up service in the immediate Beverly Hills and Century City area. On a typical day, chauffeurs make about 30 to 50 runs.
The bond of client service between the hotel and the limousine company sets an example for operators of any fleet size on how to class-up and refine customer service levels in a way that transportation network companies (TNCs) never could. That approach can loosely be referred to as the WOW Factor, defined as service that anticipates guest needs to the point of surprising them. And it very well could be the competitive strategy that keeps the limousine industry viable for many years to come.
On a weekday afternoon in January, just days before the annual Golden Globe Awards at the nearby Beverly Hilton, LCT visited with the three men who make hotel-chauffeured five-star service happen: James Little, chief concierge at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, Ryan Kerzner, director of business development for Wilshire Limousine Services (WLS), who serves as the full-time onsite transportation liaison, and Kurt Siejkowski, WLS director of sales and marketing, who trains and meets with chauffeurs. The three managers coordinate and communicate constantly, not just on daily service, but on making sure the five service stars are always aligned.
James Little, chief concierge of The Peninsula Beverly Hills, has worked at the hotel since 1993, developing a sharp eye for discerning client preferences. Service success comes from creating a mindset that becomes a culture, he says. By being flexible and knowledgeable, service employees are more likely to find solutions.
As Little explains, the most notable factor about The Peninsula’s guest rhythms is the fact that it gets an 85% return ratio, which is remarkably high for a hotel when you consider hotels mostly get one-timers. Because the hotel is centrally located, Wilshire can draw on its 96-vehicle Los Angeles fleet for additional as-directed runs and airport transfers.
“The first impression’s the best impression, always,” Little says. “And once you make a really great first impression, people are always going to come back.”
The hotel’s service levels and quality control resemble those of WLS, Kerzner says. “You take the service level that the concierges expect, and what they perform, and infuse it into the chauffeurs and the company. The only real difference is we’re putting people in a leather seat in the back of a moving vehicle, and they’re putting them in a comfy room with amenities. When I was sitting in their training, they talked about everything, from arranging the magazines a specifc way, and opening the door a particular way. It’s on par and similar to us having mints laid out and wipes and Fiji waters. Everything has to be the way the hotel wants it, and the training that they put together is what we give to our chauffeurs.”
The basis for providing five-star service is to know how to listen to, observe and read your clients and guests.
“It takes a little bit of a practiced eye to understand, because often the clients don’t even really know what they want,” Little says. “They come in, they’re in an unfamiliar place, they’re traveling, they don’t know really what they want to do, but you can tell. After years and years of experience of dealing with the public and guests in this environment, it’s easy to tell what people need or want just by speaking with them.”
Along with facial expressions and voice inflections, age and demographics are good sources of visual information. “It is not necessarily about money, because we’re fortunate that in this environment anybody staying here pretty much is of means, because they can pretty much go wherever they want,” Little says. “That makes it a lot easier for us as well because we can offer more options.”
Little’s approach works well when helping guests choose restaurants. “I’m not going to send an older couple to The Nice Guy or Ysabel, which are two super trendy, gastro-pub, Kardashian-esque restaurants right now. I’m going to be sending them to something classic like Valentino that has the best wine in North America, and it’s very upscale, very dressy for Los Angeles, which is more skewed towards that demographic. For them, when they dine at restaurants, they wear a jacket and tie. If it’s two 22-year-olds who are on their honeymoon, I’m going to get them to Ysabel or The Nice Guy. They’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a blazer. So being able to read clients allow us to put them in the places where they want to be without them having to think about it.”