Are you interested in service orientation? Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp is an autobiography of hotel management magnate. The book about great customer service. And if you are interested in learning about customer service, and looking for good examples, this book delivers. Service orientation is one of the 10 skills needed for future skills.
If you’re interested in:
- How to be a good customer service rep.
- How to improve your customer service skills.
- What does great customer service look like?
- What does five star service look like?
The you’ll find those answers and more in Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp
Below, you’ll find a summary and review of Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp. I share my thoughts about the book with you.
All images in the post are clickable!
Initial Thoughts on Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp
Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp, is an autobiography which weaves in the story of the renowned five-star Four Seasons Hotel chain. Isadore Sharp started out as a builder and ended up as a global five-star hotel management magnate.
UPDATE: First published in May 2011
Related Post: Job Skills List: Top 10 Skills to Thrive in the Future
What is Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp About?
The Four Seasons created a brand name built on delivering impeccable quality and service. It did so by creating the culture within the company to make it possible, while building a brand recognized globally during the process. Their business model is based on those four pillars: quality, service, culture and brand.
By following the Golden Rule, which is to treat others as you would like to be treated, the company puts employees first, including front-line workers, knowing that they would take care of the clientele. The company lived the talk. Employees were given the authority and flexibility to make decisions that took care of the customers.
Like the most successful brands and companies that were built to last, Isadore Sharp looked to other companies that were best in class to identify products and services that could be transported to his organization. He looked to other industries and countries for best practices. And he paid attention to the details; the devil is always in the details. He introduced concierge service, an idea he borrowed from a European company. He tested the service first in Washington, DC, and it was so popular that he introduced it in other hotels. Shortly thereafter competitors followed suit.
In 1968, after his wife Rosalie returned from a spa she remarked that spa food tasted better so Isadore investigated to find out what guests eating trends were, and what his competitors were doing.
Also after a brief vacation with Rosalie at Canyon Ranch in Arizona, a premier resort with spa and fitness, he asked two vice presidents overseeing six hotel projects at the time to investigate the feasibility of including spas. Being the first to introduce fitness centers in hotels, the vice presidents reported that the spa would make a good adjunct to fitness.
Over the years, the Four Seasons had many firsts in the industry: bathrobes, shampoo, non-smoking floors, hair dryers, make-up mirrors, healthy cuisine and so on. When he copied what was done in other industries and countries, he made substantial improvements.
Contents of Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp
Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp is divided into four Parts:
Part I: The Immigrant’s Son
Part II: Starting at the Top
Part III: Community and Culture
Part IV: A Fresh Approach
Part V: Worldwide Excellence
Part VI: In a League of our Own
Part VII: Staying Ahead
And each part includes several chapters that chronicle the journey of Isadore Sharp and those he interacted and worked with as he built a global brand. Sharp provides many examples to demonstrate what his team did and how they did it. He candidly talks about his successes and setbacks. He complemented the skills he lacked by hiring the appropriate people. And he allowed people to do their work by trusting and respecting them.
The organization expanded primarily through joint ventures, which were created by building enduring relationships based on mutual advantage and trust. The company had established such a reputation that deals were constantly presented, which facilitated the rapid expansion of the organization into difficult to penetrate regions. He includes the process of the expansion for many of the regions, the problems the company faced, how they worked through them and the end results.
To become a global brand in the hospitality industry, there are many things which the Four Seasons did a few of which are included below.
Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp – Things That Make the Four Seasons Unique
- Hire local talent and promote from within.
- Each hotel is unique and captures the nuances of the area it is located in.
- Each hotel is better in every way than the last.
- Have very unique spas.
- Hire the very best chefs for a world-class dining experience.
- Sign long-term management contracts for impeccable service and business model continuity.
- Hire for personality and train for technical skills.
- People come before profits.
- Leaders and innovators.
- The brand presells the hotel, so potential joint venture partners are constantly pitching opportunities.
Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp – Five Great Ideas
- Do not make judgments and decisions in a vacuum, also look at how they will impact others
- Continuous minor improvements when added up over time ultimately lead to major changes.
- Challenges and setbacks are often disguised opportunities.
- Delivering true value to customers lead to profits.
- Be flexible, make decisions quickly and seize opportunities as they arise.
In Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp there are countless examples that are duplicable for those wanting to excel through quality and service. To begin the journey, ask yourself the following two questions.
- What would the customers consider important?
- What will the customers recognize as value?
Final Thoughts on Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp
While reading Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp, I noticed distinct similarities between it and The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: A Handbook For Implementing Great Service in Your Organization. The similarities make perfect sense since both companies compete on quality and service in their respective industries. For those interested in quality, service and entrepreneurship, below are some previous posts for your perusal.
I recommend Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp because there are many ideas that you can use. And Steve Jobs from Apple introduced Concierge Service at the Apple Store based on the Four Seasons’ Concierge Service. If you are interested in great customer service this is an excellent book to read.
Participate in the Read the World Facebook Group!