““The hospitable instinct is not wholly altruistic. There is pride and egoism mixed up with it.”” – Max Beerbohm

I’m back in this amazing artificial city for an investment conference and some meetings.

To my surprise, we are staying at the Four Seasons, without a doubt the best chain hotel in the world. Normally, you’d expect to fork out a small fortune – maybe $350 a day – for a regular room. But because this is Las Vegas, where everything is subsidized by gambling, our rate is a digestible $190.

If you come to Vegas, stay here. You will be pampered and pawed over like a movie star. It will spoil you for the Marriott.

The Four Seasons is brilliantly managed. From your first moment of contact till your last, you get nothing but first-class treatment. At most hotels, you are lucky if a doorman is available when you pull up to the entrance. And if he gets the door, he’s usually busy with three other cars at the same time. If he greets you, he’s looking somewhere else, at the next taxi, perhaps.

At the Four Seasons, the door is always opened for you. The doorman looks you in the eye, smiles, and welcomes you. It’s a small difference, but it sets the tone – one that is consistently maintained throughout your stay.

You don’t have to bother with your luggage. The doorman takes care of that. He gives you a ticket that you give to the receptionist, another impeccably dressed, smiling employee. The receptionists, the concierges, the doormen and valets – even the security guards and the people who clean and maintain the hotel – are all as good as they can be. They are knowledgeable and attentive, well spoken and courteous, cheerful but never too personal. Superbly trained, they deport themselves in a way that tells you they are proud of what they do.

I would love to see exactly how the Four Seasons develops such an amazing staff, and I’d love to know who sets and keeps these high standards. The employee-training system must begin with great hiring. You can see at a glance that the Four Seasons gets the pick of the litter when it comes to hotel personnel. They are noticeably smarter, more articulate, and better looking. I wonder whether the Four Seasons pays more than other hotels. Certainly there must be prestige associated with working for what is generally acknowledged to be the finest chain hotel in the world.

I’d like to see how the housekeepers are trained – who taught them, for instance, to gather up my grooming clutter (the toothbrush and toothpaste, razor and shaving cream, etc.) and place it neatly on a cotton cloth beside the wash basin. How are they smart enough to be able to sort through the mess on my desk and arrange it in neat little stacks that make sense even to me?

If you do stay at a Four Seasons hotel, use the concierge service. It will establish in your mind a standard of assistance that is easy to call “excellent.” First, the staff is approachable. As someone who is afraid to ask for directions, I appreciate how good these people are at making me feel comfortable about all the things I don’t know – the location of the nearest Banana Republic, where I can sip cognac and smoke cigars without feeling like a criminal, how scary the roller coaster is at New York New York, and how much the Bellagio art collection is really worth. They know the answer or find it out for you. And there is virtually nothing they won’t do for you.

You are working on your laptop by the side of the pool and the ice in your tea is starting to melt. Before you can give it a second thought, someone is there to freshen it. You want to schedule a massage for yourself and your two brothers in three hours at six p.m.? No problem. If it were another hotel, you’d have to book a six-o’clock two weeks in advance. At the Four Seasons, it happens when you want it to.

The quality of the Four Seasons in Las Vegas is easy to notice because the hotel happens to be located in the same building as the Mandalay Bay, a luxury property, but not at the same level. This proximity gives you a quick and impressive lesson in the difference between very good and excellent.

If you want to ask for help at the front desk at the Mandalay, you may have to wait in line for five minutes to get the wrong advice. One building. Two hotels.

Think about your business and the service you are providing your customers. What kind of first impression are you giving? Is it as good as the Four Seasons’? Does it suggest, from the outset, that they are going to be treated like celebrities? (I suggested a standard for this in Message #137 – the ETR Golden Rule of Customer Service – that you should treat each of your customers as if he were your only customer.) When your customers have questions or concerns, are they given the kind of deferential responsiveness one gets at the concierge desk of the Four Seasons?

When your customers “see” your business (either in your stores or through your sales literature, do they have the impression that they are in an impeccably kept, professionally managed environment?

If you had to rate your service by hotel standards, what would you be? The Holiday Inn? The Marriott? The Mandalay Bay? Or the Four Seasons?

And if your business is not up to Four Seasons standards, what does that make you? Can you be a first-class person and run a second-class operation?

Put positively, imagine how great it would make you feel to know that your customers get better service from you than they get anywhere else at any price.

Think about it. Do something about it.