Success Stories: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

For keeping it real and fun, we wanted to share a little insight into one of our most fun projects – one that was Eau-mazingly successful, because of its realness and authenticity.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward luxury 5 star boutique hotels and the UK-based Lewis Family Trust (known for their global property portfolio and owners of River Island) wanted to move into this market with their property in Palm Beach, Florida.

For 10 years, the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa property was managed by Ritz Carlton with an established market position, returning guests and high employee loyalty. In mid-2013, the Lewis Family Trust took on the management of the property with the directive to create a unique, new-fashioned luxury experience.

In moving to this new name with its own style of luxury, (oft described as ‘whimsical’) the Eau Hotelier population were worried  – how could they bring this new and unfamiliar brand to life, whilst still achieving the 5-star, 5-diamond ratings they had previously scored?

We started with the launch of the new values: Hoteliers, Integrity, Authentic, Intuitive and Goosebumps and an Eau-mazing staff event – think infused water, colourful cupcakes, team activities and the celebrity treatment for all staff.

After this, we explored the values, one at a time, across the entire population. ‘Hoteliers’ looked at empowerment and personal responsibility. ‘Integrity’ was about delivering on promises. ‘Authentic’ connected the Forbes standards to their greater purpose; infusing that Eau new-fashioned-luxury touch in achieving the rating. ‘Intuitive’ looked at how asking the right questions and being attentive (in the right kind of way) could help guests feel at home and offer a seamless experience. Culminating in ‘Goosebumps’; Bridge worked with the team to put all the values into action to create unique, personalised ‘goosebump’ moments for each guest experience, leaving a long-lasting impression and leading to guest loyalty.

Why was this project so fun? By tapping into the stories, talents, hobbies and uniqueness of each and every Hotelier, we were able to bring their individual authenticity to the table as part of the guest experience. And Eau-mazing characters they were – see our video below!

In 2016 Bridge Training & Events won silver at the UK Employee Experience Awards for Business Change or Transformation for their work at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

The hotel’s short-term goal was achieved within the first full year of operation, when they received the coveted #1 ranking on the Condé Nast Top 25 Resorts in Florida Readers’ Choice Awards.

Contact me on for a copy of the case study.

Transforming a 5-star into a Stand Out

The count down is definitely on to BridgeCon2015 and the preparations for a great few days are well underway. If you have yet to book your ticket, I encourage you to do so as it helps the Bridge Team to ensure that all arrangements are fine-tuned to each delegate’s requirements.

Each week I have put the spotlight on various speakers presenting throughout Day One and today it is my absolute pleasure to focus on Simon Lewis and the Eau-mazing case study that he will bring to life at the conference. As our final keynote speaker of the day, Simon will take delegates across the Atlantic (though not literally!) and share the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa brand, people and culture journey.

Having been personally involved in this transformation project, and having spent a great deal of time both at the hotel and amongst what I consider to be some of the best hoteliers in the industry, I know that this talk is one not to miss. Simon is a true visionary and I feel honoured that he has taken time from his incredibly busy schedule to come share this story with BridgeCon delegates.

Simon leads the charge for employee engagement and building a culture that truly reflects the brand values and ultimately creates a customer experience that leaves hotel guest with Goosebumps. This is a good thing as ‘Goosebumps’ just happens to be one of the Eau values. Not only did he and his team transform a hotel, they shaped an industry by setting the creativity benchmark that many only aspire to.

Customers challenge the ordinary in search for authentic service

As published in CX Magazine, 1 September 2015

“Boutique Hotel” is a term that was initially used in North America and the UK to describe small hotels in unique settings with upscale and stylish accommodation. These hotels began appearing in the 1980s in cities like London, New York and San Francisco and remained secret escapes for a very exclusive traveller. In recent years we have seen an explosion in this market as many customers move away from the big chains – the ones that offer a consistent service, the kind that is the same no matter where you are in the world. The label “Boutique Hotel” is no longer a term used just for the small, as many large hotels have since entered this market, revolutionising what it means to offer 5-star service.

I had the privilege of being part of the Bridge Team that saw one such hotel transform from what was a leading, long-standing 5-star global chain into an amazing five-star, new-fashioned luxury hotel. This took 92% of the staff population that moved over to the new brand from thinking with a traditional service mindset to offering a bespoke and authentic experience-based approach. With Bridge joining as part of the existing transformation team, I was brought into a creative world that has changed the way I look at service forever.

The new hotel, Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is a magical place that offers its very own unique way of connecting to the guest experience.

Without question, the stylish aesthetics and breath-taking landscape of the property sets it apart, but there is more to its boutique offering that warrants further exploration.

As I entered into this new world of service I had to ask myself, ‘why are boutique hotels so fashionable at the moment?’ and ‘how does their service differ from the traditional 5-star style that the market has become accustomed to?’ I also needed to better understand what it was that guests were seeking in this alternative and evolving market. Being at the cutting edge of the Eau transformation, I had the opportunity to work directly with all the employees in the hotel, sit at the table with the concept and brand creators, and also be a resident and live amongst the guests. When I say privilege I do not use the word lightly, as these three influences were merging in real-time all around me and giving me insight into why all customer service needs a little more “boutique” in today’s world.

When I first heard the term “new-fashioned luxury” at Eau, I thought that this, in itself, spoke volumes for the service that many of today’s customers are looking for.

As luxury was still a constant, it stood for maintaining high standards of great service, yet also alludes to a promise with a twist. Traditional 5-star service focuses its ‘attention to detail’ on ensuring that a clear set of processes is followed and gains guest confidence with the consistent manner in which it is delivered. It is never to question the process, as this would not reflect well on the agreed set of customary standards set forth.To maintain this standard, the contract and expectation of service is pre-set prior to engagement with the guest, and hence no real personal interaction is required.

Previously, I was under the impression that in the boutique hotel market the ‘attention to detail’ was firmly placed on the uniqueness of its design and furnishings. This is clearly a great opportunity for a hotel to showcase its own unique personality and style, but what I have learned about the magic that sits within true stars such as Eau and other boutique hotels is hidden deep within the twist. It extends beyond the traditional and gives the power to its employees to build relationships with guests – and herein lays the detail.

Never in question is the high standard, but the attention that is applied to learning the detail by seeing guests as individuals allows the service to be both appropriate and authentic.

In true hotelier fashion, this more relaxed and autonomous approach allows them to go beyond the expected and create experiences intuitively.

As customers across all markets are evolving, I think that we can learn more from what I see happening in the hospitality industry. Service is embedded in its fabric, albeit some can argue that service standards can vary based on the stars beside the name. Customers want more involvement in the experiences and engagement on offer by those they choose to engage with. Over the years I have seen more and more services move to online application or to offshore as a direct result of cost saving and convenience, and that is fine for many transactional services. In hotel terms, some nights you just want to lay your head on a pillow, and a roadside motel will suit you fine on that night.

At Eau they call those unexpected engagement moments of customer delight “Goosebumps”, and as it so happens, this is one of their five values.

It is creating a true connection with a guest based on building a relationship that allows the individual Hotelier to create, in real time, something that is meaningful to that person. It is the foundation of the boutique hotel, and interestingly in this market, is at odds with what is perceived as the traditional 5-star service. It is removing the standardisation and cookie-cutter approach to service, and using this interaction time to make an emotive memorable mark.

In general customer service I like to think that it is coming back to the traditional in some ways, and seeing customers as real people. Having providers demonstrate that they care about their customers by giving their front of house staff the time to really listen to what is important to guests and the autonomy to act on it. It is giving employees the freedom to make real-time decisions that can truly impact on the emotive connections that customers so desire with the interactions that they choose to engage with.

To be a true Hotelier is to be a true master of the trade, and to be a true service professional should follow the same degree of credibility. Hence a higher degree of trust needs to be built into organisational cultures in order that they can begin to behave more like a boutique hotel and less like a roadside motel. Service should be a privilege and an art form but it also needs the twist to make it stand out and be a truly memorable experience. To me, this is why Culture, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience needs to be truly and authentically aligned to the boutique projected personality of each service offering and brand promise.

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