by Paul Kiser
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In August I stayed in hotels in seven different cities (Dallas, TX; Bloomington, IL; Chicago,IL; Minneapolis, MN; Norfolk, VA; Richmond, VA; and Virginia Beach, VA..) In a previous post I expressed my displeasure with pay-for-Internet at the Millennium Hotel* in Minneapolis, which was slightly unfair as the hotel was a pleasant, although completely expected, experience. As a people warehouse the Millennium Hotel fits the mold that is typical of most business traveler-type hotels. However, out of the seven hotels of which I was a guest, there was one that made a big impression on me, the Embassy Suites in Richmond, Virginia.
(*Millennium Hotel: Go Away)
The main entrance the Embassy Suites in Richmond
The Embassy Suites hotel in Richmond, Virginia is not a flashy, Vegas-type hotel. From the outside it is a modern, yet modest building tucked back from busy streets; however, access to the Interstate is nearby. Like many hotels it is surrounded by a massive asphalt parking lot; however, the entrance is behind a landscaped island of trees. The great thing about the foliage is that it creates the sense from the outside that this hotel is not just a people warehouse like so many others.
After entering the hotel one doesn’t have to hunt for the Registration Desk as it is positioned in such a way that it oversees the entrance area, but it doesn’t intrude into the path of a guest walking to their room from the parking lot.
The Inner Courtyard
The striking feature of the hotel is the inner courtyard. I have seen this design before, but it was a refreshing change from institutional interior designs of most people warehouses. The open interior gives a community feel to the hotel rather than the impression that you just walked into a U-Store-It facility, as is the feel of most hotels. The interior landscaping and flowing water features create a tropical environment. This hotel was number six for me during my August travels and it was a refreshing change from the five previous corporate institutions of I had visited.
My room was also vastly different from my previous guest experiences. This was a true ‘suite’ and not just a room with a bed. There was a clearly defined living space with a television, desk, couch, and bar area. The bedroom was in the rear of the suite with a door that would allow privacy if two people were in the room and one wanted to watch television or work while the other one slept. The bedroom had a counter with running water and its own television. The bathroom was in the transition area between the living room and the bedroom offering easy access from both rooms. The entire suite is a brilliant design.
Of course the Internet was free (my minimum requirement) and I had no problems making a connection. If needed, I could have easily made the suite my home base. It is a comfortable living and working environment. I would have had no concerns about hosting small meetings in my room. I had everything I needed except for my Starbucks Chai Tea.
The Embassy Suite's Dining/Reception Area
One of my issues with most hotels is the assumption that people don’t want to interact with other people when they stay in a hotel. I’m as reclusive as most, but to visit a city and never come out of my hotel room is what creates that ‘warehouse feeling’.
At the Richmond Embassy Suites the open feel of the courtyard was put to good use by encouraging guests to congregate twice a day for a free manager’s reception each evening and free breakfast each morning. The reception offered adult and non-alcoholic beverages along with a variety of choices of snack items (hors devours.) The breakfast was as good or better than the breakfasts I’ve eaten at eaten at most Sunrise Rotary Clubs. Those who have eaten a breakfast at a Rotary Club may think that may not be saying much, but I typically pay $14 to $15 to eat a Rotary breakfast and this was free. The free gatherings were the most ‘value-added’ service I have experienced in a hotel.
From the few interactions I had with the hotel staff it was obvious that the Chief Executive of this property, Kathleen Lyons, and her staff understood the meaning of the word ‘guest’. I was always treated with respect and a smile. It was apparent that they were pleased that I choose their hotel over the other options in Richmond.
Giving great customer service is not that mysterious, but it requires that everyone from the bottom (no offense intended, Ms. Lyons, but in my world that means you) up to the top (the maintenance and housekeeping staff) must enjoy what they do and enjoy working with people. It was clear that the Embassy Suites in Richmond is not run by ‘management’, but managed through leadership. Bravo to Ms. Lyons and her team!
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