Lessons from Montage Beverly Hills

Although everyone probably has a romantic fantasy of boarding a private jet and absconding to some remote tropical island for a few days, sometimes that just isn’t in the cards. Sometimes, we urbanites have to settle for, well, the city. Is it even possible to experience true romance in the heart of the city?

I, for one, believe this to be true, and if there is one place that’s guaranteed to impress, it’s Beverly Hills in Los Angeles. Along with all the romantic potential, at this locale, within a few blocks of the famous Rodeo Drive are several of the world’s most recognized hotels.

Montage Beverly Hills is a relative newcomer to this esteemed group and has quickly established itself as a hotspot for an urban romantic getaway.

I had an opportunity to ask General Manager Hermann Elger a few questions and learn about how he delivers service to some of the most challenging guests in the world: celebrities.

Larry Mogelonsky: Montage caters to a demanding level of clientele. Tell me a little bit about how you maintain your guest service standards.

Hermann Elger: We train our employees to perform at high levels of service from the very beginning. This starts with modeling to them the same respect, humility and courtesy that we hope they show our guests. From guest service manager to housekeeping coordinator, our entire team is assigned the task of capturing as much information as possible about our guests. We log these “Montage Moments” immediately to compile extensive guest records. This enables us to really engage our guests and appeal to their interests with future bespoke experiences.

We are committed to knowing our guests, as we know they expect a high level of attention to detail and sense of urgency every time and for every request. We maintain our guest service standards by providing our team with the training to really take ownership of all guest requests, creating personalized gestures that exceed guest expectations and build lifelong memories. It’s these emotional connections that truly keep our guests returning time after time. 

LM: Does having residences at the property create greater challenges for your team?

HE: The residential component complements the guest experience. It has truly been designed for the special guest interested in the Montage lifestyle and all of the accompanying amenities. We have a dedicated residential manager who acts as concierge, personal assistant and estate manager to our residents. This role is essential to communicate the unique preferences of our permanent guests to our operations team in such areas as housekeeping, laundry or in-room dining.

Our residents are like family to our team, often celebrating their most memorable or momentous experiences with us. It is extremely fulfilling to foster relationships with them over time, and they truly appreciate the high level of service and hospitality with which we welcome them home each day.

LM: Tell me about the HR process: hiring, training and maintaining service excellence at all levels, from housekeeper to manager.

HE: We exercise meticulous hiring and screening practices and a structured interview process, and we immerse new associates in two full days of our training orientation upon arrival. They build a strong camaraderie there while learning our culture, etiquette and methodology. While there, we empower them with the steps to resolve a guest complaint, truly listen to our guests and create the unique surprises that can make a guest’s visit truly memorable.

We maintain service at all levels through ongoing training and learning opportunities and constant internal evaluations that all standards are being adhered to. Our associates enjoy the sense of teamwork that our culture provides and the recognition of a job well done, and we experience an extremely low turnover rate. As such, it is an extremely competitive job market, with a ratio of 80 applicants to every 19 positions available.

Whenever possible, we encourage promotion from within, and we train our growing leadership teams with ongoing learning opportunities based on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” We search for talent, sincerity and a genuine desire to serve; an associate who joins us armed with these attributes will become an expert in the Montage service culture very quickly.

LM: What is your ratio of repeat guests to new customers? How do you nurture guest loyalty? Do you cross-sell other Montage properties, and if so, how?

HE: Our ratio of repeat guests to new customers is approximately 60% repeat guests to 40% new guests. We nurture guest loyalty through recognition and a strong guest relations program. We have a great relationship with our sister properties and cross-sell whenever possible.

There is quite a bit of group and repeat crossover to our client base, and our guests have come to enjoy the Montage experience at all three of our unique properties in our three very special destinations. Our sales team is encouraged to promote all three properties with joint participation on sales calls and at trade shows and client events. Our team always travels with each hotel’s brochures and access to the occupancy and availability of our sister properties.

LM: What role do local and community activities play in your property’s development?

HE: The local community has welcomed us with open arms, and we thoroughly enjoy being involved — whether it’s participation from our chefs in local events such as the prestigious Greystone Concours d’Elegance or through our associate-led volunteer community outreach program, Hearts of Montage, which supports such initiatives as Clean the World, Race for the Cure and the Wendy Walk. Personally, I participate as a member in Rotary Club of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and their Economic Development Council. We assign responsibility to our associates of all levels to act as ambassadors in the community.

LM: The 2008 recession affected all luxury hotels. Is the Montage Beverly Hills fully recovered from this period? What is your forecast for the future?

HE: There is no denying that the recession affected the luxury market. We’re on our way to a full recovery with a very optimistic forecast for the future. ADR and occupancies continue to grow. Beverly Hills is such a unique destination, and we are encouraged by the continuously growing number of guests who visit us here at Montage.

The needs of our guests dictate the changes that we’ve made in the last few years. For example, we changed our previous restaurant to Scarpetta, bringing in celebrity chef Scott Conant, and we partnered with The Macallan and Lalique to create a unique experience in £10 to feature hand-crafted cocktails and light fare in an intimate and refined setting.

LM: How do you differentiate yourself from other luxury competitors?

HE: We reinforce comfortable luxury — a warm and welcoming service without pretension. It’s the grace and humility of our team that truly differentiates us from the competition. We welcome our guests as if we were welcoming them graciously into our very own homes.

LM: Anything else you would like to add?

HE: I frequently tell my team to avoid the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. I encourage them to break it, fix it and make it better. It is only by adapting this philosophy that we can eliminate the fear of making changes and truly become great.