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Jeremy McCarthy
Details matter

Attention to detail is a superpower, says Jeremy McCarthy. If you have this skill, use it. If you don’t, develop it


One of the first general managers I worked for in the early 90s was Chris Hart at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Santa Barbara.

Recently appointed supervisor of the pool area, I was doing a walk-through of the facilities with him. He paused for a moment and asked me to point out anything out of place. I glanced around – the pool was clean and tidy, towels folded neatly and loungers all in a row. “I don’t see anything in particular,” I told him nervously.

“Look at the cabanas,” he said. “The curtains are all raised to different heights. Most guests will not pick up on this or complain about it. But if you made them all the same height, the space would feel different and guests might notice that feeling. Details matter.”

This would be the first (of many) lessons in my hospitality career about attention to detail. Attention to detail, I’ve learned, is a superpower. When used well, it’s a powerful tool that means:

1 We create spaces that are relaxing, enjoyable and harmonious

2 We design flawless service interactions – “They thought of everything!” guests will say

3 We anticipate what guests want before they even know to ask

Practice makes perfect
Throughout my career, I’ve had many opportunities to develop my attention to detail. I spent months at a hotel in Beverly Hills, for example, agonising over the best system for the perfect folding of pool towels. At a resort in Maui, the manager would check the cleanliness of the steamroom with a cotton swab to find any dirt or mould hiding in the creases of tiles. In another hotel spa, I fixated on sourcing the perfect container for tea bags so they neatly aligned, with just enough sticking out for guests to know what flavours were available. Details matter.

If you have this skill, it will serve you well in a career in wellness or hospitality. If you don’t have it yet, you can hone it with intention. The best way to practice is to walk through your department with the eyes of a guest. What do they see when they lie on your massage bed? When relaxing in your tea lounge? When sitting on the toilet in your changing room?

Working in luxury means we don’t just go from good to great. We strive for perfection – to eliminate flaws no matter how minuscule. Our job is first, to notice. Then, to fix it.

Everything matters
Great hospitality professionals are known for obsessing over details. We fluff the pillows just so, fold our napkins into origami artwork and place a flower under treatment beds for something to look at during a massage. For the true hotelier, no detail escapes our attention.
Everything matters.

And once you have this skill, it’s like a beacon you can’t turn off – even when you’re outside work. In every establishment we visit, we see the dust on the top of the cabinet. The employee noticeboard that’s obstructing the customer’s view. The ever-so-slightly misaligned merchandise on the shelf. Ask us about a recent interaction with any business and we’ll give 30 suggestions for details that could be improved.

It’s a superpower that means you become better at everything you do. Attention to detail helped me to be successful in creating exquisite spa facilities and experiences. And it surely helped Chris Hart, who climbed the ranks of Four Seasons for more than three decades, eventually becoming president of Asia and then the Americas.

photo: Mandarin Oriental

Jeremy McCarthy has worked in the spa industry for 34 years. As group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental, he oversees spa, wellness and leisure operations at 35 luxury hotels globally. Contact him with your views on Twitter @jeremymcc

Working in luxury means striving for perfection Credit: photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
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News   Products   Magazine   Subscribe
Jeremy McCarthy
Details matter

Attention to detail is a superpower, says Jeremy McCarthy. If you have this skill, use it. If you don’t, develop it


One of the first general managers I worked for in the early 90s was Chris Hart at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Santa Barbara.

Recently appointed supervisor of the pool area, I was doing a walk-through of the facilities with him. He paused for a moment and asked me to point out anything out of place. I glanced around – the pool was clean and tidy, towels folded neatly and loungers all in a row. “I don’t see anything in particular,” I told him nervously.

“Look at the cabanas,” he said. “The curtains are all raised to different heights. Most guests will not pick up on this or complain about it. But if you made them all the same height, the space would feel different and guests might notice that feeling. Details matter.”

This would be the first (of many) lessons in my hospitality career about attention to detail. Attention to detail, I’ve learned, is a superpower. When used well, it’s a powerful tool that means:

1 We create spaces that are relaxing, enjoyable and harmonious

2 We design flawless service interactions – “They thought of everything!” guests will say

3 We anticipate what guests want before they even know to ask

Practice makes perfect
Throughout my career, I’ve had many opportunities to develop my attention to detail. I spent months at a hotel in Beverly Hills, for example, agonising over the best system for the perfect folding of pool towels. At a resort in Maui, the manager would check the cleanliness of the steamroom with a cotton swab to find any dirt or mould hiding in the creases of tiles. In another hotel spa, I fixated on sourcing the perfect container for tea bags so they neatly aligned, with just enough sticking out for guests to know what flavours were available. Details matter.

If you have this skill, it will serve you well in a career in wellness or hospitality. If you don’t have it yet, you can hone it with intention. The best way to practice is to walk through your department with the eyes of a guest. What do they see when they lie on your massage bed? When relaxing in your tea lounge? When sitting on the toilet in your changing room?

Working in luxury means we don’t just go from good to great. We strive for perfection – to eliminate flaws no matter how minuscule. Our job is first, to notice. Then, to fix it.

Everything matters
Great hospitality professionals are known for obsessing over details. We fluff the pillows just so, fold our napkins into origami artwork and place a flower under treatment beds for something to look at during a massage. For the true hotelier, no detail escapes our attention.
Everything matters.

And once you have this skill, it’s like a beacon you can’t turn off – even when you’re outside work. In every establishment we visit, we see the dust on the top of the cabinet. The employee noticeboard that’s obstructing the customer’s view. The ever-so-slightly misaligned merchandise on the shelf. Ask us about a recent interaction with any business and we’ll give 30 suggestions for details that could be improved.

It’s a superpower that means you become better at everything you do. Attention to detail helped me to be successful in creating exquisite spa facilities and experiences. And it surely helped Chris Hart, who climbed the ranks of Four Seasons for more than three decades, eventually becoming president of Asia and then the Americas.

photo: Mandarin Oriental

Jeremy McCarthy has worked in the spa industry for 34 years. As group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental, he oversees spa, wellness and leisure operations at 35 luxury hotels globally. Contact him with your views on Twitter @jeremymcc

Working in luxury means striving for perfection Credit: photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
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ISPA Conference 2024

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+ More diary  
 


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Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

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