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I wanted to bring hospitality to the office. Here’s what I’ve learned

Yep! That’s right. This article is probably the first time you’ve ever seen the words hospitality on my blog. Heck my background has been in digital media and entrepreneurship and all that but hospitality?

How did that come about?

Well a big part of what we wanted to achieve with Colony as a co-working space in KL was to bring a far better working experience to people at work. The word experience is key here because an experience is not just delivered by how nice our co-working space looks. Nope… experiences are delivered with hardware (how physically nice the space looks) to software (how the staff treat you).

That’s when it hit me. It never occurred to me before because most co-working spaces operate like motels. You wash up after yourself, clean up after your own mess, even have an honesty jar for the stuff you take from the pantry. But what I wanted the Colony experience to be like is not that of a motel but of a 5-Star hotel. It then occurred to me how far away we were from achieving that vision and how much work we had to do.

So that very weekend I committed myself to reading books about hospitality, I picked up a number of books to read… like one about how Disney creates their experiences and enhances hospitality called “Be Our Guest” or another about Ritz Carlton.

I’ve also started looking to add members to our team that come from a hospitality background. I’ve been lucky there because some of our current team already have hospitality backgrounds.

Here’s what I learned and implemented at Colony in these few weeks:

  1. I’ve learned that the words we use to refer to the people we serve influence how we treat them.

So instead of calling our tenants members, or tenants… we now refer to them as our guests. And we their cast. The term cast is something Disney uses in their resorts too to refer to their own staff. The idea of that is to get everyone used to the thinking that we are cast members in a performance aimed to create a good experience for our guests. I like that so we adopted it for Colony too.

2. I’ve learned that Disney focuses on 4 main pillars to deliver the experience they do. Setting, Cast and Process (there’s a 4th one but that’s for another day).

i) Setting refers to how the space looks like every day? Is it messy? Are some pillows on the sofas caught out of arrangement at any time of the day? What we’ve done then is that we’ve taken a lot of care about making sure everything is presented as it should be down to the music that we play in the space.

ii) Cast refers to our team members, How we dress, what kind of language we use, how do we show directions to people? Do we just point or do we take them all the way?

We’ve made revamps to that, even putting in dress code. The dress code for the team at Colony isn’t formal like hotels, but smart. Kinda like what I’m wearing here.

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iii) Process

This is important to make sure things run smoothly. When guests move in how do we make sure they get what they need fast and efficiently. How is information delivered to them so they can quickly get acquainted with the space and the surrounding areas. How do we make the most annoying things not annoying.

3. I’ve learned that people want to be serviced… but invisibly.

You know how we love the feeling of coming back to our hotel rooms to see the mess all cleaned up? What we love about it isn’t just the tidiness of the whole situation but how it all happened without us looking. It’s like magic.

So what we did at Colony was manage our cleaners such that they would clean the rooms (empty the thrash and all) at the end of each day and just before the guests come in the next day. So by the time you come back to your office in Colony, everything has been cleaned.

4. I’ve learned that experiences are created by frontline staff.

The Community Managers, the receptionist or anyone who faces our guests. So in order to create great experiences for our guests we need to empower them to make decisions of their own.

So what did we do at Colony? We implemented an initiative where every cast member can spend RM100 each day per guest for any reason that would make that person happy. This can be done without any approval required from management. That sounds like a lot of money because if you think about it we have like a 100 guests now in Colony each day and growing. That means if this is maxed out, our team could spend a maximum of RM100,000 A DAY.

This has been great so far though. One of our guests from overseas needed a travel adaptor and a cast member of ours was able to quickly go out and buy one. We’ve had other requests too like one wanted to change the colour of the lights in their office, or we saw one of our guests having a bad day at work so we bought her some donuts to pick her up.

The impact of these small stories here and there have been amazing and it’s only been a few weeks.

The truth is that we’re still pretty far off from where we want to be. I’ve learned that hotels like the Ritz Carlton take decades to build the culture and processes they need to deliver the service they have and it’s still evolving. So we’re definitely not there yet… but we are making progress step by step into achieving our purpose.

Imagine going to work and having a team of people at work who are just there to make your life there easier and serve your every need and want. That’s the future of office and it’s what Colony stands for.


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