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3 tips for first-rate customer service

Hotel director of a luxury liner details what it takes to satisfy demanding guests.
By Bernadette Reyes |

Norman Rafelson had been managing one of the world’s top luxury hotels for 30 years until he decided to jump ship, joining Silversea Cruises as hotel director of Silver Spirit. But whether it’s a posh hotel or cruise line, a manager catering to the luxury market should be at the helm of operations, from the smallest details to the big picture, says the luxury hotelier.


And as could be seen from the tips that Rafelson offers below, the principles on which a luxury business operates may be applied to any business serving other markets.


Plan ahead. In any business, planning and forecasting are an imperative. By doing these, you know what to expect so you can determine a course of action. Take the menu on a cruise ship:

Silver Spirit has a 21-day cycle menu so guests won’t have to eat the same kind of food for three weeks. While the menu is designed to have international appeal, the kitchen is stocked with steak, fish, chicken, and other familiar ingredients for clients who have basic tastes.



After almost two decades in the business, Silversea has become proficient by studying recurring patterns. “We already know that X percent will order beef, and X percent will order fish and so on. That way, we’re able to make sure we have the right products at the right time,” Rafelson shares.


In the rare instances that Silversea runs out of provisions, they replenish their supplies at the next port. As Rafelson points out, customers who expect topnotch service from you don’t want to hear you ran out of this and that.


Invest in people. The crew, observes Rafelson, is the heart and soul of a luxury ship. Hiring the right people is crucial to the quality of service that Silversea delivers. Applicants go through a thorough process of selection. Aside from assessing competence and skill sets, Silversea carefully examines the character of its would-be employees. Newly hired personnel, on the other hand, undergo a series of training sessions. While such activities involve additional expense for the company, they’re necessary to update the staff’s skills and for Silversea to remain competitive in the business.


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