Walking in the customer's sandals
Urmas Karner, managing director of the Somerset on Grace Bay, who has been working at the resort for the past two-and-a-half years, knows from his previous experiences in working for large hotels in Manhattan as well as large golf course management companies that big operations can become impersonal and by-the-numbers.
Recognizing that the hospitality industry thrives on the person-to-person experience, Karner walks the grounds of The Somerset multiple times each day to interact with guests. As a smaller resort, The Somerset strives to distinguish itself by the personal and memorable experiences provided to its guests, and Karner is right in the thick of it.
Why is Urmas a Customer Champion?
Urmas interacts with customers continually during their stay at the Turks & Caicos resort, recognizing and rewarding employees' customer-centric actions, which results in a memorable guest experience.
Champion in Action
On February 9, 2014, the 50thanniversary of when The Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show, the electricity went out across Turks & Caicos. Urmas, an avid Beatles fan, brought his guitar onto the resort's croquet lawn that was lit by tiki torches and sang Beatles songs with the guests deep into the night.
Karner dresses up for Halloween each year to greet guests and their children. He has played Santa Claus each Christmas that he's been with the resort. He hands out roses to guests and staff every Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. He truly enjoys seeing and making customers happy.
Karner endeavors to remember the names of each guest that visits the resort and he also hosts a weekly cocktail reception. In fact, Karner is the inventor of the resort's signature drink - The Somerset Sunset - which is a blend of rum, cantaloupe juice, and a few other secret ingredients. Karner also goes out of his way to recognize individual staff for taking special care of The Somerset's guests. He understands how important the staff's contribution is to the guest experience and how employees appreciate being recognized for their efforts. In addition to serving as a terrific role model, Karner stays engaged with his staff by playing on the resort's volleyball team, inspiring a competitive team spirit among various departments of the resort's hospitality team.
When Karner first joined The Somerset, the resort was ranked #29 on TripAdvisor among Turks & Caicos hotels. Now, The Somerset is ranked 13th, ahead of some world-renowned resort brands, even though The Somerset is a single, standalone boutique property. The resort's focus on delivering memorable customer experiences helps explain the dramatic increases in occupancy rates (up 70 percent) and revenue (up 90 percent) over the past two years.