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SPOTLIGHT ON Helen Smith, Chief Experience Officer, Dorchester Collection

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
17 August 2022
4 min read
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The new face of luxury as experiential travel and genuine hospitality are prized and the small acts of kindness count. 

How has luxury evolved post-pandemic? Are there enduring changes?

I think the pandemic allowed change to accelerate.  Luxury has an even broader definition as it now needs to include sustainability, be multi-generational and to display shared values with its target market. The up and coming audience for luxury has less inherited wealth, likes to travel and to network with likeminded people.  They live global lives and have less time for tradition just for the sake of it. Experiences need to be relevant and authentic.

The enduring change will be that the very rich are getting younger and more wealthy.  Understanding their needs and how different these are to ‘old money’ will be a key to business success.

What experience are guests looking for when they choose Dorchester Collection? 

When we talk to them, they ask us not to change our market mix.  They like to see familiar faces in the outlets when they return.  They do not like to see employees as subservient.  They like understated elegance, a warm welcome, generosity and a sense of belonging. Our hotels are rare and have been, are currently and in the future, will be legendary destinations for people from all walks of life.  We want our guests to feel part of that legendary community and for our employees to provide the key that lets them access it.

How are you aligning your programming with guest expectations?

We have turned Front Office on its head and ensured that everyone who is facing the guests have the time to truly focus.  Other administrative tasks are handled by team members who are ‘back of house’.  We have a unique, detailed ‘golden’ profile for guests that reflects favourite hotels, preferences and the names of staff the guests have got to know.  The guest is truly at the heart of everything we do and we adapt service delivery to meet their needs.

Helen Smith, Chief Experience Officer, Dorchester Collection

As a leader, how do you inspire Dorchester Collection teams to provide unparalleled service?

I truly believe in what makes our brand unique and in the culture we have created for our guests and our employees.  I live our values myself and like all our employees, I have great pride in how we look after our guests and each other.  I think these attributes lead one to try one’s best to offer the highest levels of service throughout our properties.  Pride in Dorchester Collection always scores at least 95% in our employee surveys.

What is your favorite experience?

I once had to host an evening event at one of the hotels and unwisely chose to wear new, very high heeled shoes.  By the time I stepped out of the lift on the way back to my room, my feet were on fire.  When I opened the door, I could see that the maid was there, preparing the room for the night.  I thought, ‘oh no, I have to keep my shoes on for a few more minutes.’ As the maid looked over, she clearly saw my distress and without saying a word, disappeared into the bathroom and came out with new fluffy white slippers in her hands. She then helped me peel off my wedged on shoes and replace them with a little bit of heaven.  I’ve never forgotten her thoughtfulness and kindness. It is little acts of kindness that make all the difference.