When it comes to achieving success in the competitive hotel industry, Werna Maurer believes the only thing that can truly set a hotel apart from the competition is top-notch service. “It’s about creating a feeling of belonging that makes a guest want to come back, regardless of loyalty programs or swimming pools,” says Maurer.

The three-year veteran hotel manager of the Kensington Riverside Inn oversees the intimate 19-room boutique property situated on the outskirts of Calgary, across the Bow River and owned by the Hotel Arts Group. And, the hotel provides all the bells and whistles typically associated with a boutique hotel, including 42-inch plasma TVs, electric fireplaces and six-foot soaker tubs along with a granite vanity. What’s more, guests start their day with a thermos of coffee and croissant, which is left on their doorstep.

Given its location in Canada’s oil-rich capital, the hotel’s core customers are corporate travellers from Canada and the U.S. But, recently, the hotel has been increasing its number of leisure travellers. “We’re attracting European travellers who truly appreciate the service and luxury of the Inn as well as the regional traveller looking for a getaway close to home,” explains the hotel manager, who exudes a passion for her job. “I love the small boutique aspect of the property and the focus on ultimate customer service. Working for a local, privately owned growing company has been a tremendous learning experience and has given me the opportunity to really put my stamp on the property.”

Of course, there are challenges associated with leading a team of 30 and overseeing all aspects of the hotel. “[It’s difficult] finding and retaining experienced staff looking for more than just a job. [They need] to buy into the unique aspect of the property and invest themselves for an extended period of time, reducing turnover.”

And, to compete in a competitive marketplace, Maurer recognizes the need to constantly reinvent. “We have just completed a full guestroom renovation of all 19 of our unique guestrooms, and, so far, the reviews have been fantastic. The rooms are modern, opulent and inviting but remain in line with the comfortable feeling of a luxurious home-away-from-home our guests have come to expect.” Still to come are several public-space improvements as well as the launch of a new website.

But, in the end, customer service remains the priority. And, while Maurer empowers staff to do whatever is necessary to make guests feel comfortable, she’s quick to point out that she does the same. “For my staff to respect me, I need to do their job and truly represent the vision I expect them to personify. Service is based on personality and can’t necessarily be taught. Exceptional service can only be achieved if one buys into the concept and vision of the product they are representing. To provide empathetic and authentic service, one must be ‘present’ at all times.”

photo courtesy of Charles Hope

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