Since opening in 2006, One King West has found its place in the competitive Toronto market, quickly becoming one of the city’s jewels. Undoubt­edly, Steve O’Brien, the hotel’s customer­service focused GM, is at the centre of that success.

“I’ve been with One King West since the very beginning. I’m actually employee number 1,” he quips.

Situated in the heart of the city, the condo hotel features 575 rooms, although not all are available for daily guest use.

During the week the hotel is home to short­term and extended­stay corporate and government business, while on the weekends the mix shifts to leisure travellers. “Our business and leisure guests seem to take advantage of the fact that all our suites come fully equipped with a fridge, microwave oven, dishwasher, washer and dryer and electric cooktop.”

The hotel has undertaken recent initiatives, including updates to the lobby, which include a new and improved valet and front desk as well as a guest lounge with a wall­mounted fireplace. The hotel also has a new business centre and bistro, featuring a buffet breakfast and private­dining area. A guestroom renovation is being planned for mid­ 2012. “With some of the most elegant and historical meeting spaces in the city, One King has become a desired location for meetings, groups and special events,” boasts O’Brien. “At the end of the day guests will choose to stay at a hotel based on how they feel when they’re here. A particular differentiator may attract someone to your hotel for the first time, but it’s the service that will keep them there for the long run.”

In his 29 years of working in the industry, O’Brien’s never experienced such a diverse property. The father of two got his start in the hotel industry at the Skyline Hotel. “I got hooked when I started working at the desk. I loved the atmosphere and really enjoyed engaging the guest.”

These days, the graduate of Humber College’s Hotel & Restaurant Management program, engages guests and his complement of 215 staff alike, practicing an open style of management. “I don’t manage by intimidation; I look at things from the perspective of the individual. My approach is the same when dealing with guest­related issues. Staff knows I’m here for them on a personal or professional level. They can approach me for anything.”

He’s quick to add that there’s nothing complicated about delivering service excellence: “Know your customer. Understand their needs and do your best to meet them each and every day. Not every guest is always going to be completely satisfied, but how you handle the situation when they’re dissatisfied makes a difference,” he says. With his love of service, it’s no surprise O’Brien was appointed chair of the Toronto Transit Commission’s Customer Service Advisory Board in 2010, a role he relishes.

Clearly, customer service drives him. He personally responds to every guest comment card submitted to the hotel and to every comment posted on Trip Advisor. “I want to know what we’re doing well and where we can improve. Without constant feedback, good or bad, how can you ever expect to know your customer?”.


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