The thought of hotel employees eavesdropping on you during your stay doesn't exactly make for a good night's sleep. That is, unless you're staying at a W. In a new service-training program begun earlier this year, Starwood's chic hotel brand began teaching its employees to listen for overheard clues that will enable them to help anticipate guests' needs. For example, complain to your husband on your cell phone about a sore throat while you're standing at the check-in desk, and W employees might send up a cup of chicken soup gratis. Make a comment in the elevator about the wine that's being sent to another room, and the bellhop making the delivery is encouraged to bring you some, too.
This active-listening approach is all part of W's efforts to keep its service levels up to par with its lofty marketing messages, which lately have included such bar-raising sound bites as "Welcome to Wonderland." "Each time we evolve the marketing, the talent training has to go with it," says Carolyn Jones, W Hotels' vice president of human resources. "We're committed to servicing what we sell."
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A version of this article appeared in the October 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.