Is better service in the palm of your hand? The staff of Loews Hotels sure thinks so—and they've got a branded handshake to prove it: "Two pumps, web to web, always standing and maintaining eye contact" is the way Loews employees Irwin Fisher and Emily Kanders Goldfischer describe it.
But it's not just about a handshake. That handshake is part of the Living Loews program, a behavioral training program that the New York-based upscale hotel chain implemented last fall to unify the staff and establish guidelines for interacting with customers and each other.
Two years ago, says Kanders Goldfischer, Loews' vice president of public relations, Loews started looking to expand beyond its 17 hotels—and reinvent the brand as well. Training is very important, she adds, "as we embark on this major growth effort."
In developing the program, "We tried to really determine what our expectations were," says Fisher, vice president, sales administration and training. "We felt that while we have a lot of skills-based training that we offer to our employees, we really needed to develop behavior-based training. Because in order to really build consistency in who we want our sales executives to be and how we want them to portray themselves, we really felt like we needed to develop a program that could give them those guidelines."
The program, Fisher says, aims to brand other behaviors besides the handshake, and she and the Loews staff are ready to take on what she calls a "casual crisis," which she partially attributes to the ubiquitous nature of e-mail and other technologies. "We feel like with the increased technology in the workplace, that the rules are very blurred, and we felt it was a good time to lay out the expectations that we have for our leadership team."
With those challenges in mind, Fisher and her team set out to answer one essential question: "How do we brand our behavior so that it is unique in the marketplace and takes into consideration the way of the world today—but also sets guidelines for the way in our world we want to operate?"
The answer? Two full days of Living Loews, a program given to executive committee members and sales and management teams. Topics covered range from that branded handshake to communication etiquette—"Writing personal notes is a diminishing art," Fisher asserts—to wine smarts and table manners. "Good manners is good business. Many of us haven't been trained or raised to fully understand what is expected in the workplace."