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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Valentine’s at Sokha Beach Resort marks paradigm shift in service

Valentine’s at Sokha Beach Resort marks paradigm shift in service

For getaways to Sihanoukville during the month of February, the Sokha Beach Resort is offering a package geared for loving couples, with an array of romantic luxuries for $500.

General Manager Jeff Sussman says when couples arrive they will be received by a “cupid concierge” who will cater to the couple with special attention during their stay.
Once they are checked in, the couple is taken to the resort’s pier at about 5:30 for a “champagne sweetheart sunset cruise” on the resort’s 40-foot cruiser as the sun goes down. The couple gets a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne along with chocolate-covered strawberries, and “mood music” by the likes of Barry White.

Once the couple returns from the cruise, they get a five-course dinner for two right on the beach, on a special table placed there for the occasion.

Dinner consists of heart-shaped sushi and sashimi, sea bass coconut ceviche marinated in Yuzu and coconut, as well as sea lobster laksa with rice noodles in a spicy coconut soup. The main course is a platter of barbecued seafood including grilled lobster, squid, prawns and a selection of shellfish. Included is a free flow of wine, dessert with a chocolate brownie and vanilla ice-cream, coffee or tea.

After dinner, the couple can enjoy a “romantic signature massage” for two on the beach, in a special cabana with reclining cushions. The experience is concluded by a villa accommodation on the beach, breakfast in the morning and a late check-out.

General Manager Jeff Sussman says the Sokha Beach Resort has 391 rooms on 23.5 hectares of land with 1.5 kilometres of white sandy private beach.

“Sokha Beach is a destination. They can come, eat, sleep and play and have it all here,” Sussman said.

Just down the beach from the main hotel complex is the Lemongrass Restaurant and The Deck where people can have lunch or dinner. With two Australian chefs, Lemongrass serves signature Far East Asian food with Singapore noodles, tom yam gung, Laksa from Malaysia and Khmer style fish Amok.

Most every Saturday night by the main hotel complex and pool, Sokha puts on a seafood barbecue by the pool.

A fluent Japanese speaker, Sussman formerly worked with the Ritz Carlton Four Seasons hotels and his last job was in Shanghai before he came to manage the Sokha Beach Resort.

“The key is our warm and friendly staff who seek to create a memorable experience.”

Sussman says he puts service philosophy at the heart of the organisation, creating 10 “Sokha habits” which he talks about with the staff on a daily basis.

“When you have 500 employees and you are continuously energizing that kind of habit, you have a memorable experience.”

Sussman says that from his experience of reading comment cards, guests rarely write about the carpet or furniture in a hotel: they write about the service they received.

“When the guest checks out, he gets a bill, and an experience. Every employee has the responsibility to provide a memorable experience.

And important part of the experience is a warm welcome, according to Sussman.

“We offer a warm welcome. We never say no; we always offer alternatives,” he said. “Every hotel has their service philosophy, and where we succeed is because our education process. We talk about habits, and when the department heads talk, they energize the habits, and then it cascades down from the General Manager to the housekeeper to the steward.”

Sussman, originally a New Yorker, studied Japanese at Staten Island University and Tokyo International Language School at Shinjuku. His career in the hotel industry is a direct result of his knowledge of Japanese language.

 “I knew I wanted to work at a hotel, and went to work for a hotel in Japan in 1988.” He was 22 years old at the time. During the last 20 years he’s worked in fine hotels all over Asia, including a Kempinski Hotel in India with 1,500 staff, as well as hotels in China, Thailand and New York.

“The Japanese are true perfectionists. They are highly-organised, detail-oriented focused perfectionists, so to be molded in that environment was phenomenal for me.”

When Sussman takes over the management of a hotel, he immediately starts discussing with the staff what he calls the “service foundation”.

“What I usually do at my meetings is take a stocky fellow, and bring up the smallest lady and tell the lady the goal is for you to lift him up while he’s seated.”

As a result of the exercise, people realise that a key is working together, which would enable them to lift the stocky man easily in his chair.

“Together as a team we can truly create a great experience not only for the guests, but for the owners. The General Manager and the Financial Controller cannot realise the budget themselves. You need the efforts and the passions of 500 employees,” Sussman said.

He says his job is like the guy at the circus spinning three plates on sticks: guest, employee and financial satisfaction.

“You always need to maintain an even balance on all three. You can’t focus too heavily on one or the other.”

Sussman, who took over as general manager of the Sokha Beach Resort in June 2012, said he was pleased with a successful 2012, but wanted to raise the bar.

“It is very rewarding to continuously raise the bar of excellence and see the results. We are always enhancing the service and improving the products. We’re giving our guests a memorable experience.”



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