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Disclaimer: I don’t have shares in the company, or discounts, or commissions! No place I know can match Chateauform  (  as venues for meetings. But you need to live in France (or travel there) to enjoy the most. There are a few of them in other countries.

Chateuform is an all-inclusive hotel and meeting venue dedicated to business. Every single aspect of the use is included in the price, form your impeccable bedroom to the projectors in the room. In fact, Chateauform venues are ‘houses’ (big ones!) managed by a family (and plenty of staff) who would greet you at reception personally. Well, there is no reception as such, just one of the rooms to welcome you. Because it’s a ‘house’, you are free to roam and serve yourself. (A client of mine said, I wish my house…)

Espresso coffee machines everywhere, bar well stocked (no service, remember, its your house, grab the gin yourself) and every single detail worked out.  You need water for your bedroom? OK, there are baskets with bottles in every corner, corridor or stairs, or perhaps in a basket in front of your room. It’s very sunny outside, perhaps too sunny? Well, there are those baskets on the floor full of sunglasses of all colours and shapes – serve yourself- and those other baskets with hats of all sizes – pick one that suits you and go out. For winter, there will be piles of blankets in front of the patio doors. In the business meetings area – where every service is included, from sound system to projection, to flipcharts to electronic boards – there will be a photocopy machine. No, no code. Dozens of wireless handsets around ‘the house’ will get you anybody to come and help you if needed, on anything, any time.

Your breaks area may have constant supply of drinks and food, not at particular times ‘in your agenda’. At lunchtime there is a starter buffet but you go to the kitchen and talk to the chefs personally about your desired dishes. Serve yourself any wine, there are all lined up.

Anything you need, from an umbrella to games in the gardens, to extra notepads, is there in front of you, included in the price. The one Chateauform I have stayed recently had also a gym. In the Chateuform spirit you would find a selection of trainers at the door. Of course! There was also a collection of green garden boots, all possible sizes, in front of the garden doors

Founded from people from Club Mediterranee – for those who know this firm- they have managed to re-create the same ‘all-inclusive-it -is-your-house’ atmosphere for business. Attention to the customer and personalized treatment is simply exquisite. I have been brought breakfast to a meeting room by somebody from the kitchen in a golf cart when I was too late, and found my international newspaper outside the same meeting room in a break. All this is done with zero levels of silly servility. It’s just…normal.

And I have two questions. One, why on earth has this not been copied by million of other business venues, where we have to suffer a de-personalized and robotic treatment, and paying extra for some third grade biscuits and bad coffee? Two, why is ‘customer service’ the easiest think to do, that does not need to be (re)invented, but also the most difficult thing to find?

Customer focus is, in many places, all slip services and no substance. We all know that. If you want to study a culture of customer-centrism, or have a meeting about customer focus, go to a Chateauform place.  Even if you have to fly in.

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