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Written by columnist and managing director of Marlin, Susan Cully

August 2014

Gone are the days when service with a smile was sufficient to lead the way. And the expectation that services are of a high standard is probably greatest in the travel sector. After all, for many consumers this is the one opportunity that they have to be properly served, the one time where they seek to put their feet up and be waited on. For those whose role it is to create this environment, square one has always been good and attentive service.

However, the change is now that other sectors have caught on too and exceptional service is something that consumers know to demand across the board. From phone shops to late night fast food businesses to public transport; it would seem that Harry Selfridge’s internal motto ‘the customer is always right’, has become a universal recognition that ‘if you are a customer, you are never wrong’.

As the Managing Director of London’s largest owner-operated serviced apartments provider, we have to keep service front of mind all the time – it’s in the name. However, keeping this a priority is something that benefits my staff and me in ways that it is valuable for others to recognise too. Even if good service is now a presumption among consumers, it does not mean that it should be a presumption from our staff as well. It’s about the business ethos that comes with it.

Traditionally, customers come to serviced apartments looking for affordable and hassle-free stays in top destinations. They want the chance to stay in a comfortable, clean environment and have a level of freedom to operate from their own schedule and in a way that suits them. Maintaining these customers is key, and we have always endeavoured to provide the best service possible within these key parameters – freedom and affordability; but we have taken some pioneering steps to really demonstrate to our customers that they matter. For example, beauty experts allow Marlin guests to enjoy a wide range of beauty treatments from massages to pedicures in the comfort of their own apartment.

We were actually the first serviced apartments operator to offer a 24 hours concierge service and we have been offering this service from our opening in 2006. While this may seem a simple thing, we were determined that there should always be a friendly face on-hand to assist our guests. I personally feel it is not enough that only 1 in 10 serviced apartment companies are able to provide this, so this puts us at a big advantage with relocation clients.

Still feeling that this could be improved on, at the end of 2013 we launched Marlin @ Your Service, a premium concierge service which we introduced in order to make business travel more personal. A range of bespoke first class services such as breakfast packs and evening pre-pared 3-course meals, in-room spa treatments, 24-hour childcare and airport transfers are available to all guests. This was our next step to challenge the industry standard and address the demands of today’s traveller.

In my opinion though, it is not always even about what the customer receives at the end of the day – it is knowing that they are being considered, that they are important and that they matter. This priority of the customer is something that I make sure my own staff understand at every level. It adds a purpose and importance to work at all levels, which results in a happier workplace and happier customers. As I said before, for many people, when they are travelling is the only time that they get to experience that feeling of priority. For me, this makes it more vital than anywhere else and at all levels of the market, that individual knows that they matter and they know that they are receiving an industry-leading standard of service.

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