How long have you been in the hotel industry? About 37 years.
What made you decide to join the hotel industry? The hotel industry is an interesting one where you get to meet people from all over the world and learn more about their ways of life. I like to talk to them and learn about their culture, that's why I decided to give this a try.
Can you share with us your career journey? I started off as a Waitress in a coffee house in Ambassador Hotel. After three months, I was moved to the Front Office department and given the role of Front Office Cashier. Later, I was promoted to Front Line Assistant Supervisor. Eventually, I became a Senior Supervisor and took on responsibilities such as planning of roster, overseeing the daily front desk operations and management of guest requests. After many years of working, I was placed as Hotel Manager of Santa Grand Victoria. Years later, the hotel management gave me the opportunity to open and set up two new Santa Grand branches. It was quite challenging because I had never set up a hotel before. I needed to do all the measurements and call the various vendors. But it was rewarding because I got the experience of setting up a hotel from scratch. And for the past three years, I have been the Assistant Operations Cluster Manager.
What do you do as Assistant Operations Cluster Manager? I support my group managers and oversee the daily operation of the three hotels to ensure smooth and proper running so that the hotel guests would have a memorable stay with us.
What do you do on a daily basis? My daily routine starts with a morning briefing with the staff on duty. Then, we go through various scenarios on handling difficult issues affecting guests. I ensure that all reports are checked before being sent to Accounts for audit. I also need to ensure that all the properties are sufficiently staffed, that assigned rooms are cleaned and welcome gifts are in place. I also handle guest complaints through email or calls.
What do you enjoy most about what you do? I enjoy talking to the guests. I try to understand and meet their needs. It is very fulfilling when you turn an angry guest into a happy one and then later, to have them as loyal customers for life.
Can you tell us your most memorable experience with guests? I have many regular guests but the most memorable experience was a Japanese lady who was feeling unwell and had lost her luggage upon reaching Singapore. She didn’t know anyone here so I personally accompanied her to see a doctor and then we went shopping for clothes together. I imagined how helpless she must have felt in a foreign land in that difficult situation. Eventually, we became good friends and we still keep in touch till now. Every time she comes to Singapore, she'll stay with us at the Santa Grand Hotel.
What are some rules that you live by to deliver excellent customer service? Firstly, be genuine and sincere when dealing with guests. Listen to them and understand them fully before trying to meet their needs. Next, never stop learning because learning will give you the courage to face new challenges. Lastly, learn from mistakes and learn not to repeat them.
In 37 years, you've experienced different roles. How did you adapt to each role? Did the management provide you with training? Yes, I had senior staff to mentor and train me. They would guide me in all aspects. When I was opening a hotel for the first time, I was put in charge of hotel operations, so my boss helped by sharing his experience with me. When it came to opening the second hotel, I did it by myself with my staff.
What are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them? My biggest challenge is to inspire my staff to adapt to the ever changing environment. I have to give them a lot of training and help them to see the bigger picture. In a local hotel chain, it can be quite challenging to satisfy staff expectations because they will always compare our hotel to a five-star hotel. So I share with them my past experiences. In a small local hotel chain, you are given the opportunity to learn in all aspects. You get to multi-task and there’s room for you to try different roles. All you need is your attitude to excel in what you do and do things wholeheartedly.
What makes you push on to stay in this line for so long? I enjoy talking to and meeting my guests, and I sincerely believe in service from the heart. It can be as simple as having a casual chat about the weather being hot and humid, and me offering them a cold drink that will make all the difference and they would be very happy.
What are some of the skills and ethics that you impart to the younger staff? I always advise them to work smart and work hard, be passionate about service. Be happy, handle challenges and criticism positively, and also be decisive and take prompt action.
Do you have any goals that you hope to achieve? We’re always striving to increase the standard of service and products. I want to change people’s perspective of local hotels. They always think that local brands are small, but good service does not depend on the size of the hotel.
What advice would you share with someone who's interested in joining the industry? The hotel industry is a very interesting industry where there is no limit to what one can achieve while getting to meet the world and enrich your life. There's a lot of opportunity to grow in the industry and build a lifelong career. All you need is passion.