Have you ever stayed at a luxury hotel, walked through the property and a member of staff greeting you by name and you wondering how this person actually knew your name?
Are you intrigued how a personal butler can remember that you like purple orchids and a platter of homemade chocolate pastries when you arrive in your hotel room, even though you only stayed once at this hotel 5 years ago and the butler is not even working there anymore?
Isn’t it surprising that hotel staff often remembers things about you, that even those people close to you forget or think are not important, even though for you they are?
Wonder what’s the difference between a 5-star hotel that costs USD $500 and a 3-star hotel that costs $80 a night? This article will tell you why
I came across this quote of wisdom from Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi, the founder of the Oberoi Hotel Group, which eventually led me, together with a personal experience as one of their guests in the past, to write this “hospitality case study” about what it takes to deliver you the service we often take for granted in hotels.
“You can make a hotel out of gold but no one will stay there unless you can provide efficient and gracious service”.
I could have taken any other luxury hotel group for this post, but I found this quote very touching and its wisdom is truly timeless, because fundamentally everybody wants to be recognized and to experience soul enriching moments.
I also think individual hotels and smaller luxury hotel group’s only chance of survival faced with the global giant chains taking over the world, is to offer a truly personalized service and catering to a clientele that has all the money to buy material things, but not the power to pay for inner wealth.
Don’t you feel it when you stay at a hotel, where you are truly at the core and cared for, or where you merely find “business traps” in every corridor to get your money?
So is outstanding service achieved by waving a magic wand? Unfortunately not, it is achieved through:
1. By recruiting the right talent
I am sure most of you have stayed at least once in your life at a hotel where you felt like some staff gave a heck about, if you felt welcomed and only acted disinterested, unmotivated, unknowledgeable and in the worst case scenario rude. How did it make you feel? Pretty lousy and like you are only an ATM machine on two legs, but not a guest they are happy to see, right?
So, have you made up your mind Sir, or do you need another 2 hours to decide what to order?
Many of those issues are caused by wrong recruitment. To make guests happy, hotels need to hire the right person with the right attitude for the right job. Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But why do hotels often face such a struggle to find the right staff?
Here’s some of the main reasons in random order often mentioned by young graduates (and not so young) for not entering or staying in this industry.
Relatively low pay
Irregular and long working hours
Missing work-life balance
Lack of recognition
Not family friendly
Not considered a prestigious career (unless you call a corporate title your own, straight after university without passing through the lower ranks to understand the industry)
Service still has an image of being beneath others
The hotel industry’s mindset, in my opinion, definitely needs to change too. It needs to adapt to the demands and needs of a new hospitality generation and to find creative and flexible solutions to tackle those issues.
Although there is no quick fix and magic formula to all the challenges, because a hotel is after all a 24/7 operation and salaries will certainly also in the near future not reach those of many other industries, the Oberoi family is one of the hoteliers who views those issues seriously and takes steps in the right direction to mitigate these problems:
They work closely with the local tourism schools to ensure they are not missing out on amazing hotel staff in line with their philosophy of putting “You” first.
They pay also trainees the Bali minimum salary, because they work just as hard like any other staff. Them being able to support their families makes them proud and happy staff mean happy guests.
They promote from within the company which is a great way to service their guests, because those staff understand the company culture, the notion of luxury and are committed to the company and the company again is committed to your “satisfaction”.
They show the local staff the desire to preserve their culture rather than invading it. The Balinese love people who respect their culture (well, all countries do I guess) and will go to great lengths to be loyal to a company that cherishes their heritage. A happy staff member makes again a happy guest.
They encourage staff to grow professionally make them proud and committed to work for the company and happy clients mean for them a path towards a personal career development.
They hire people with the right passion.
The Oberoi group did not want to tell me, for reasons which are understandable, what all the “secrets” to hiring their talents are, but I have a gut feeling that people with a thirst for learning, growing and having a dream they follow, are part of that secret and I guess people wanting to get stuck in a dead end job is not what a dynamic company is aiming for either. And do we agree, that this is also not what you have in mind, a “I cannot wait to get home” kind of hotel staff member.
As I was told by Bali’s Oberoi General Manager, John Halpin, most of the young men and women working in Housekeeping and the Food & Beverage departments for example aspire to move beyond being a housekeeper or a waiter, but those jobs give them a base to build on and understand the ropes of the business from the start. Because god forbid, you come across a Hotel Manager who comes straight from school into this position.2. Equip their staff with the right skills
So now the hotel has found, let’s call him Ketut, a young man with potential and ambition to really make it to become one of the next generation Restaurant Managers with the Oberoi group, but he has no idea which wine goes with your USD 50 Wagyu steak and he does not yet have the confidence either to face you with your detailed questions waiting for the answers of a person in the know.
What now? Sending our Ketut on “stage” and telling him “Good luck, you can do it”? Sure not, even the greatest talents went through years of training to excel in their fields and the hospitality industry is no exception.
So the Oberoi group takes the next step, which is equipping the staff with the right skills and it involves:
Academic studies about all aspects of hospitality to become a specialist in their fields. Would you not want to know which red wine goes best with your gourmet dish in one the finest restaurants ?
Sales & Marketing and Finance studies. No, it does not only serve to ensure that the hotel is full and financially healthy, it also means that the future employees understand how to listen to your needs and help you to find the right product and leaving you with choices. Hard selling is outdated!
Working as a team, because only a team can make your dream holiday come true.
Being committed to a goal and company, because committed staff will go out of their way to make you happy and internalize the philosophy of outstanding service levels.
They get all round training in all departments of a hotel, so that when you ask a question they have the answers ready, or at least know where to get them from for you.
3. The Oberoi’s commitment
Our Ketut the Restaurant Manager is after years in his job excelling in his tasks, happy with his achievements, liked and respected by his guests, superiors and team members. But life does not stand still, especially not in the fast paced hospitality industry and a new hotel opens up by a different, equally good hotel group and he has the chance to move companies, although being happy where he is (I guess it is the grass is greener on the other side effect).
Is The Oberoi, Bali tying him to a palm tree, preventing him from running to the competition, considering how much they have financially and training wise invested in him? No, they ask their trainees before they join their training programmes for a 5 years work commitment with the company (The Oberoi Bali and Oberoi Lombok that is).
Isn’t it a great feeling when you come as a guest to a place after you have been away for several years and you still encounter some people you have met before and they are still there and looking forward to catching up with you?
It feels a bit like coming to a “cocoon” and some familiarity and warmth. And when we come to the same hotel and Ketut, the Restaurant Manager is still there, what a relief not to have to explain again, that we like vegan meals and our room service breakfast always at 08.00 am.
Is Ketut our Restaurant Manager grieving a once in a lifetime lost opportunity elsewhere by having signed this 5-years commitment agreement in return for having had access to all the training and schooling for 3 years?
It’s a matter of give and take. I was told by John Halpin, The Oberoi, Bali’s General Manager, this is not constraint, because many former students stay well beyond the 5 years after graduation and continue to grow with the company and why would they not? In an economy where top Management positions are more and more difficult to come by and more companies hiring from inside their ranks, it makes sense to stay in a group, that is already a leader in its field.
Would guests not plead for staff to stay far more than 5 years at their favorite hotel and looking forward to seeing a familiar face upon their return?
4. Making you happy is alway the Oberoi’s staff top priority
We have seen now that the Oberoi group heavily invests into its students and Managers of tomorrow and their training, but the number one rule for all of them is, regardless if it is the gardener or the General Manager, “make the guest happy”.
Can only the General Manager, as the “captain” of the ship manage to make all guests happy?
Do you want to wait for him/her only to get answers to your questions, or are you just as happy if your private butler is giving you all the attention and information you need? But how does the Oberoi Group do it, so you can ask anything and anybody you want and you get service you are delighted with?
I personally cannot recall the number of times I heard this sentence in my travel when I needed a decision to be taken as a guest and heard “I am sorry, I need to speak to my Manager first”. Ok, I admit it, my level of patience is probably below the average, but don’t you also want to get a solution to your immediate problems, especially when you are paying a lot of money for your stay?
As a client we want everybody at the hotel we encounter to be empowered to take basic and common sense decisions.
You need an example for common sense? If the hotel forgot to arrange the pre-booked airport pick up in the middle of the night, do you really need to speak to your Manager in order to authorize that this guest gets a free bottle of wine in his room as a gesture of goodwill?
The Oberoi group encourages their staff to grow professionally and growing professionally also means empowering people to take decision which should all lead to making a guest leave satisfied. The more people can think for themselves and are trained to deal with the unexpected, the more satisfied you as a guest will be.
What are the kind of services the Oberoi Bali “seduces” its guests with?
So you have booked your lovely ocean front room at USD 500 ++ per night, not exactly a steal.
Nobody wants to be considered a cheapskate, but who does not want value for money? Hotels nowadays understand that travellers are looking for more than just a welcome cocktail and a cold towel upon arrival, so what do they offer? All hotels have their perks, but since I have here the Oberoi group as the case study, let’s talk about what they offer to you
The guest is “King” and at the core of everything is the most outstanding philosophy of this hotel.
Your wake-up call accompanied by complimentary tea and coffee at your doorstep.
Little heartwarming gestures: The Oberoi Bali empowers the entire team to take action to delight guests when they do not expect it. So don’t be surprised if for example you casually mention in a conversation that Frangipani flowers are so beautiful and a waiter overheard that conversation, and in the evening you find a lovingly wrapped box of frangipani incense sticks on your bedside table. Now that I call unexpected attention to detail!
Afternoon delicious sorbet and fresh fruit.
Complimentary afternoon tea time, how wonderful is that?
A local dance group performing exclusively at the Oberoi Bali. I love anything exclusive!