Smoothing out the service

As my job often requires me to stay in a hotel during its “softest” opening, some little hiccups during this period often make it to the laugh of the day.

Here’s a scene during breakfast at a newly opened hotel in Beijing:

Staff: How would you like your eggs to be done?

Ed: Sunny-side-up, please.

Staff: Certainly, sir. Would you like your eggs to be fried on both sides?

Of course, we need to be more forgiving during the early stages of a hotel opening, but a recent experience at a newly opened luxury hotel in Taipei had me thinking a bit A few weeks ago I combined my business meetings with a leisure weekend in Taipei. After a wonderful dinner with my friend we decided to check out the bar in the hotel before heading back to the room.

As expected, the well-mannered maitre’d walked up to the entrance and greeted us. Since we had just finished dinner, I asked if we could take a look around. I was quite surprised to be turned down by the staff, albeit in a polite manner. The same confusing situation occurred in one of the restaurants.

The reason, we were told, was because we could not enter simply to have a quick look around — even as well-attired in-house hotel guests — as such a tour would distract other guests. However, if we paid for a drink we could certainly go in and walk around as we pleased.

Needless to say, the next day when I bumped into the GM and the hotel manager, who are both my friends, they were shocked to hear about this. They were completely baffled by why this happened, and we were showered with apologies with a grand tour of the hotel. This hotel brand is known for its friendliness to all hotel guests and a heartiest welcome gesture in all aspects. Refusing an in-house guest in a half-filled bar was definitely not a part of the service guideline.

This is what got me thinking about the difference between the vision of the hotel and the newly trained junior staff of this iconic institution. What went wrong, and how can these little glitches in the system be smoothed out before they turn up on TripAdvisor in the form of a negative review?

As an interior designer, I certainly believe when a guest leaves a hotel with a smile, the majority of the credit should belong to the impeccable service and warmth of the staff. Our beautiful design and decor only sets the stage.

Would you agree?