PH gets the royal Thai treatment
Dusit Thani Manila general manager Stanley Lo not only pays attention to major trends in outstanding service. He also has a soft spot for the rank and file who are crucial to fulfilling his vision for his hotel.
The Malaysian-born GM says every hotelier faces the challenge of managing guest’s expectations and being more creative in delighting them.
In a competitive industry, a personalized guest experience is vital in generating new clients and acquiring new ones.
Lo says Dusit Thani customizes the amenities according to the guest type-business traveler, couple and family. While the couples may receive the flowers and red wine, children are given a soft toy, an elephant, Thailand’s national animal.
“We explain to the child the story behind the elephant. Why it’s a royal animal and who rode on the elephant in different empires,” he says.
Dusit Thani provides a holistic approach to guest experience, including how they spend their time outside the hotel.
For business travelers and convention guests, the hotel offers packages that include free airport transfers, spa service, late checkouts and dining privileges.
Foreign business travelers also have the privilege of flexible meals.
“They come from different time zones and work late because of conference calls in other countries. If their lunch is dinner time here, there’s a package,” he says.
Rooms, restaurants and the spa are synergized for the complete experience. Lo cites the Deverana Spa as the only luxury spa with a Thai concept. The services and products are developed by spa experts.
“Some hotels have a spa but the quality is not consistent. Sometimes, the GMs adjust the spa experience. They are not spa specialists,” he remarks.
While restaurants in other establishments change the menu every six months, Dusit Thani frequently offers a new but smaller menu. New items, which the hotel predicts will be surefire hits, are introduced.
Another trend is that guests want to go outside the hotel. On weekends, the hotel throws in free tickets to Upside Down Museum, movies or Time Zone for children. This makes the guests feel that they are getting the best value for their money.
Dusit Thani is back on the radar with the full renovation of its rooms that provide a cozier experience. Lo reports that the hotel has experienced double-digit growth. The function rooms have themed designs which give events organizers options.
Like most hoteliers, Lo started from the bottom. He was room attendant in training, service attendant and bar supervisor. When he lived in Singapore to get overseas experience, he also volunteered to assist in the stewarding and kitchen.
“Working closely with the rank-and-file, you understand what they are going through. You know their challenges by experiencing them. It gave me a better way to connect with them when I became a senior manager,” he says.
Lo recalls that stewarding is the busiest department. In Singapore, the employees’ canteen served full meals at regular hours while the staffers were working at the restaurants.
“The stewards bought their own food and ate in the pantry because the canteen wouldn’t cater to their time,” he says.
When he was promoted to restaurant manager, Lo suggested that the canteen should open 90 minutes earlier before the restaurant meal period so that the stewards could enjoy hot meals.
For him, it is important to treat the rank and file well.
Here, Lo credits the Dusit Thani Manila’s double-digit growth to the room attendants and engineering department. “Senior managers tend to recognize only the service attendant, the chef and the sales and marketing. Since I was once a room attendant, I would go to the housekeeping, share the achievements of the hotel and thank them.”
A former food and beverage director, Lo is not judgmental about pilferage and breakage.
“I’m lucky I’ve worked with nice people. If you instill ownership in the team, there is control. Nobody wants to steal or break things,” he says.
The staffers are aware of the severe consequences of stealing or breaking so they become more careful.
“If there is breakage, I don’t believe in fining. It wasn’t their choice,” he says. Lo sets an example to his managers of finding the cause and the solution.
“How much do they get paid in a day? How much will it cost them? Don’t punish the staff because it was not intentional,” he says.
Known for his compassion, he adds, “You step into the shoes of the other person.”
As a manager, he believes in being genuine and caring himself if he wants the staffers, particularly the front liners, to be the same.
“You have to make them understand ownership. They face guests more than I do,” he explains.
But of course, not everyone will be pleased, regardless of the best efforts.
When Lo was resident manager in Dusit Thani Bangkok, he was one of the defendants in a lawsuit.
A Japanese guest used the hotel’s hair drier which had one wire exposed. Consequently, she suffered minor burns.
The hotel provided medical assistance and the wound healed quickly.
But upon returning to Japan, she sent a letter and demanded huge damages for the accident.
The hotel flew in the guest who brought her lawyer. She even wanted to go to the media. “We met more than 20 times and negotiated. We paid for the ticket, the rooms and compensation. It was settled out of court,” he says.
In another event at the same hotel, a European weapons dealer held an exhibition catering to the armed forces. However, the attendance was disappointingly paltry that he vented his anger on the sales manager. He refused to pay for the guest rooms, which amounted to 2 million bhat.
Lo introduced himself and tried to calm him down, but the guest remained rude.
Nonetheless, Lo diplomatically but firmly told the guest to apologize and show respect to women by apologizing to the sales manager. He also insisted that the rooms should be paid. If not, the rooms would be charged to the latter’s guests.
After the payment, the guest wrote a legal letter claiming that Lo was abusive and threatened his life. Fortunately, their discussion was recorded by a CCTV camera.
“This is entertainment. Handling people is always the most interesting and challenging part,” he says.
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