A beach resort, Cox’s Bazar, 2017:
At six in the morning, I approached the reception downstairs and requested the on-duty official: “I am scheduled to leave the hotel at 8am. May I have my breakfast at seven please?”
The reply was: “No, sir. We start serving at 7:30. You have to wait till then.”
“But I’m leaving at eight. Could you not do something about it?”
“No sir, you could do something. You could ask room service and order something, or ask for a take-away.”
I was quite upset with his reluctance to help me. I told myself never to return to this hotel.
A beach hotel, Sri Lanka, 2016:
At 5:30 in the morning, I approached the reception downstairs and requested the on-duty official: “I’m scheduled to leave the hotel for airport at 7am. May I have my breakfast at six please?”
“Sir, I’ll see what I can do. Sir, please go to your room and I’ll call you shortly.”
I went to my room. The call came in five minutes. The man at the reception said: “Sir, you can go to our dining at six, breakfast will be ready by then.”
The two scenarios described above are from two neighbouring countries, and reveal the attitudes of service providers. An unwillingness to serve the customer is just as evident in the first example as a willingness to provide the right kind of service is in the second. Displaying a willing attitude is a huge factor in the hospitality industry across the world.
Even if a hotel management cannot serve you something that you want, they should never say “I can’t.” Rather, they should always give you hope, reflecting their willingness to help. The word “cannot” is an unwarranted one for customers. In a hotel, the customers pay for comfort and a welcoming ambience, and it’s the responsibility of the hotelier to make the customers feel comfortable. Anything short of that would prove the hotelier unsuccessful.
All we need is to imbue people with the passion to serve among the hospitality industry personnel across the country
Hospitality is an art that requires finesse; you can never say no to a customer in need; rather, you are expected to show that you’re trying to find a remedy, a way to serve what the customer is seeking. The hospitality industry is a sector in which the hotel staffer needs to be the most courteous; they are expected to do what seems right.
I do agree that hospitality is an aspect of life in which there’s no end of learning; you can never teach the right kind of attitude for hospitality. It’s all about recruiting the right kind of people who one feels embodies a passion to serve and can accommodate those that require assistance: Comfort from the service provider. It’s not my job to remember the hotelier, it’s their obligation and responsibility to make sure that I don’t have the opportunity to forget them.
Will we ever learn?
In this land of ours, yes, we have never had the opportunity to master the skill and acumen for understanding the hospitality industry or to acquire the expertise to fathom the right kind of attitude required for this industry. Maybe, we never had the opportunity to gain enough knowledge to develop the right kind of communication skills; we never felt the urge to train up a pool of service providers who’d know what customer service is all about.
Many around us often say that we Bengalis will never learn how to serve a customer. Well, I humbly have a different opinion on that.
Last year, we had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Saudi Arabian city of Medina. We stayed in the InterContinental Madinah-Dar Al Iman, kissing the feet of the Nabawi Mosque, the Prophet’s Mosque.
When we checked in to the hotel, we felt that a bunch of Bangladeshis were ushering us in into the hotel. I spoke to them and they informed us that 75% of the staffers InterContinental Madinah-Dar Al Iman were Bangladeshis. Trust me, my readers, they were doing everything right as the staffers of a hotel should in the heart of Medina.
If Bangladeshis can showcase this enhanced form of hospitality a hotel thousands of miles away from home, I believe, they can also do the same at home. All we need is to imbue people with the passion to serve among the hospitality industry personnel across the country. I’m sure they have been trained accordingly; but in my opinion, training isn’t enough to serve the customers in the hospitality sector.
One needs to go beyond his or her training mentality -- working in this sector isn’t a mere job, it’s a culture that needs to be nurtured and made better.
Try believing this and your customers will speak for you.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.