Great service so often goes unnoticed. We talk to Ali Zamani, a Duty Manager at Orchard Parksuites, about life on the front line at one of Far East Hospitality’s serviced apartments, and how he and his team keep their guests happy and coming back for more.
After completing his National Service, Ali Zamani was, like many young people, faced with deciding what to do with his life. Luckily for him, his aunt was on hand with some good advice. With over a decade of experience working for hospitality operator Far East Hospitality, she inspired him to consider the service industry. Just over six years ago, Ali took a role as Guest Services Officer at Orchard Parksuites, and hasn’t looked back since.
All in a day’s work
So, what does a normal day look like? “The best thing about this place is that you never know what to expect,” Ali says. From return guests looking for advice or just a friendly chat, to staff management and the occasional crisis, there are things that need to be dealt with on the spot. “We really try to build a rapport with our guests. Of course, we also have to deal with incidents, and I need to manage my staff, but over the years they’ve become more like family than colleagues.” It’s a feeling that seems to rub off on their guests, many of whom have been coming back for years. There’s even a permanent resident, who has been with them for thirteen years. “He is just comfortable with us and has built a sense of trust. It is heartwarming to have that trust.” Says Ali.
With its downtown location (it’s just steps from Orchard MRT), Orchard Parksuites hosts a wide range of guests, from holidaymakers to business travellers. Medical tourism also plays a big role. “Patients might stay for up to a year. They come back for check-ups and prefer to stay here rather than a hotel, because they know us.”
“We always try to do our best and go above and beyond.” Explains Ali. “If a guest asks where the nearest grocery store is, we might suggest ordering online, or do it for them. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference. They know that after their meeting or their doctor’s appointment, they don’t need to worry about their chores. Ultimately, I want our guests to feel at home. It’s obviously nice when they leave positive feedback, but most of the time it passes unnoticed yet you still want to do your part. When a guest is happy and comes back, that, to me, is good service.”
It’s not always easy though. As Duty Manager, a lot of Ali’s contact with guests is when issues have escalated and he needs to try and turn them around. Fortunately, he’s usually successful. “My mentor taught me that a bad situation is always an opportunity to do something good, so I always try to apply that thinking. My colleagues tell me I start with an angry guest and the next day they’re my best friend.”
Going above and beyond
To Ali, exemplary service is all about the individual and their particular situation.
“One evening, a lady came to ask if it was possible to help with her elderly mother. I got a wheelchair but when she told me the room number, I realised it was a one-bedroom loft with stairs. I was concerned; not only was her mother elderly but she’d just had eye surgery. I found them a two-bedroom apartment instead with no stairs. They were very happy and it made me feel appreciated.”
As both a Guest Services Officer and Duty Manager, Ali has also had his fair share of odd experiences. “One time I got a call about operating the safe. There were some communication difficulties over the phone so I went up to the room. When I arrived, the guest directed me to the kitchen where he opened up the microwave, revealing his passport and papers inside! Luckily, I arrived before he microwaved his money and showed him where the safe was. It may seem simple but some people just don’t realise, so you have to be humble about it.”
Orchard Parksuites is a serviced residence located right in the heart of Orchard Road, just steps away from ION Orchard and Orchard MRT Station.
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