Go the extra mile

I note that as a destination becomes more mature, prices rise, but the corresponding level of service actually deteriorates in most cases because of the dilution of attention.

However, in some destinations that are marred by political uncertainty and under potential terrorist threats, the service staff are often a lot more earnest in providing personalised and heart-warming service.

Then there are some other new event destinations where I find great infrastructure and hardware for business events, but the hotels do not have a soul – the software is not in place.

Whenever I use a venue that is relatively new to international events, I will have to invest a lot of time and effort to achieve what is needed.

However, it is in such a destination that I will find the earnest desire to go the extra mile. Very big, developed hotels typically stay away from doing fancy menus for outdoor events.

There was one hotel that went the extra mile to create an exquisite menu for a formal dinner outdoors with an outdoor kitchen built to cater to my event.

I see more restaurants with owners who are easier to talk to. They offer creative options for their venue, service and menus. Cultural venues also provide a good backdrop and are ideal for historical and lifestyle presentations – they leave a long-lasting impression.

I usually work with my event company to bring recommendations to the hotel’s senior management before hosting a large, international event. With senior management’s attention, I am able to provide my wish list up front without much resistance.

To improve service levels, I have a few suggestions:

•   Set service as a culture. This is something that needs to come from the top – a value that will be upheld with pride and honour.

•   Engage continuous training – not just domain training but also soft skills training. Motivational talks are very important to impact the heart where true great service levels can flow through. Continuous refreshment and motivational talks are important for more mature destinations to ensure staff remain motivated to extend great service.

•   Set up an official evaluation and feedback forum for corporate buyers.

•   Hotels need to be willing to work with event management companies and customers to deliver more creativity. Big hotels often have many constraints to manage quality. This ends up hurting creativity.

•   The willingness to make slight deviations from corporate policy and managing inconveniences to achieve a more differentiated and positive experience is what I strive for.

Sherie Ng is managing director for Asia Pacific, China and Middle East, Strategic Region with NICE Systems

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