Service with Aplomb

(Left - Cheryl Chan Yee Leng, Right - Charlene Teresa Hendricks)

By Kevin Lim

It isn’t just about doing it great. It’s about doing it better.

Nestled on the resort island of Sentosa, stands a hotel well known for its remarkable service and attention to quality.

We wondered though, just what goes on behind the scenes of Capella Singapore. Just where did this extraordinary level of service come from, and what it takes to run an operation with its reputation for excelling with customers?

To help us uncover the secrets of Capella Singapore, we speak with two people “on the inside”, Senior Personal Assistant (Library), Cheryl Chan and Catering Sales Manager (Wedding), Charlene Teresa Hendricks.

A natural attraction

We begin with the most obvious question, “Why the hospitality industry?” to gain an insight into the personal motivations of these two ladies and their desire to succeed in this line. For both, joining the industry was a dream planted from a young age.

Cheryl gushes as she explains her family trips to hotels overseas, and the incredible memories she has as a young girl, checking out new rooms, furnishings, and interacting with hotel staff.

Charlene’s turn to answer, and she asks us to excuse her “cliché-ness” as she tells us how meeting new people and putting smiles on their faces genuinely makes her day. The age she knew she wanted to a career with a top hotel? A tender 14 years.

Never just “another day”

Guest requests come in all shapes and sizes at Capella Singapore, so perhaps asking Cheryl and Charlene to describe “a regular working day” was a bit of a misnomer. Still, the girls entertained our question and described their core duties.

As a Senior Personal Assistant, Cheryl is part of the Personal Assistants Team that is the hallmark of Capella Singapore’s renowned service. Everything from welcoming their guests with an email prior to their arrival, to handling specific requests, to perfectly customising a guest’s stay, is handled by Cheryl and her team.

In case you’re wondering just how customised a hotel stay can be, try this – the Personal Assistants Team can ensure one guest’s room is exactly 22 degrees Celsius, another’s refrigerator is stocked with organic baby food puree, and another room is stocked with green M&M’s – a guest’s daughter’s favourite treat. Charlene’s duties as a Catering Sales Manager (Wedding) are no less simple.

Simply put, she’s in charge of making the biggest day of a couple’s life even more perfect than they themselves can imagine. A harrowing task for regular folk, but Charlene and the team at Capella Singapore, are no regular folk.

Excelling through training and learning

One of the building blocks to any successful organisation is employee development. Cheryl and Charlene relate how Capella Singapore offers consistent opportunities in this area. Employees are not only given a basic orientation the first day of work, but are able to acquire certifications in food hygiene, occupational first aid, quality management, leadership excellence, and more.

Internal and external training sessions are posted in the hotel’s monthly training calendar, and employees get to choose the courses they wish to attend. Cheryl adds, “Capella Singapore also offers scholarships to employees to further their studies for a diploma or degree – yet another way we’re supported in terms of education and development.”

“Memorable” moments

The hospitality industry, with its multitude of guests from different cultures, personalities and walks of life, is one place where excitement is never in short supply. Cheryl jumps in with a story, “Once, we had a guest who needed a leg press machine as part of his exercise regime. Our hotel didn’t have one, and he needed it within 48 hours. We huffed, puffed and scrambled. In the end, we got the machine to our hotel, and our guest was really appreciative. Sometimes, we joke that our unofficial motto is ‘as long as it’s legal and ethical, we’ll do it!’“

Not to be outdone, Charlene dimes in with her own memorable (but thankfully not panic-inducing) moment on the job.

“Ever been to a Star Wars themed wedding? Complete with Star Wars-inspired invitation cards, wedding cake, robes for the best men and bridesmaids, and a flurry of light sabres? Well, I have! Not only did I attend it, I organised it - and it was a galaxy of fun!”

A slate of options

We learn from the ladies that career opportunities within Capella Singapore and the Capella Hotel Group are aplenty. Aside from being promoted and taking on new responsibilities within the hotel, staff also have the opportunity to gain exposure as part of the teams handling pre-opening properties, or with lateral moves to sister properties.

Within a hotel, Charlene recommends food lovers (like herself) join the Food & Beverage department, as this is where employees get to experience international cuisine, and meet Michelin star chefs.

The best reward

Service-based industries as sometimes seen as “tough and thankless”. We wanted to know if this was the case at Capella Singapore, and how these ladies felt about the industry.

“For the record, it isn’t a piece of cake” says Cheryl. “Guests come with all sorts of requests, and it’s our job to make those requests a reality, regardless of circumstances. With that said, our guests are also the most rewarding part of our job. When checking out, some give us a sincere thank you, others make written notes to express their gratitude. They’re paying guests and don’t have to do that, but they do - which makes it even more special.”

The best ingredients

So what qualities make an ideal Capella employee? Both girls agree that in an industry where service is everything, interested candidates should preferably be patient, observant, have excellent problem solving skills, have initiative and love to be around people.

A future with Capella?

Our final question for the ladies, “Would you encourage our readers to join Capella Singapore?” “Of course, it’s the best hotel in Singapore!”

Venturing into the Hospitality industry? Take your pick from the available positions here