That something extra

The Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) annual Singapore Experience Awards (SEA) lauds individuals and organisations for going above and beyond the call of duty in delivering special, quality service experiences.

Nominated by the public and tourism professionals and judged by industry experts, the awards pay tribute to outstanding organisations and exceptional frontline service staff for 2015.

Improving customer satisfaction and creating a wow experience do not always need a huge investment. It’s the little things that count, say these award winners.

It’s all in the details

It is the small things an organisation does differently or pays attention to that really makes a difference. Here are comments from some SEA judges:
In the current climate, where tourist arrival numbers are dropping, the awards make businesses look at how they can improve on their practices and leverage on the exposure that the SEA brings. The criteria and judging process were very in-depth; it was not a competition for an ill-prepared outfit without a long-term plan and good staff in place. The level of standards shown by all the contestants was indeed high. To really stand out, the winner must have the complete package — from value to service to that X factor that is truly hard to replicate. Happy staff usually means a well-run business and I usually pay more attention to the people beyond the niceties.

Mr James Quan
Bynd Artisan

Small things will always make a difference. When we talk about hospitality, we all want to satisfy our guest. In a hotel, a bed is the same everywhere but it’s little things or little touches that would make them come back. It’s not only for the quality of your steak but for all the experience, decors, music etc.

Mr Olivier Bendel
chief executive officer
Déliciae Hospitality Management

I always feel that tourism is not just about putting in the best infrastructure or technology. What’s more important is the values and culture that is part of an organisation and shared by its employees, so that every touch point a visitor has at a restaurant, hotel, attraction, transportation, retail, etc is consistent and they deliver the experience that exceeds his/her expectations. Singapore Experience Awards is one of the more effective platforms that promotes this cause and sets the direction of the industry.

Mr Darren Oh
business development director
Gardens by the Bay


A little care goes a long way


Going to the hospital is hardly a happy affair, whether you are a patient or visiting a sick relative or friend. But the experience can be mademore pleasant just by someone asking: “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Service staff at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals do just that and try to visit as many patients as they can, says Dr Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.

At Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, the lights in patient corridors shine softly down the walls at the side and not directly overhead to protect patients from the glare of lights as they are wheeled down the corridor.

“Providing good service means we pay attention to details to understand and meet our patients’ needs,” Dr Loh says.

He is instrumental in implementing several changes in the hospital to ensure patients feel more comfortable for the duration while they are there, earning the hospital group the Best Healthcare Experience award in the SEA.

“We are humbled to have received this award. It is a strong validation of our focus on getting optimal health outcomes quickly for each patient. This not only saves cost for us but more importantly, also benefits the patients and their families in the long term,” he says.

“At Mount Elizabeth, we have been focusing on delivering an accurate diagnosis and treatment in the shortest possible time. This makes our services more cost effective.” 

Most patients stay in the hospitals for an average of only three days. He stresses that Mount Elizabeth’s healing environment should be “as conducive as possible, with least hassle and disturbance to the patient”.

“Healthcare processes are complex, so putting in place robust processes for continuous improvement is important to us,” he adds.

- Audrey Ng


Keeping things fresh


“With so many places to eat in Singapore, ranging from hawker to fine dining, a restaurant should have a unique concept to attract guests,” says local celebrity chef Sam Leong, who helms Forest, a fine dining Chinese restaurant in the Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) that prides itself on providing a “total dining experience”.

Named as the Best Dining Experience in the SEA, Forest’s open kitchen allows diners to see the chef in action, adding a special appeal, especially to first-time visitors.

Apart from its usual contemporary Chinese menu, chef Leong occasionally comes up with different culinary offerings to keep things fresh. 
He has introduced new menus, for which his family members — his mother, wife and son — each created a dish. 

He has also given an interesting take to his menu by serving the main course first and appetiser last, to let guests appreciate the full dish at the start.

“At Forest, you don’t go there just to eat but to relax as well,” he says. 

The restaurant caters to diners who want to experience high-end Chinese cuisine in a relaxing ambience. 

The restaurant has a high ceiling, stretching three storeys high and is designed to look like a canopy of trees. 

Floor-to-ceiling windows let customers feel they are dining in lush surroundings. Its location at the far end of RWS adds to the tranquil ambience as trees and greenery surround it.

Service staff are trained to add a personal touch by interacting with guests, including the chef who will say hello to customers at the end of the meal service.

“People have high standards. Good food is already expected of in Singapore,” says chef Leong. 

“You have to go the extra mile to stay on top of your business,” he adds.

- Audrey Ng


Anticipating guests’ needs


As the saying goes, it’s the little things that matter. 

Capella Singapore’s general manager Alejandro Helbling says: “Understanding the needs of our customers begins with putting ourselves in their shoes and learning their unique preferences.”

Recognising that travelling can be stressful, the hotel tries to provide a hassle-free experience for their guests.

“Just being aware of what our guests like and offering simple gestures to surprise them adds to the whole luxury experience,” he says. 
Capella Singapore was bestowed the Best Hotel Experience in the SEA.

At the resort, personal assistants are available round-the-clock for guests. Staff contacts guests prior to their arrival to find out their special needs or requests. 

Sometimes, guests arrive with the intention of proposing to their girlfriends or celebrating momentous occasions like a birthday or anniversary. “Our personal assistants help plan these special surprises and ensure a complete worry-free experience,” Mr Helbling says.

The property has a series of 24 unique service standard guidelines to ensure consistent topnotch service to every guest. These are revised daily to ensure that all staff are well equipped to meet guests’ needs and go beyond just delivering what they ask for. 

Anticipating needs includes finding ways to delight and surprise guests, says Mr Helbling. For example, when they discover that guests are travelling with young children, child amenities and facilities such as a children’s bathrobe are provided. Plus, Capella’s culinary team will specially prepare personalised cookies as a special gift for them.

It is in taking care of the simple details 

of each guest’s stay and putting in the extra effort to take notice of guest needs to tailor a unique stay, he adds.

- Beatrice Ang


Luxuriate in retail therapy


Said to offer the largest luxury collection of brands in one mall within the region, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands has for the second consecutive year clinched the Best Shopping Experience in the SEA.

What makes this venue stand out among other malls? For one, some stores remain open till midnight to cater to the late-night shopping crowd. And there is a diverse line-up of eateries to complete the retail experience, from award-winning celebrity chef restaurants to bars that open till late.

According to Mr John Postle, vice-pResident of retail, Marina Bay Sands, The Shoppes is also the first and only luxury mall in Singapore to offer a complimentary shoeshine service. 

As part of an integrated resort, The Shoppes is visited by international clientele ranging from business travellers to foodies and musical and museum-goers, says Mr Postle. 

“This means that every facet of our mall needs to be well thought out to cater to these discerning customers, be it a quick shoeshine service for the busy delegate or theatre menus at our restaurants,” he adds.

The organisation also takes into account shoppers’ feedback and factors it in when planning marketing activities, tenant mix and general common area improvements. It also works closely with retailers to create a better shopping experience for customers, be it staging a pop-up retail booth or catering for their VIP events.

This past July, the organisation introduced a new digital platform — the Click & Collect service — allowing shoppers to browse and reserve limited edition items that could only be found at The Shoppes in Singapore. 

“We will continue to build on this energy to innovate and create even more reasons for shoppers to visit Singapore in the years to come,” says Mr Postle.

- Beatrice Ang


Thrilling and chilling adventures


The intertwining red and blue tracks are one of the more prominent features that attract the eye when entering Sentosa on the monorail, before the rest of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) comes into view.

Attractions at RWS have clinched several SEA awards for 2015.

Universal Studios Singapore (USS), which won the Best Visitor Attraction, has delighted locals and tourists alike with its exciting movie-themed rides like Transformers The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle, Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and Shrek 4-D Adventure.

A new addition is Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey, the first suspended rollercoaster based on the movie. And the world’s tallest dueling rollercoasters, Battlestar Galactica: HUMAN vs CYLON, reopened earlier this year.

“As millions of visitors come through the park, we will continue to refresh and rejuvenate our offerings to enhance visitor experience, and up-scale our signature events to keep them coming back for more,” says an RWS spokesman. 

Guests can expect a series of exciting events for the upcoming festive season such as daily snowfall and new shows.

USS’ Halloween Horror Nights 4 also won the Leisure Event of the Year. “Our goal was to create the region’s best Halloween event with original storylines and intricate movie-like sets that provide unique horror experiences,” says the spokesman.

The team working on the event uses customer feedback to improve the attraction, including incorporating local elements such as a haunted army camp and school that is different from Halloween Horror Nights in the United States.

The monthly Ocean Dreams programme at the S.E.A. Aquarium offers a different type of experience that lets guests stay overnight at the aquarium. It won the Best Learning & Travel Experience award.

This immersive experience allows visitors to learn about marine life and conservation through activities and games, and view the feeding of marine creatures.

Snacks, drinks and sleeping bags are provided for participants to make their experience more comfortable. Various programmes for schools and the public like themed journeys are also available to learn about marine conversation through experiential learning.

- Audrey Ng