SINGAPORE - Rendezvous Hotel Singapore administrative assistant Sajida Nasareen went above and beyond the call of duty after checking in an elderly Punjabi couple who had to serve their two-week stay-home notice at the hotel in April.
To ensure that the couple - Mr and Mrs Arora - were well looked after until they could leave the hotel to meet their son, Ms Sajida called them daily, even when she was off duty.
A fluent Punjabi speaker - one of seven languages she speaks - she learnt that they were vegetarians, and liaised with the caterers on their behalf to arrange meals.
When she found out that Mrs Arora was homesick for food from her hometown, Ms Sajida prepared home-made chapati, lentil curry and aloo gobi (a potato and cauliflower dish) for the couple.
"These past two years, I have met people in quarantine who were stressed. They were in a strange new place, with food that they were not used to," said Ms Sajida, who has been in the hospitality industry for about 20 years.
"The hug Mrs Arora gave me at the end of their stay was the best payoff."
She was one of 130 Service Gold winners at the 27th edition of the National Kindness Award - Service Gold awards ceremony held at Orchard Hotel Singapore on Friday (Nov 5).
The annual ceremony, which recognises outstanding front- and back-end service staff in the hospitality industry, saw winners from 73 hotels.
Eight "gracious guests" were also presented with awards at the ceremony attended by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Community, Culture and Youth.
Despite another challenging year for the hospitality and tourism sectors, the workers rose to the occasion and demonstrated "immense strength and professionalism", said Mr Tan, who cited Ms Sajida as one of the winners who exemplified this.
He noted that, compared with 2019, visitor arrivals to Singapore have declined by more than 90 per cent, while the average occupancy rate for hotels has dropped significantly.
"While we are pressing on with efforts to gradually reopen Singapore's borders, international travel is unlikely to rebound quickly in the next few years."
Mr Tan acknowledged the role hotels played in stepping forward to convert themselves into government quarantine facilities. Staff also had to undergo stringent training to ensure the safety of their guests, all while maintaining quality hospitality standards "so that guests, while isolated, would still feel comfortable and less anxious during their stay", he said.
However, Ms Junie Foo, chairman of the Singapore Kindness Movement, pointed out that kindness is a "two-way street".
The movement is a co-organiser of the annual awards ceremony, alongside the Singapore Hotel Association.
"We often read about bad reviews online or witness unhappy customers complaining about dissatisfactory service, but it's time we take a look at ourselves. Are we deserving of good customer service?" asked Ms Foo.
She added that service staff should be treated with respect.
Ms Foo called for forgiveness and patience as the key to being a "kind and gracious customer", as most times front-line staff may be following their company's protocols.
She said: "Even if we are faced with a service experience that we may consider dissatisfactory, let's remember that there are better ways of expressing our dissatisfaction - one of which would be leaving a constructive review on (the company's) feedback form or with the management.
"There are many other ways to solve it amicably and in a civilised manner without having to embarrass service staff in front of others."
Award winners were selected by a panel comprising representatives from the hotel industry and the Singapore Kindness Movement based on nominations from fellow colleagues, supervisors and hotel guests.
Guests, on the other hand, were nominated by hotel staff.