Going beyond customers' expectations bags 2 hospitality service staff top honours

Mr Sebastian Joo, 73, a service assistant at Sheraton Towers Hotel, receiving a trophy for being a Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) Outstanding Star award nominee at the Excellent Service Award Star Presentation Ceremony for the Hospitality Industry
Mr Sebastian Joo, 73, a service assistant at Sheraton Towers Hotel, receiving a trophy for being a Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) Outstanding Star award nominee at the Excellent Service Award Star Presentation Ceremony for the Hospitality Industry on Nov 20 at Kallang Theatre from Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon. Mr Joo was one of the two SHA Outstanding Star award winners. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - When Ms Jane Chua learnt in March that a guest with an injured leg was checking into the serviced apartments where she worked, she quickly realised that the rooms, which were higher than the corridor, would be difficult to enter.

To resolve this, the guest service executive led the construction of a wheelchair ramp specially for the guest.

This kind act allowed her to beat 835 others to share the top prize of the Excellent Service Award's (Exsa) star category on Monday (Nov 20).

"I did not know for sure whether she had a wheelchair," said Ms Chua of the guest, retiree Mary Lim, 74. "I just believed she might be in one, so I made the arrangements for the platform and requested that my housekeeping team prepare additional pillows to make her stay as comfortable as possible."

The awards celebrated 3,247 winners from 126 organisations in the hospitality industry, with the star category recognising 837 awardees, the gold category honouring 1,081, and silver 1,329.

Organised by the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) since 1994, Exsa recognises those who provide excellent service.

Ms Chua, 37, who works at Village Residence Hougang and won one of two SHA Outstanding Star awards, said: "I'm very surprised and honoured to win, because to me, this is just part of my duty. I don't think that I've done anything exceptional for my guests as I believe that this should be the spirit that every service industry staff should have."

She shared the top prize with service assistant Sebastian Joo, who works at the Sheraton Towers Singapore.

Around two months ago, Mr Joo, 73, learnt from one of the hotel's guests, Mr Bryan Paulding, that he had almost collapsed while shopping. He immediately took Mr Paulding, who is around 80 years old, from the lobby to his room and told his colleagues to check on him every two hours.

The next day, even though it was his day off, Mr Joo accompanied Mr Paulding to the hospital for a doctor's appointment.

"I had to do it," said Mr Joo, who has worked at the hotel for 17 years. "He was travelling by himself and could barely stand on his own."

Mr Paulding, an Englishman who travelled from Malaysia to visit Sheraton Towers Singapore more than 350 times over at least 10 years, tried to give Mr Joo $50. But Mr Joo refused to accept it, telling Mr Paulding that he had accompanied him because he wanted to.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon was guest of honour at the ceremony at Kallang Theatre.

He said that Ms Chua and Mr Joo were "service champions" who serve as role models for others in the industry.

"They have shown that service excellence is about going beyond customers' expectations to create meaningful guest engagement and positive experiences," said Dr Koh.

When asked how he felt about his win, Mr Joo said "of course" he felt happy, but he was more concerned about the future.

"I am old. Next time I hope that someone from my hotel will take my place and continue to provide the same excellent service."