Lasting Experiences At Ascott

Named 'Best Serviced Residence Operator' for the sixth year at the TTG Travel Awards, Ascott continues to captivate its guests with its signature service and hospitality

Issue: Nov 2010

Lasting Experiences
Creating the familiar comforts of home anywhere in the world puts Ascott in a class of its own

This month marks 10 years of tremendous achievement for CapitaLand. Among many things, the Group’s wholly owned subsidiary, The Ascott Limited has raised the bar for international serviced residences around the world through its three brands – Ascott, Citadines and Somerset. Together, the three brands operate over 26,000 serviced residence units in 71 cities across Asia Pacific, Europe and the Gulf region.

And if you are wondering why Ascott has won over 20 accolades in this year alone, the company makes every effort at the forefront and behind the scenes to deliver service standards parallel to none.

Among its many efforts, INSIDE sieves out 10 of its great residents’ experiences; and behind–the–scene stories from all over the world as a tribute to Ascott’s outstanding commitment to service.

An Initiative Appreciated

Imagine finding out that your flight had been cancelled right after you have checked out of the serviced residence. Then just when you check in for another night because you can only fly off the next day, the airline calls to say the flight has been reinstated.

Unfortunately, the run around for Serene Tan and her husband did not stop there. The reinstated flight never took place that night and they had to return to Ascott Jakarta.

Hambali Zainuddin
Hambali Zainuddin, Guest Relations Manager makes a lasting impression with guests both young and old

Throughout the almost 12 hours of confusion, the front office staff of Ascott Jakarta, in particular, Hambali Zainuddin, Kristiana Ayu Isputrianti and Octa Rambing’s assistance and kindness helped Tan and her husband to manage an otherwise frustrating time.

The staff exceeded the residents’ expectation when they offered them the use of the front office phone to sort out their flight arrangements after they had checked out. The staff also cancelled the extra room night charge when they were called back to the airport shortly after checking in. When they had to return in the wee hours of the morning, they were offered the same room at the same rate immediately.

“They were a total pillar of support at a time when we had no one else to turn to in a foreign city. Our heartfelt thanks to them and count us as total fans of The Ascott Residence from now on!” said Tan.

Alim and Mary
Employees like Alim and Mary continue to define service the Heartware way

Beyond the Call of Duty

When Vishnu Navarajan, a resident at Somerset Gateway Kuching suffered a bad sprain while at a nearby mall, Mary Anak Gadum (Guest Service Supervisor), Alim Ali Omar (Engineering Supervisor) and Nizam (temporary staff) teamed up to ensure that he received the care and treatment he needed.

It was late but at 9.30pm, Alim and Nizam pushed Vishnu in a wheelchair over bumpy roads to get him to a sinseh (traditional Chinese doctor). Meanwhile, Mary took the initiative to inform and update Vishnu's family on his condition. The care did not stop there as Alim went on afterwards to a night market to buy some ginger and tamarind, recommended by the sinseh, to treat Vishnu’s sprain.

“I thought that my holiday had turned into a nightmare but as it turned out, the excellent staff you have at the Somerset Gateway Kuching made it more than worth my while,” said the grateful resident in a complimentary note to the three employees who went beyond their call of duty to deliver service.

A Helping Hand in a Foreign Land

Helping residents in a country where they do not speak the local language goes a long way. At Citadines Saint Germain–des–Prés Paris, Guest Relations Manager Manh Tuong Trinh made resident Danny Peh’s stay an exceptional experience by helping him resolve heating problems in his apartment swiftly and sharing the Parisian highlights with the resident.

“Most staff carry out their work as it’s their duty to do so, but there are exceptional ones like Trinh who works with passion and sincerity. You can tell that they are determined to make a difference for the residents to ensure that they have a memorable and delightful stay,” said Peh.

Working alongside Trinh is Guest Relations Manager, Najib Mouaddab. Najib assisted residents in purchasing train tickets on a French website. He also acted promptly to help residents who were robbed to cancel their credit cards and lodge a police report.

It is no wonder that Najib’s swift and resourceful nature has prompted a long stay resident to nickname him "Mr Solution".

When asked how they always have the 'wow' attitude, Trinh and Najib said, "It is all about teamwork. We are the visible part of the iceberg, but there are many others behind the scene who make it all possible."

Just Leave it with Us

Jeff Koo
Citadines Jinqiao is where Jeff Khoo calls home away from home and where everyone knows his name

For the past two to three years, Citadines Jinqiao Shanghai is where Jeffrey Khoo has been calling home 100 days out of a year.

“The friendly management and staff make me feel as though this is my second home. Everyone remembers and greets me by name,” says Khoo.

In fact, they know him so well that everything is arranged the way he likes it during his many stays. Only rooms on certain floors will be picked for Khoo. Even the housekeeper assigned to upkeep his room is the same person when possible.

Special favours are simply the specialty at Citadines Jinqiao Shanghai.

“Because frequent residents like Jeffrey Khoo travels so often, he leaves his seasonal clothes behind with us so that he doesn’t have to lug his winter wear every time he comes,” says Lena Lin, Residence Manager.

Where Saving the Day is Second Nature

It is something that could happen to anyone, and yet we never think about it until it does. KF Loh, a resident at Citadines Arnulfpark Munich, realised that she had left her passport at the serviced residence reception after checking out.

“I discovered that my passport was still at the serviced residence reception when I arrived at Zurich airport. Sylvie, the receptionist, helped me over the phone to find ways to get it back to me in time for a later flight home. She was knowledgeable, helpful and made me feel less anxious about the situation by agreeing to check all avenues,” shared Loh.

“The assistant residence manager then, Pierre Brunaud, went beyond my expectations by taking a train to the Zurich airport station to return the passport to me in person and apologised on behalf of the staff. I must say the entire episode turned from a nightmare to a really positive and memorable experience,” added Loh.

It is outstanding actions like these that help grow the list of returning residents at Citadines Arnulfpark Munich.

When the Little Things Matter in a Big Way

Not every exceptional moment needs to start with a distressed resident. Sometimes the smallest gesture on an uneventful day tops them all.

When Kristi Dunn was staying at Citadines Mount Sophia Singapore, she mentioned in passing to Guest Service Supervisor, Cher Xiao Ping, that she liked stargazer lilies.

After a weekend away, a beautiful bouquet of stargazer lilies magically appeared in Dunn’s room. The magician was of course Cher, who frequently conjures moments like these for the residents.

“They exceeded my expectations with their high customer service levels. Needless to say, they ‘wow–ed’ me,” said Dunn.

Pampering is a Way of Life

Building relationships
Building relationships and anticipating residents’ needs are a way of life at Ascott serviced residences

Like most Ascott serviced residences, Ascott Makati host scheduled activities from fun-filled social gatherings, cultural events, learning programs, sports tournaments and featured festivals. These enable its residents to learn more about the local community and lifestyle.

"The Ascott Host Programme is the one-stop solution tailoring our product and service offerings to the preferences of our residents. Ascott Makati features a dedicated host for long-staying residents for that personalized attention and enriched living experience from the time before they arrive, right up to their departure. The residents are given an orientation tour designed to familiarize them with their new environment and a security briefing on the way of life in Manila to ensure the seamless and secure stay of our newly arrived residents. They are even shown where they can purchase sundries at a nearby supermarket,” says Ascott Makati’s General Manager Lew Yen Ping.

When a resident checks in for the first time, they are handed a form that lists down a number of amenities and options. On their next visit, their preferences will be there waiting for them — from their choice of newspapers and magazines to the type of pillows in their bedroom.

She explains that the best ‘wow’ moments are those with an element of surprise. Residents who return after a long day of shopping are treated to either ice-cream by the poolside or a 10-minute shoulder rub at an impromptu massage station. They may even walk into the coffee house for breakfast and be greeted by a complimentary shoe shine service!

The Back Room Contest

Champion Room Attendant Competition
Initiatives like the ‘Champion Room Attendant Competition’ are serious fun for the employees

Ever wondered if delivering good service and meeting varying needs of residents can be fun, well, the answer is yes!

There is nothing like a bit of competition to spur motivation and excitement among service staff. In Indonesia, for example, events like the ‘Champion Room Attendant Competition’ are held for employees of all the Ascott serviced residences across the country.

According to Kenneth Rogers, Country General Manager, Indonesia, the contest not only determines who can make the tidiest bed in the best time, but puts participants through a product knowledge test on topics like housekeeping operations, fire and safety procedures and general matters.

Typically, each property has internal playoffs before sending two of their best Room Attendants to represent their property in the final competition.

“The best thing about being the winner is the recognition for my job, as housekeeping is a department that is sometimes forgotten.

“This competition has made a difference in how we work as it reinforces the standards required from us through a fun environment. And being in a fun environment helps us to remember and learn better,” said Muhamad Ridwan, a Room Attendant at Ascott Jakarta and winner of the 2009 competition.

Power to the Staff

It is said that empowering employees can have dramatic results in a company. The reasoning is simple – if employees feel empowered, they will be more productive, loyal, and enjoy their jobs more.

And that is exactly what Jean Keijdener, Country General Manager of Somerset Palace Seoul set out to do when he started the ‘US$100 – empowerment’ initiative, a programme which he has introduced at the various locations he has been posted to in Asia, viz. Indonesia, Vietnam and presently, South Korea.

The ‘US$100 – empowerment’ initiative makes available a hypothetical US$100 for employees to resolve basic residents’ inconveniences, recover a situation or to ‘wow’ a resident. In other words, a staff member is empowered to solve the resident’s problem within a US$100 budget.

Keijdener explained that there is no ‘hard definition’ to the principle. The reason for this is so that it is easily understood and applied by employees who know their actions will be backed by their managers.

While this initiative is yet to be practised company-wide, it has been a simple and effective way to empower employees to delight and recognise its guests.

When resident Anne B suffered from a bad fall and fractured her pelvic bone, Dean Choi who was Resident Services Agent at Somerset Palace Seoul then, arranged for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

There he accompanied Anne B until she was attended to by a doctor and only after the hospital found her a room at 2am that Choi escorted Anne B's companion back to the serviced residence. All funding spent by Choi during the incident was handled through the US$ 100 initiative.

“Mr Choi’s care, concern and considerable talent as an interpreter and support were invaluable. You are fortunate to have such a talented and thoughtful young man as your staff!” wrote Anne B after she returned home.

Another resident, Michael C, who had the pleasure of experiencing the outcome of this initiative commented, "The people-focussed management system that you have practised in increasing customer satisfaction and empowerment of your staff in their role is most commendable. The caring attitude and commitment exhibited by your staff has well exceeded our expectations, and they fully understand service attributes that contribute to customer value that lead to satisfaction and loyalty."

A Deal Too Suite to Miss

Sweet Deals
With such sweet deals, there is really no need to look elsewhere for your ideal accomodation

If you are constantly looking for the best deals on the Internet, your search should begin (and end) with Ascott’s “Best Rate Guarantee”.

The initiative promises the lowest publicly available Internet rate each time a guest makes a booking through any of Ascott’s websites – the first such programme offered in the serviced residence industry.

If a guest finds a lower rate for the same property, apartment type and reservation dates on another website within 24 hours of their confirmed booking made on Ascott’s website, upon verification, Ascott will honour the lower rate found and extend a further 10 per cent discount off that rate.

“As the leading international serviced residence owner-operator, Ascott constantly finds new ways to enhance our customers’ experience. Being the first in the industry to guarantee the best rates on our websites is another demonstration of Ascott’s strong commitment to our customers. With Ascott’s ‘Best Rate Guarantee’, our guests will enjoy peace of mind when they make their online bookings directly with us,” says Mr Tony Soh, Chief Corporate Officer of The Ascott Limited.

With a multitude of initiatives beginning at the corporate level right through to the employees of every property, it is no wonder Ascott continues to create extraordinary and amazing experiences for its guests.

So create an exceptional experience for yourself the next time you stay at any of the Ascott, Somerset and Citadines serviced residences.

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