Part 4: In Which We Have Strong Doses Of Customer Service And Are Happy When It Is All Over
I was dreading going to the coffee shop for breakfast the next morning. The F&B department and more specifically the coffee shop was the target of my complaints. With all the activities of the past evening, I was sure that I would be singled out for some hyper-attentive service. The coffee-shop staff on duty would be waiting to pounce on me to show-off their (newly acquired) super-service skills. I was sure that my name and room number would be prominently marked in the register kept at the entrance and the moment I announced my room number, I would be a marked man!
This was day 3 of our meeting and I was not required till late morning. So I decided to take it easy and went for late for breakfast. With a deft movement I managed to sneak into the coffee-shop without informing the person my room number. I heaved a sigh of relief. Now I can have my breakfast in peace!
But the joy was not very long-lived. Half way into the breakfast, someone realized that I had walked in without informing my room number. A Black Jacket, who was probably the coffee shop manager, approached my table and asked me, “So, sir, what did you say your room number was?” I nearly choked on the spoon of cornflakes I was having. For a moment I even considered giving a false room number. But the consequences of doing that would have been embarrassing if I was to get caught. And I softly gave my room number. Nothing happened for a few minutes. So I was unnecessarily worried, after all. Relief!!
But this happiness proved to be very short-lived. As I was sipping my tea towards the end of the breakfast, through the corner of my eyes I could see Black Jacket in conversation with another Black Jacket. And within a few minutes they bounded to my table, together.
“Mr Ojha?’ Black Jacket 2 enquired.
“Good morning, Mr Ojha” Black Jacket 1 said cheerily.
“Good morning” I replied.
And then started a long-winded one from both Black Jacket 1 and Black Jacket 2 on how apologetic they were regarding their staff’s service-quality levels the last few days and how they will make sure I am never inconvenienced in future. And so on and so forth. Each fished out his card and urged me to call them directly the next time I was staying at the hotel.
I did not notice the cloud of white-jacketed junior staff forming around my table as the Black Jackets were at it. No sooner my tea gets over, WJ 1 quickly refreshes the cup. The moment I light up my cigarette, WJ 2 hastens to light it. One tip of the ash into the ashtray, WJ 3 rapidly clears the “dirty” ashtray away replacing it with a fresh one. And so on and so forth it proceeded till I decide that 3 cups of tea and half and hour of listening to Black Jackets was enough and I have to move on with the day’s work.
“Good morning, Mr Ojha. How are you today?” I had not noticed Mr GM who suddenly materialized seemingly from nowhere.
“Good morning, Mr GM.” (I wanted to tell him, over-pampered, over-stuffed, over-indulged. But I refrained).
“I was walking past and I saw you,” he said in a casual manner.
I was sure Mr GM must have instructed his staff to inform him when I reached the coffee-shop.
An “All well?” and a “bye” and Mr GM was off.
Back now to the Black Jackets.
“Thank you, sirs”, I say to the Black Jackets.
“Thank you, sir. And as we told you, we are really very sorry….”
I am already running towards the exit. This had been the most embarrassing 30 minutes ever in any coffee-shop!
Through the meeting I noticed that the tea table had a lot more to offer than the mandatory cookies. Sandwiches, pastries, samosas,; the works. And more than the usual compliment of staff waiting on us.
Our meeting had “broken-out” in three groups working in three different conference rooms. As I moved from one room to the other across the floor, I could sense I was a marked man among the staff on duty. Let me tell you it is not a comfortable feeling walking around with the knowledge that there are a dozen pairs of eyes watching your every move and eager to serve you. You suddenly feel so vulnerable. Vulnerable to attacks of customer service!
The lunch we had later in the day also deserves some telling.
If you are familiar with five star buffet lunches served during meetings/ conferences, you would know these are very different compared with the fare you get in the regular restaurants. The spread is a stripped-down version of the restaurant buffets. Sometimes you even suspect the dishes are left-overs from some other spread.
But for this lunch the hotel had pulled out all the stops! For one, instead of the normal two non-veg dish fare, we were served fish and chicken and mutton. And all three were prepared in the local style. That was yummy. And then instead of the perfunctory roti/naan we had kulchha and paratha and hot pooris in addition! And, wonders of wonders, instead of cold and indifferent stuff, we were served hot kulchhas and pooris by waiters circulating around the room.
And of course, I remained the marked man! When I was trying to help myself to some more of the delicious fish curry, I had a waiter thrust a bowl on my plate to take the curried fish. Hot pooris kept raining on my plate (I love pooris) so much so that I realized that I was over-stuffed and kept my plate away. Prompt appeared a finger-bowl! A finger bowl in a buffet lunch!
All this time a black jacket was keeping a keen eye on me and orchestrating the moves of his staff. The moment he saw me washing my fingers, he crept up to me. “Dessert, Mr Ojha?”
“No, no, I am off sugar stuff. Doctor’s orders, you see.”
“I understand. But we do have this sugar-free dessert. Why don’t you try it out? Here.” As he served me a few pieces of the sugar-free barfi.
And so on it went.
I had to check out later that afternoon. I was keen to make a quick unobtrusive getaway but I was not quite sure how I could manage that.
There were butterflies in my stomach as I was waiting for the accounts clerk to swipe my card as I was checking out. What surprises were awaiting me on my departure from the hotel?
Mercifully, none. Maybe this aspect of customer service I liked the best! Leave your guest alone!!