I’ve got it. That One Big Idea that will allow me to make the magical leap from successful professional to super successful entrepreneur. The idea hit me as I was saying my sixteenth good morning en route to my swimming pool in a five-star hotel.
I’m not exaggerating. The list of employees who greet me every morning before I’ve had my breakfast includes the two security guards who scan my car for chemical weapons before I enter the hotel; the man who opens the door of my vehicle in the driveway; the gent who opens the first door that leads to the lobby; the two security people (one male, one female) who wait patiently to scan (male/female) customers’ bags; the hostess who’s always lurking behind the second door that opens into the lobby; at least two staff members as I cross the lobby to the elevator; the man who stands near the elevator dusting its doors; the two people at the fitness centre reception; the lady on duty in the changing room; the two staff members I encounter from the changing room to the pool; and finally, the pool attendant whose main job, it would seem, is to hand me a towel. And that’s just on my way in.
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All of them greet me with an excessively cheerful, sing-song “good morning madam” or they join their hands and bend vigorously for a direct eye contact “Namaste”. I grew up in a hotel and three questions immediately occur to me: Why does this hotel have so many employees? It’s 2010, why are they bending so low? Most importantly, who’s training them?
That’s my big idea.
There are so many young Indians eager for jobs that will better their lives—and so many lost service opportunities in present-day India. When was the last time your mobile phone/bank representative impressed you? Or the last time your server knew the difference between sushi and sashimi? Or when did you last meet a store attendant who could assess with one glance whether your body was better suited to slim-fit or boot-cut jeans? This country, I firmly believe, needs a service industry bootcamp. A three-month course that ensures consumers will love you. And who better to take on this challenge than yours truly, the original cranky consumer?
Wait list: are you being served?
Of course, the A-list hotel chains in this country run intensive in-house training programmes. One training manager at a leading hotel in Delhi says she trains the staff to handle anything from the three stages of a drunk customer (a little high, happy but can’t stand, passed out) to dealing with the fussy customer (one tip: don’t ignore him but engage only in minimal conversation).
She says that since last year, the hotel chain has also begun to train staff to understand that engaging a guest is not necessarily about responding excessively to him/her. “So if the guest is having a conversation or reading a book, they should understand that he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” she says.
When she goes out to a restaurant, she notices everything from the server’s breath to the dirt on the cuffs of his uniform. If she spots a hint of stubble she knows that it means he shaved earlier than his shift.
The few quality training outfits notwithstanding, clearly, the demand for good training far outweighs its supply. I think I’m on to something big.
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