From: Macau Daily Times
Career Ladder: First impressions count
Because the hotels of Sands China Ltd. are a magnet for guests from around the world, the Sands China team of reservation professionals is equipped to meet and charm a great variety of people. It begins at first contact, with potential guests being sincerely greeted and immediately well-served.
“We understand the importance of first impressions,” says Jennifer Vong, Executive Manager – Product, Quality Assurance & Training (QAT) in the Reservations Department. “From our very first contact, we interact with our inquiring guests with sincerity, providing them with comprehensive information about the wide range of services and facilities our properties have to offer.”
The reservations team assists guests as well as industry customers, such as travel agents
and conference organizers. The goal is to fill the 5,024 rooms and suites of Sands China Ltd.’s hotel brands — The Venetian Macao, Sands Macao, Holiday Inn Macao, Cotai Central & Conrad Macao, Cotai Central. To meet the expectations guests have of these prestigious hotels, Guest Service Agents (GSAs) are selected for their passion and enthusiasm for hospitality customer service, then thoroughly trained to meet the high standard of the company.
Language skill is an important asset. “Fluency in English, Putonghua and Cantonese is a considered a basic requirement in our department, many of our team members are not only meeting this basic requirement — they are multilingual. This language ability makes the booking process much easier for guests from different countries,” Ms. Vong says. The team of 150 specialists assists a great variety of guest types, including independent travellers, business and conference attendees, leisure groups, travel agents, and wholesalers.
Professional growth is a constant for team members. “We have a great variety of products and services that change regularly across our properties,” says Ms. Vong, “so our team members are always learning new things. We try to make each of our team members a good listener so that they can understand and always meet the needs of our guests.”
There are lots of training opportunities within the company. Ms. Vong has taken part in departmental, inter-departmental, Macau-sponsored, and even sister-property training programs. Virtually all she has learned in these training sessions can be applied to day-to-day operations in Macau. New team members go through a one-month training course to familiarize themselves with the call centre workflow and the product knowledge of the properties under Sands China Ltd.
“In addition to product and service knowledge, guest service agents also receive training on communication skills, participate in role-play, and listen to on live calls with experienced colleagues,” Ms. Vong says. GSAs also need to reply to e-mail inquiries, review online bookings, and figure out how to meet all kinds of special requests. They arrange spa and limousine bookings, help arrange tours in Macau; and assist in special arrangements requested by guests including surprise birthdays, anniversaries; and even marriage proposals!
“Each guest request is unique and the challenge is to meet expectation to each individual guest’s requirements,” says Ms. Vong. The team gathers and analyzes information to track its performance.
“We also have incentive programs to encourage staff to continuously learn and grow” says Sandra Tang, Assistant Manager – Business Analysis. “In addition, we regularly monitor our GSA’s interaction with guests and commercial customers, and evaluate their technical skills, product knowledge, and communication skill to ensure the service to meet our standard.”
Another incentive that recognizes and rewards employees for their great attitudes is the “Key to Excellence” program. It emphasizes the core values and recognizes team members who live these values. The rewards from this incentive program could be accumulated and staff can spend it on hotel stays, restaurant outings, or tickets to entertainment performances within the properties of the company.
Ms. Tang recalls how a team member recently demonstrated the desired values. “A pregnant lady who was walking by slipped and nearly fell. This team member leapt to her aid, keeping her steady so she avoided injury. I was really impressed to discover the team member was not even on duty at the time. Such behaviour is a wonderful example to others and we greatly appreciate it as a company.”
As the reservations team continues to grow, the department is looking for additional enthusiastic individuals interested in becoming guest service agents. It can be a hectic job, with call centre employees fully engaged in pre-arrival conversations. “The office is always busy, with phones, e-mails and search engines running. It can be stressful sometimes. However, our team members always manage to fulfil the task at hand. They are friendly and supportive to one another and work as a team with one primary goal: to create a great customer experience prior to their arrival,” Ms. Tang says. She notes that managers and supervisors always are present to support the team.
Ms. Tang and Ms. Vong joined the company in relatively junior positions and, after several promotions, now guide and support new talent coming into the organization. Today’s newcomers have the same opportunity to become members of a proud, well-trained and dedicated team and to move up as new job opportunities arise in this fast growing organization in Macao.
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Keyword: Sands China Ltd, Reservation, First Impression, Language Skill, Hospitality customer service