Cross training of staff ensured that the staff could do their duties in the best possible manner to the satisfaction of the guests and the management, who duly rewarded them. The 35th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
We had a great team at work in the hotel. All the departments worked in unison and cordiality at their best because, if one did not learn to smile at another all the time, one would not be able to maintain a friendly feeling or face when meeting the customer, which was the most important aspect of the hospitality business.
The management encouraged us to know more about the eateries in the area so that we could recommend the best places, should the guests ask for the same; likewise, we had to persuade the guests to sign up for the exclusive club membership, so that on every visit, they would be able to earn points on the amounts they spend, very much in line with the airline frequent flyer miles concept. Of course, in the process, we also earned ‘points’ for getting as many new members as possible. We could utilize the earned ‘points’ for our own holidays or get a gift from the hundreds listed.
The club membership ensured that guests would soon become repeat customers, get special arrival, check-in and check-out procedures, upgrading to the “super club level floor, special breakfast treats” besides getting a priority room allocation even when they walk in without advance booking!
Newcomers to the city who came on sight-seeing tours also needed great guidance and assistance. There were different types of tours and these companies were offering commissions to the hotel staff (like the concierge) for making the bookings. Similarly, long distance travels by taxi cabs, even for catching flights to their destinations from Dulles airport (some 50 miles away) meant ‘earning’ possibility of commission for the staff. All these activities brought in additional benefits to the staff, but this meant, they had to be alert and always at the beck and call of the guests. Thus, for the staff, it became a habit to be cheerful, well informed, and be always ready to assist the guest.
Likewise, even when the eateries had issued coupons for the benefit of the guests and the front desk staff would make the best possible recommendations for the guests to choose from; and utilized the coupon given by the staff, there was always a small code to identify the staff; and this meant free meals or commissions!
The Courtyard also arranged for an annual outing for the staff; it was a picnic of sort, much enjoyed by the staff and their families, with lots of games to play and enjoy special food prepared by the hotel. It was a get-together in the open; but almost at the fag end of the year, we had annual Christmas dinners when employees received special awards for the good jobs they did.
Our associate hotels located in the vicinity would also ask for assistance in staff locations when there was rush or overbooking; or caused by sickness or absenteeism; it would also be in the form materials, such as extra beds when guests turn up with young kids and do not want them to be alone in their rooms and so on.
Cross training of staff in our own hotel was mandatory. In certain jobs like housekeeping the female staff were well-trained and were able to consistently clear up 16 rooms in their shift, but this was not easily done by male members. Likewise, we had shuttle drivers who would not only go to the airport ever half hour, they were also fully in the know of dropping and collecting the guests from various eateries in the area in a friendly and efficient manner.
Work as a guest relations associate was well received, and the first chance for a promotion was made to me for a transfer to our associate hotel in Washington DC, where John was GM. I went for the interview but was not keen to take up the new assignment. In the meantime, as luck would have it, another internal candidate had shown much keenness to take that position and I was advised that something else might come in my way.
It was then we came to know that John was himself transferred from DC to Crystal City, much to the pleasure of most and our GM Doug Wiggins was promoted as Area MD and took over his job in DC.
We were coming closer to the end of 1999. There was a big scare that there would be a catastrophic computer-generated crash on the midnight of 31st December, as we moved into 1st January morning of 2000.
Nobody had any specific answers. All conjectures and wild imaginations were going berserk! The preparations for that fateful day were on a war footing. We had special packages made for each and every guest; first aid preparations; stand-by systems in case of complete computer break downs; emergency food supplies, etc.
As we came closer, we had more cancellations; many who had programmed to stay beyond 1st January, decided to take the first flight out and go back to their home bases. It was a kind of panic situation, though, nobody wanted to admit it.
But, at the Courtyard, the staff was totally prepared to meet any emergency situation that may arise. All the top-brass were on duty; they had for once, decided to skip the New Year eve dances and dinners, and chose to hold the fort at the hotel, which was a great and brave thing to do, and led the staff by their very presence.
But as we all know, this much-publicised event passed off without a whimper!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Speaking at a closed-door discussion organised by Moneylife Foundation, IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan also said that insurance companies should have a special window for fast-tracking of senior citizens’ grievance redressal
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) chairman J Hari Narayan met with a select group of insurance experts and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) before the Moneylife Foundation seminar in Wednesday 16th May.
To complaints that health insurance companies do not renew policies automatically, he clarified that IRDA does not want to mandate renewal notices. "We don't want to mandate renewal notice as it can get gamed. If the regulator mandates it and if the insured say that they have not received it, will the cover be considered as continued? The policyholder will go to court over the dispute. There are certain things that are not mandated. The customer knows the annual cover due date and hence can do the necessary renewal".
The IRDA chairman clarified the insurance regulator's approach to improve the mediclaim product entry and exit age restrictions. He said, "Mediclaim should be offered entry till age 65 years and exit age till minimum 80 years. For new product approval, we are asking for no limit for entry and exit age. The existing mediclaim products may not offer this feature".
Talking about the efforts made to improve senior citizens' health insurance grievance handling; he said "IRDA has suggested insurance companies to offer a special window for fast-tracking on senior citizens grievance redressal. Some companies have started it."
Recently, New India Assurance added reputed Jaslok hospital in Mumbai to its list of Preferred-Provider-Network (PPN). Its mediclaim policy states that there will be 20% co-pay for customers going to Jaslok hospital. The regulator clarified that, "We have issued a circular that customers should have access to current list of hospitals on PPN. If insurance companies have a clause in the policy about a specific hospital on PPN charging co-pay, then it is as per the contract. If customers are not happy with it, they can always move to another insurance company's product."
To complaints that premium on senior citizens is too high, the chairman clarified that premium rates for the young are higher than what really should be due to the need to keep senior citizen premium low. There is a built- in normalisation to benefit senior citizens".
To a suggestion that there is no clarity as to whether the TPAs (third party administrators) can process or settle claims, the IRDA chairman said: "The issue is where demarcation occurs considering the spirit of regulations and recognising the practicality of dealing with claim. A large part will get addressed when medical protocols get standardised. Some work has been done in collaboration with chambers of commerce and industry to develop protocols. So far, they have developed 10 of them. IRDA has written to the ministry of health, which has set up an expert body to finalise the protocols. It has not yet been notified to us, but they should be close to standardising 80 processes (medical protocols)".
The Nifty has to hold above the low of 4,837 for it to rise from the oversold position it is in
The market overcame the European fears and closed marginally in the positive amid volatility in the late session. We had mentioned in Wednesday’s closing report that the Nifty has to hold above the day’s low of 4,837, for the gains to continue. We continue to maintain this trend. Today the index opened higher; witnessed a higher high and higher low, which was last seen on 2 May 2012, the first day of the current downtrend. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a lower volume of 57.76 crore shares
The market witnessed a gap up opening, supported by gains in the Asian pack in morning trade on reports that the Japanese economy grew at an annualised 4.1% in the January-March quarter following rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami that stuck the north-eastern region of the country. On the other hand, markets in the US closed down after reports suggested that the European Central Bank (ECB) has stopped liquidity support to some Greek banks until they are capitalized.
Back home, the Nifty opened 21 points higher at 4,879 and the Sensex moved 89 points up to resume trade at 16,119. Early gains were also aided by a recovery in the rupee, which gained 29 paise to 54.20 against the dollar, from Wednesday’s record low of 54.56 to a dollar.
Buying in fast moving consumer goods, realty, banking and power helped the indices gain momentum in subsequent trade. The benchmarks hit their intraday highs at around 10.40am. At the highs, the Nifty rose to 4,922 and the Sensex scaled 16,240.
However, profit booking at higher levels soon saw the market paring early gains. The losses increased as the European markets opened weak. Downgrades of Ashok Leyland and Larsen & Toubro by global brokerage Nomura also weighed on investors.
The indices pared all gains and ventured into the red on selling in technology, capital goods and healthcare sectors. Besides, the rupee hit its intraday low of 54.48 to a dollar, after witnessing a mild recovery this morning.
Although the fall was short-lived the market continued to face volatility and settled with minor gains. The Nifty closed 12 points higher at 4,870 and the Sensex added 40points to finish at 16,070.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was in favour of the gainers at 732:679.
The broader indices settled almost unchanged, with the BSE Mid-cap index adding 0.02% and the BSE Small-cap index inching 0.09% higher.
The sectoral gainers were led by BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 1.90%); BSE Realty (up 0.89%); BSE Oil & Gas (up 0.44%), BSE Metal (up 0.40%) and BSE PSU (up 0.18%). The key losers were BSE Capital Goods (down 2.14%); BSE Consumer Durables (down 1.19%); BSE Auto (down 0.83%); BSE Power (down 0.41%) and BSE Healthcare (down 0.34%).
ITC (up 3.14%) was the top gainer on the Sensex today. It was followed by Jindal Steel (up 1.98%); DLF (up 1.68%); HDFC (up 1.59%) and State Bank of India (up 1.56%). The main laggards were Mahindra & Mahindra (down 3.57%); Larsen & Toubro (down 3.51%); Cipla (down 2.90%); Bajaj Auto (down2.69%) and BHEL (down 1.51%).
The top performers on the Nifty were Ambuja Cement (up 4.57%); SAIL (up 4.02%); ITC (up 3.56%); Jaiprakash Associates (up 2.97%) and Jindal Steel (up 2.71%). Reliance Infrastructure (down 3.56%); L&T (down 3.50%); M&M (down 3.34%); Bajaj Auto (down 2.74%) and Cipla (down 2.55%) settled in the negative.
Markets across Asia settled mostly higher following bargain hunting after recent losses and reports of better-than-expected Japanese GDP growth in the first quarter. However, the fragile situation in Europe raised concerns about the growth in the global economy.
The Shanghai Composite surged 1.39%; the KLSE Composite gained 0.53%; the Nikkei 225 advanced 0.86%; the KOSPI Composite rose 0.26% and the Taiwan Weighted climbed 1.69%. Among the losers, the Hang Seng declined 0.31%; the Jakarta Composite tanked 1.61% and Straits Times fell by 0.30%.
At the time of writing, the European indices were down between 0.55% and 1.06% while the US stock futures were mixed.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of shares totalling Rs546.85 crore on Wednesday while domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities amounting to Rs171.83 crore.
Mahindra Satyam has tied up with FirstCarbon Solutions to offer sustainability monitoring services. The Indian IT services major will offer FirstCarbon’s sustainability and environmental consulting solutions and software services initially in the UK with plans to expand it to other areas where the company operates. The stock tanked 3.89% to settle at Rs66.75 on the NSE.
IL&FS Engineering and Construction Company has bagged an order worth Rs233.93 crore from Rail Vikas Nigam, Mumbai. The order is for the construction of Roadbed, Major and Minor bridges, track linking (excluding supply of rails, ordinary track sleepers and thick web switches), outdoor signalling and electrical (general) works in connection with doubling of Bhigwan-Mohol section, part of Daund-Gulbarga doubling in Central Railway’s Solapur division in Maharashtra.
The project is to be completed within 42 months from the date of commencement of work. The stock gained 4.78% to close at Rs57 on the NSE.
DLF, the country's largest realty firm, and Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) have joined hands to construct a 16-lane road covering 8.3km in Gurgaon at an investment of up to Rs600 crore to ease heavy traffic flow in the city. DLF gained 1.82% to settle at Rs185 on the NSE.