Thursday, 30 August 2007

India Week – Indian Hospitality at its Worst and Best

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As you might imagine, visiting 5 cities in 10 during days in India means a lot of travel and a lot of hotels! But it also means you get to meet and interact with a lot of people.

Such travel also provides great insight into the area of Indian hospitality and the Indian travel and hospitality market sectors. In case you are wondering, there is absolutely no relationship between the two and any experiences you have had of the latter will certainly give you a wrong impression of the former

To start with I want to use my regular example of hotels to illustrate a contrast in styles and management thinking. The hotels we will use are the TAJ President in Mumbai and the Rain Tree Hotel in Chennai, because I am very fortunate, these are both 5 star hotels that I have used during this trip. As we will see, one of them is actually more like a 3 star hotel, just at a 5 star price.

The difference between the customer experiences at these two hotels was truly remarkable. In the TAJ I received phenomenal service, far above what anyone might have had the right to expect. The staff went out of their way to provide help and support not just in matters of food and lodging, but also in acquiring phone SIM cards and photocopying – all of which was organised with no fuss and a warm smile and the added convenience of putting it all on my room bill – I did not even need to step out of the hotel, they did it all for me and without charging a mark up on the goods or services. When I did want to leave the hotel on a shopping trip everything was organised for me and this led to a totally relaxing and pleasurable experience.

It was very apparent that the only Business Processes that mattered to them were the ones that delivered on serving the customer better – I might also add that within checking in all the staff were addressing me by name – now imagine how good that would feel.

From time to time in my travels when encountering good or bad service I invite managers from the organisations I interact with to send a couple of their staff along to the seminars I am running, free of charge by way of either a thank you or a wakeup call and a way of helping them improve (far more effective I think than filling those never ending guest comment cards you get in India). The TAJ President, becomes the first hotel in the world to actually take me up on that offer and for the whole of my seminar in Mumbai had two of their people attending, their desire to learn how even if they are good they can get better. This is truly the attitude of a successful organisation and inspired management. (Of course it also means that the other attendees can be sure that the catering service will be top notch J )

Unfortunately such kind actions, deeds and words cannot be used to describe the Rain Tree hotel in Chennai, where the service was nothing short of diabolical, everything was a real effort and even getting a cup of coffee or a good night's sleep seemed a challenge. I even took the time out to chat with one of the senior managers and this still had no noticeable effect on the quality of service – amazing.

As I sat down and reflected on how it could be so different I came to a realisation that the difference could be summed up in just one word – Fear! The staff at the Rain Tree serve guests out of fear, fear of management, fear of losing their jobs, fear of not being able to feed their families. Now, I do not know about you, but I am not convinced that is a good idea to have people live by fear alone and then expect them to deliver good service. The resultant lack of smiling and warmth is instantly transmitted around the hotel. I can assure you that I was very glad when it came time to leave.

I also then realised that the opposite was true of the staff at the TAJ President, they were warm friendly and genuinely seemed to be enjoying their work. While I am sure that they share many of the same worries as their counterparts at the Rain Tree, it was very apparent that they were not motivated by fear but by success, an altogether much more positive emotion and one which we as the customer can sense.

So the key lesson here is to make sure that we motivate by success to ensure that we both get the best from our staff and give the best to our customers.

So if service in the hospitality market sector is mixed, what then can we make of Indian hospitality in general. Well, the first thing I have to say is that I do not know about in general, but I can tell you for my part that along with people I have met in Sudan they are among the most generous and most hospitable in the world. For me Indian people in life and in work have gone out of their way to make me welcome, to share their lives with me and to make sure that I understand much about what constitutes the success that India is today. People I do not even know and who had never met me agreed to meet and spend time with me, patiently teaching me things that I never even realised could be so. Now where else in the world could you go and be offered two days of personal one to one teaching in one of the holiest cities in the country from a total stranger?

I said at the beginning of the first article, I love the place and the people that are India. My comments, observations and questions are aimed at helping people inside and outside of India to do better business in India and to learn from the mistakes of others – this is far cheaper than having to keep making the mistakes ourselves.

Thoughts for the Day

  1. Are your Business Processes centred on delivering outstanding customer service?
  2. How else could you improve the service through the eyes of the customer?
  3. Are your staff stricken with fear or motivated by success?


Rohit Khosla said...

Dear Mr. McGregor,

Thank you for your words of encouragement and appreciation. We were delighted to read your feedback and are happy that you enjoyed your stay and interactions with the Team at Taj President.
We look forward to welcoming you back to your home in Mumbai.
warm regards
Rohit Khosla
General Manager
Taj President Mumbai

sushil said...

Dear Mr. McGregor,

Thank you SO MUCH for taking out time to write this crisp and beautifully crafted article.

We are glad to know that you enjoyed you stay at our hotel and had pleasant moments of truth with our team members. Your valuable comments and words of apreciation have been shared with entire team.

As for me personally, I had immense pleasure interacting with you and exchanging views on importance of people and processes in the World of hospitality.

Our two colleagues who had the opportunity to attend your session have undergone tremendous learning and are taking it forward by imparting the same to our other team members.

Your interest in the attire used at Konkan Cafe has been acted upon and soon you shall hear from us.

And ofcourse, Thanks for the Lovely Book with your personal remarks.

Look forward to having the pleasure of meeting up with you again during your next trip to Mumbai and Taj President.

With warm regards,
Sushil Tandon
Executive Assistant Manager - F&B
Taj President

P. Shreekanth said...

Hi Mark
It is always a pleasure reading your blogs; gives a good objective view about aspects of India. Objective because we tend to get sentimental or emotional when it comes to our countries. Incidentally i similarly had excellent help from completely unknown people when I visited Hyderabad.

Anonymous said...

One hotel is in Chennai and the other is in Mumbai. So you are comparing apples and oranges. Mumbai as a city is far more professional and understands how to deliver. Chennai and Bangalore locals have a very laid back attitude, where they expect the customer to come to them, rather than serving the customer.

This is a big cultural difference, which you can verify on your next visit to Chennai and Bangalore.