Roses & Service

Roses & Service by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

An event 20 years in the making.  A stay at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. … Have you heard of the Raffles Hotel? Stayed there? If so, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, hang with me.

The Raffles Hotel is iconic. It is old Singapore. British. Colonial. It is a hotel from a bygone era. Celebrities, world political leaders, famous athletes, and the rich regularly stay at the Raffles. Yet it is accessible to others, like myself, if you’re willing to pay a bit extra. The hotel, even by Singapore standards, is expensive. Is it worth it? Does it provide a positive return on the investment? In my case, yes! The short stay yielded a high return.

Surrounded by modern hotels that tower over it, Raffles is a throwback. It has been updated, yet it doesn’t have all the modern luxuries one can find in the new hotels. Instead, Raffles is known for its history, its charm, its tradition, and its impeccable service. It was the service that would take me back again in a heartbeat. Yes, we thought it was kinda cool that Prince William and Kate had recently stayed there. Yes, we thought it was kinda cool that the Singapore Sling was “invented” there. Yes, we thought the Writers Bar (commemorating the numerous writers, such as Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway, who were inspired while staying at the hotel) was kinda cool. But in the end, it was their service that really stood out.

I won’t go through an exhaustive list of every specific example of service, but I’ll highlight a few. We had our own personal butler who was available at the press of a button. One morning, I pressed the button and had hot, fresh brewed coffee (served on a silver platter) delivered within minutes to the room. With a big smile I might add. One evening, we arrived to find a nice hand-written note with a bottle of wine, roses (picture above), and a nice package with a surprise from the hotel’s gift shop. We had an early morning flight on the day we departed (we left the hotel at 6:15am). Breakfast began at 6:30am. No problem. Without asking, the hotel staff suggested we take breakfast in our room. What a great idea! At 5:45am, two staff arrived and proceeded to place a white linen tablecloth on a table in our suite, complete with flowers, silverware, hot tea & coffee, fresh-squeezed juice, bacon, eggs benedict, fresh fruit, etc. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

At brunch on Sunday, we were treated to a spectacular display of customer service. We were allotted a 3 hour window to enjoy brunch. It was an amazing feast of breads, cheeses, pastries, meats (e.g. four types of lamb), side dishes, deserts, and drinks. But, again, the service was even better than the food. It was simply unbelievable. We were pampered as if we were the only clients in the restaurant. We were told, “Take your time, enjoy the food, relax, you have three hours. … What would you like? Can we get you anything?” And on and on it went.

On a bit of a side note, I found it terribly interesting that many of the hotel staff were from the Philippines. Not that I was shocked. After living in the Philippines for two years, I have to say I’ve never received better customer service anyway in the world on such a consistent basis. The Filipinos (Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFWs) at the Raffles were incredible. They were sharp (in their appearance and manners), well spoken, kind, friendly, and knowledgeable. They smiled and displayed poise, calm, and a soft-spoken, humble disposition. They were happy to work hard and serve others. They took pride in their work. One told me there are approximately 200,000 Filipinos working in Singapore. No wonder I liked Singapore so well!

During my stay in the city, I also spent time at INSEAD (one of the world’s top business schools) and in meetings with local, regional and global businessmen. Singapore is a global business and financial hub. As I reflected upon the city, business, leadership, and my experience at the Raffles, I started thinking how beneficial customer service is to business. To relationships. To people. To customer loyalty, satisfaction, and delight.

Regardless of your job (sales, stay-at-home-parent, parent, grandparent, business owner, university professor, corporate executive, etc.), you (and perhaps your organization) enjoy receiving world-class customer service. The same is true of your key stakeholders (customers, employees, family members, etc.). They enjoy and benefit from world-class customer service. So why not give it to them?

Many of the examples I used above cost money, but there are thousands of ways to display world-class customer service with little or no cost. Much of it is about attitude. The condition of the heart. The reinforcement system in play. The character of individuals in the organization.

Do you enjoy great customer service? Do you provide great customer service to others? How do you treat your employees? Your boss? Your spouse? Your kids? Your pastor? Your neighbor?

Why was the event 20 years in the making? Because in 1993, I was slated to move to Singapore. At the last minute, the company for whom I worked spun off my business division and the move to Singapore never came to fruition. However, the twenty year wait was worth it. If you ever have the opportunity, go visit the city. It’s an amazing and unique place not only in Asia, but in the world.

Do you love and serve others as you’d like to be loved and served? What examples of great customer service do you experienced (either as a giver or recipient)?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]

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