How long have you been in the industry? I’ve been in the industry for 11 years. I first started out at The Fullerton Hotel as part of the in-room dining team, and I have progressed to become the butler team leader at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) Crockfords Tower.
What inspired you to join the industry? I was looking around for a job then, when I received an offer to work in a hotel. My friends who were working in the hospitality industry advised me not to join it because of difficult guests, long working hours and low pay. However, I decided to join the industry anyway. Actually, the industry isn’t as bad as it has been painted out to be. Over the years, I have received good feedback from guests and it continues to make me feel good about my decision to join the hospitality industry.
Was there anyone to guide you along when you first entered the hotel industry? My first manager, Mr Vincent Ang, taught me a lot. He was a great mentor. He told me to have patience and not to flare up easily, because that won’t help to ease the situation. So I always try to look on the bright side and put myself in my guests’ shoes. When you’re a paying guest, it is natural that you will expect good service in return. When Mr Ang joined RWS, I followed him and took on a new challenge to be a butler.
How different is it being part of an in-room dining team and being a butler? With in-room dining, you probably only go into each guest’s room once or twice to serve a cup of coffee, so there’s not a lot of interaction with each guest. As a butler however, you can spend up to 12 hours with a guest. The service you provide is highly customised as well. You’re like a temporary personal assistant to them. So you have to speak and interact with them to see how you can further improve their experience.
Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? We have a session called the daily follow-up, where we review all the tasks and requests made by our VIPs, after which I will assign my staff to carry out the different tasks. Some may be assigned to prepare fruit bowls or room service. Others will be on standby to escort guests to attractions or help them buy things. We also set up amenities, prepare welcome drinks and arrange personalised check-in and check-out service. For important guests who have no itinerary planned, we will recommend attractions and places to dine at, arrange the transport and escort them to the sights—even if it’s just to shop at VivoCity nearby. Our role as a butler is very important for our guests because it can make or break their stay and experience at our hotels.
What do you enjoy most about being a butler? It’s satisfying when guests leave the hotel happy and give us good comments. I like meeting new people as well, and assisting guests when they need it. Our aim is to do whatever it takes to make their stay more comfortable.
How do you think you can contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay?
I try my best to anticipate their needs. It’s hard to do so the first time you meet a guest, because you don’t know them yet. But after the first or second day, you start to take note of their preferences. For example, if a guest eats only a particular fruit in the entire fruit bowl, then you can place more of that fruit in the fruit bowl the next time.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that make the biggest impression.
What are some of the more special things you have done for your guests? We once did a surprise steamboat meal in the villa for a guest who liked soup. There was also another guest who was waiting for a room and wanted to feed her three-year-old child, but had no cutlery with her. So I ran over to the restaurant to borrow cutlery customised for children’s use and helped her wash the used cutlery so that she could continue to use it for the rest of her stay. She really appreciated it.
What is the most memorable experience of your career so far? An elderly Japanese couple I served gave me a beautiful paper crane for good luck. I’ve kept it till today – it reminds me to keep going the extra mile.
What are the qualities of a good butler? A good butler is humble and collaborative. We have to work with different departments to make sure that everything unfolds smoothly throughout a guest’s stay. With the help of my colleagues, I am able to do much more for my guests. Especially when it comes to urgent requests!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? As long as you are hardworking, you can go far. You also get days off on weekdays, which I don’t mind because it allows me to play golf on weekdays with my friends. I wouldn’t be able to do so in a typical corporate job.