Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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STEWART FU

DIRECTOR OF LEARNING,

ADVOCATE FOR EXCELLENCE

THE RITZ-CARLTON,

MILLENIA SINGAPORE

Can you describe your role in the hotel? I’m the Director of Learning. And I always say that as the Director of Learning, I learn all day long. Even if it’s just a five-minute conversation, I make sure that I learn something about the person I’m interacting with, be it a guest or a colleague. That’s how I identify opportunities to do something special for them.

I also see myself as more of a cultural ambassador. I don’t train skill sets; I leave that to the department trainers in the various departments. I focus on getting new employees familiar with our culture and our philosophies here at The Ritz-Carlton. Every staff here has unique talents, but what we have in common is the standard of excellence that we all uphold.

How do you inspire new staff at the hotel? I share stories with them. Not just stories that I’ve heard, but also stories of my personal experiences and what I've learned from them.

Why did you choose to work in the hospitality industry? I chose to be in the hospitality industry because I’m able to constantly learn and grow, and the skills that I pick up are transferable. And with the fundamental skills and ability to make guests happy, one can go anywhere – to different hotels, or even different departments. For me, I started off as a Club Concierge, then I moved on to Sales & Marketing, and now I’m the Director of Learning in the Human Resources department.

What I like most about the industry is that it’s ultimately about making our guests happy. We’re in the business of providing exceptional service. It’s not just about the rooms, or the food and drinks – they can get those anywhere. It’s really about how we can delight them through our service.

You left the hospitality industry for a few years. What made you return to hospitality? In hospitality, the guest experience is paramount. When I first started working at The Ritz-Carlton, I learnt that ensuring the comfort of our guests was our highest mission. That culture left such an impression on me that when I left the hospitality industry to pursue a career in banking and finance, I still held on to this personal belief of putting the welfare of my staff and clients first.

I eventually chose to come back to work alongside driven colleagues who share my passion in hospitality and delighting our guests. I missed the close-knit environment in the hotel where everyone is like family, and there’s a strong spirit that unites the team. You could say returning to hospitality allowed me to be myself and pursue what I’m really passionate about.

Do you have any memorable experiences in your career thus far? Back when I was a butler, I encountered this guest who was very particular about things. From the moment he met me, he laid out exactly how he wanted things to be done during his stay. He told me that we were to closely follow his instructions – down to the exact words we had to say because he was about to propose to his girlfriend at that time, and he didn’t want anything to go wrong. We even went up and down from his room on the 32nd floor to the proposal venue to rehearse a few times.

On the evening he proposed, we followed his plan carefully and it all turned out well. His girlfriend said yes! A year later, they came back to celebrate their anniversary and requested to have me serve them again because they appreciated what I had done for them during their last visit. I had already transferred to the Sales and Marketing department, but I made some arrangements, found my old uniform – which thankfully I could still fit in – and surprised them at the Club Lounge.

They were taken aback because they were told that I was with the Sales team, but I still specially attended to them throughout the night so they could enjoy a happy anniversary celebration. We’re still in contact to this day, and they’re our regular guests. I must say that although I was the first person in the hotel to leave them with a good impression, it was the consistency of excellent service from the rest of the team that contributed to their choice to return to this hotel every year.

How do you add a personal touch to the things you do every day, to give your guests a personalised experience? With every guest I meet, I try to see if we have anything in common and apply that to the interaction. Because when we interact with guests, it’s not about simply going through the motion of what we learnt during training – greet the guests, ask them how they are, then close the conversation by saying “Have a nice day”. I will try to match the guest on a conversational level, using my own interests and personality to help the conversation flow naturally.

Do you have any words of advice for people who want to join the industry? You definitely need to have passion for interacting with people. Passion is not just about enjoying something you have an interest in. Passion is about doing something with so much focus that others might think you’re crazy.

Once you’re able to understand that, then you’ll really start to enjoy this industry.