Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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SAM GNIN ENG KUANG

CHAUFFEUR

THE ST. REGIS SINGAPORE

How long have you been in the industry? In total, it’s been 17 years now: six years at The Fullerton Hotel, then 11 years here at the St. Regis. When I first joined Fullerton, I was quite inexperienced. I had never driven luxurious vintage cars before.

What inspired you to join the hospitality industry? Before working for a hotel, I was working at a factory. At that time, the business wasn’t doing so well. There were a lot of layoffs, and I eventually lost my job. After that, I helped my brother-in-law run his antique furniture business at Kreta Ayer. During my free time, I’d go to the gym across the street. At the gym, I met a man who was then the Chief Concierge at The Fullerton Hotel. We started talking, and he asked me if I’d be interested in working at the hotel. I had never worked at a hotel before but I thought, “Why not?” and decided to give it a try. From then on, I stayed in this industry as I enjoy the guest interactions.

What was it like being part of the pioneer batch of staff at the St. Regis? Exciting and challenging at the same time. Since everything was new, we were expected to set the standards. Since I’m one of the first hotel staff to meet with guests, I had to make sure that I left a good impression.

Tell us about your day-to-day duties. The job is not difficult, in fact it’s quite fun. You get to meet all kinds of people – and many of them become your friends. For example, there’s this guest who’s a regular at the hotel. Whenever I pick him up from the airport, he gives me a hug – it’s very brotherly.

Every day, we get our driving schedules at the start of our shift. The Concierge will brief us on our driving assignments for the day, which range from picking up or dropping off the guest at the airport, or taking them to certain places in the city that they’re unfamiliar with. I’ll prepare newspapers, magazines and bottles of water inside the car to make guests comfortable.

When I’m done with my driving assignments for the day, I help with valet parking and regulating traffic on the driveway. I also make sure that the hotel’s cars are in excellent condition, so I take them to the workshop for maintenance if needed.

A lot of people think of Chauffeurs as hotel taxi drivers. It’s important to understand the difference between taxi drivers and Chauffeurs, as there are very different responsibilities and priorities. As a Chauffeur, I help carry the image of the hotel. How I carry out my duties reflects back on the hotel’s image. That’s why having good customer service skills is important. You have to know how to make a guest comfortable and assure them that they’re in good hands.

Have you driven for any famous celebrities? The first person I can think of is a famous Korean actress. When I drove her, her fans surrounded the car – it was a completely new experience for me! I also drove for a high-ranking politician once, and that was also quite a different experience because I had to drive at a certain speed with a security escort.

How do you engage with the guests? As a Chauffeur, you drive the guests around and occasionally engage with them in conversation. Through experience, you learn how and when to start conversations with guests. It makes my day when a guest enjoys a conversation I had with him, and then the next time he requests for the hotel car, he asks for me to be his Chauffeur. There’s that trust you build with the guests.

How do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his or her stay? I think I help by simply talking to them and giving them recommendations on what to see or where to eat. Some of the guests have never been to Singapore before, so I’d tell them about local gems to make their stay here even more memorable. For example, if they want to try local food, I’d recommend places like Tian Tian Chicken Rice, or places that you won’t find in a tourist guidebook. The guests always appreciate that.

I also make sure that the guests are safe when they’re in the car. Even if they’re in a hurry, I follow traffic rules, I won’t drive recklessly. It’s really for both our safety.

Do you have any advice for people who want to join the industry? You have to be very patient. Also, learn how to engage with the guests. As a Chauffeur, you’ll drive all kinds of people, so you must know how to carry a conversation.