In-flight roles you didn’t know existed!

In-flight roles you didn't know existed Mumbai, India

Presuming that after you’ve graduated from your prestigious Blue Whale Academy, you are offered the job of a cabin crew with a leading international airline, isn’t it worthwhile to ponder as to what’s it that you can expect while on the job? Well, to put it very mildly, every airline is different, so there’s always that bit of permutation & combination that you’ll have to do as you negotiate your own job. That said, by its very nature of being part of the holiday industry, there are certain universal criteria that one needs to adhere to. For instance, in general, you need to pay particular attention to

Grooming – You must be absolutely well-groomed and shining from head to toe! Yes, appearances do matter and since you are in a guest-facing role, you cannot afford to be sloppy at all. So dear ladies, please ensure that your skirts, blouses & other dresses are the right/recommended size & length, your eyebrows are well-done, you get regular pedicures & manicures done and your nail paint isn’t chipped & your lips aren’t chapped. As far as men are concerned, remember that suits only look good on men who stride about confidently rather than slouch. Also, get those ties matched to your suits & ensure that you never wear open/dirty footwear. Also, both genders must take regular breaks to groom themselves – use mouth wash, take a quick shower, dust shoes or simply hydrate your face with generous sprays of water. Again, as a thumb rule, never report late to work or report drunk – guests can make out the slur in your voice or the unsteadiness in your walk. So, if you’ve had a drink too many, call for sick leave & please get thoroughly rid of that hangover before you report to work!

Interaction – Since you are in a guest-facing role, no prizes for guessing that you’ll independently have to manage a lot of guests, a vast majority of whom will try your patience. But it’s important not to lose any of your patience for, you know, like the bosses have always told you, the guest is always right – more so if its a pregnant lady, a child or a person with special needs or that peculiar species of irate flyers – movie stars & politicians. In your interactions, be polite but firm – if they make unreasonable demands like going on to the tarmac to smoke during a lay over, or carrying in-flight warmers with them, simply say ‘You’re not permitted to do that’. Again, listen to what they’re saying very clearly before taking any action – if in doubt, ask again rather than mess up requests. Remember that the chances of a guest re-booking on your airline is directly proportional to how you make her feel now when she’s actually flying you

But all these apart, have you ever been under the impression, like most of the uninitiated masses, that the role of a cabin-crew member stops at just explaining the safety procedures, helping serve the guests, catering to their demands & helping them board & de-board the plane? If so, you couldn’t be farther from the truth! For, within the very precincts of an innocuous-looking Airbus or a Being, there is an entire paraphernalia of roles that require a high degree of specialisation to get done. Here’s a low-down on the other niche roles that in-flight crew members perform
Enhance passenger experience by giving their practical inputs to engineering teams for ergonomic seat designs which ultimately has the potential to be a product differentiator for the airline. Matters like leg-room, degree of reclining etc. are of utmost importance for such matters. This is more prominent for people who are travelling with babies as they generally prefer the front row which has more leg room and space for bay bassinets.

Coming to food, another differentiator that airlines, more than crew members, routinely ignore – it is common knowledge that the food that’s prepared for in-flight consumption isn’t exactly fresh but in-fact highly processed. And there’s precious little that you can do to help this situation – there are space constraints and other restrictions to be paid heed to. One alternative is to maybe suggest pre-preserved foods like biscuits but given irregular flight timings, it is highly unlikely that guests will have milk & cookies for lunch or dinner

Then, there’s another product differentiator – in-flight entertainment (IFE) or the movies & TV shows that play out on the screens fitted to the seat in front of you. They need the in-flight standards & practices compliance for the territory they’re operating in and general stuff like air-crash, hijack, blood & gore and generally anything anti-airline etc. that needs to be avoided. Also, in-flight media like magazines and accessories like headphones & remotes that need to be meticulously taken care of.

Then comes the uber experience of duty-free in-flight shopping. As a responsible airline staff, please be thorough with what’s available, what’s out-of-stock & what can be delivered, know credit card limits and never over promise. Remember, no one likes tall hollow claims and every good guest-facing executive will tell you that the motto should be ‘under promise & over deliver’

So, now that you’ve got the flow, please get about your doing your jobs better than you were until now!

How to be a successful guest relations executive

Guest Relations Manager Roles and Responsibilities

India has two unique and distinctive traditions of religiously following the sacrosanct phrases, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava‘ and ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam‘. Both are Sanskrit phrases which are essentially very similar in meaning – while the former means ‘guests are divine’, the latter can be loosely translated as ‘the whole wide world is indeed my extended family’!

As a guest relations executive at any of the sprawling three, five and seven star hotels that criss-cross the entire length and breadth of our great and vast country, you’ll do very well to adapt the above two phrases as your personal motto while dealing with guests and clients in your day-to-day lives.

This is so because guest relations is predominantly a people-facing job that requires a lot in terms of communication skills, soft skills and yes, the most-often neglected people skills that the two Sanskrit phrases which were evoked at the very outset of our conversation sought to invoke!

The first phrase – ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – might ring a bell instantly as it is constantly being played out on our television sets as the hugely popular television commercial campaign of Indian tourism endorsed by Bollywood heavyweight Aamir Khan!

Let’s delve into some mythology now. Legend has it that Lord Krishna’s impoverished childhood friend Sudama’s wife, fed up with the family’s unending poverty kept goading him to seek help from Krishna. But, he refused to budge. Ultimately, after a lot more goading and pestering, Sudama went to meet Krishna, now the grand King of Dwarka. Krishna received him as befits a dear childhood friend, with rare state honours and ordered a grand feast and gave elaborate instructions for his pleasant stay too. However, even when it was time to leave, the self-righteous Sudama couldn’t bring himself to ask anything from Krishna. Krishna, however, presented him a little bundle of rice that’d keep him full throughout the journey.

Once Sudama left Dwarka, he decided to keep the bundle of rice for his family and instead manage on wild berries and fruits. As he was entering the narrow lane that led to his house, he was stunned to see a palatial palace looking out from the very place where his humble house had hitherto stood. Almost simultaneously, his wife and children ran out to greet him amid peals of laughter and thankful gazes. Moreover, He was surprised to see them dressed in clothes that were well beyond their means. It so turned out that Krishna had already guessed the purport of his friend’s visit and immediately went about ameliorating their sufferings. What was even more surprising was that Sudama felt that his bag had suddenly grown heavier and as he reached for the bundle of rice so that he could hand it out to his wife, he was stunned to find that the entire clothes bag had nothing but gold coins. Without so much as a word uttered, a friend had done his deed by helping another friend in need!

The point of the above story is that you need to go out of your way to make guests feel comfortable given that as first-time guests at your hotel, they are in an alien setting and among people they don’t know yet. This is truer in case of patrons (or guests who patronise your hotel) as you’ll be expected to know their quirks, follies & foibles like the back of your hand. In both cases, it is a very good idea to take & maintain notes about the guest to give them such personalised service that they award that birthday party contract that your boss has been pestering you for so long. Maintain a separate MS Excel spreadsheet and the physically taken notes too and be doubly sure to cross check details like anniversaries & birthdays. Also, if your hotel is pet and child family, please remember that all dogs aren’t named Tommy & all boys do not play football!

As regards the second phrase, ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam’, it goes on to induce the very essential quality of treating people as you would your family members. Just like we all have our roles to play in our unique families and have demands from family members to cater to, remember that guests of a myriad hues will pour out into the lobby and not everyone will be good to you. Please allow for the fact that everyone has their bad days, their tipsy days and their flirty days. Be calm & composed when dealing with all of them. And remember, personalisation is the key here too. If Ms Bannerjee likes her vodka with coconut water, offer her that, rather than decide on a tall glass of iced tea. If she’s paying for the service, she’s got the right to have her way.

So, all you guest relations rockstars, please remember to adopt the above two Sanskrit phrases so that you can be the girl Mr Batra looks for every time he flies down on business from Los Angeles to Mumbai!

How to be a good Housekeeping specialist at five star hotels

Housekeeping Specialists Course - Home Cleaning - Mumbai, India

It’s campus placement season at your prestigious Blue Whale Academy and you’ve landed your share of offers too. After very carefully scrutinising each and every offer and aligning it with your personal interests and career goals, you have decided to take up the offer that’s closest to your heart – housekeeping specialist at the city’s most famous five star. Apart from being the closest to your dream job, this offer comes with a host of advantages like – proximity (in other words, the hotel is close to your home) and the freedom to opt for a shift of your choice and most importantly good work incentives.

However, when you actually commence work there, things might not exactly be the cakewalk you imagined they would. But worry not, we’ll get you sorted.

First things first – you’d do well to remember that all that your textbooks told you were meant to be used in conjunct with on-ground realities. So to say, on the job, your absolute and lone focus should be in doing things in the quickest and easiest possible manner rather than try to align it to some theory you’ve learnt as a student. In other words, your textual learning must provide only a broad framework that you must refer to only if you absolutely must, and definitely in the spirit, not in the letter or verbatim!

Since managing the semi-literate housekeeping staff can be quite a challenging staff as one often has to negotiate language barriers too, please remember that it’s never a good idea to shout at people or boss around. Be a firm, not a nasty boss by treating every person who’s not in as fortunate a position as you as you’d like your higher-ups to treat you.

Also, housekeeping is often an extremely challenging and thankless job which you can turn around by being meticulous and stringent to details like very quick turnaround times to clear, for instance, stinky rooms after a wild party given that there’s usually only around two hours between check out and check in times. Or reacting to weather-infused or natural situations like damp smells in monsoons or termite/bedbug attacks in summers especially if the room hasn’t really been in circulation for a long-ish time.

As housekeeping is both an internal and guest-facing role, you’ll have to juggle a lot of hats and pacify a lot of frayed nerves. In other words, please remember that you will be responsible for ensuring the routine upkeep and maintenance of the hotel’s property including lobbies, conference halls, restaurants, kitchens, washrooms, internal offices and most importantly, guest rooms.

And just in case you assumed that managing housekeeping is a back-end job, please wake up! You just cannot expect to be done after your staff has done their daily wiping and cleaning job. For, there’ll be boisterous kids out on a mission to ruin all food in sight, their mom’s who’ll spill wine and daintily trip over the mop to accuse the hotel staff of hiring untrained staff and the kids’ dads will most surely join in their football, smashing a few vases on the way to the goalpost, which FYI happens to be the layered glass giant teak side table, a favourite with the promoters of the hotel. So, despite the fact that the hotel management will surely have some rules in place, guests usually don’t think twice before flouting them. So, if the kids are running around, politely but firmly ask the parents to take charge of them.

The worst guests are mostly those who come on one offs like office conferences, weddings, parties and the like. Since they do not have any intention to strike up a long-term relationship with this particular hotel, they’ll most-often not care before spilling, smashing and indulging in unacceptable behaviour in public.

Also, please remember that the bar area is the most-susceptible to damages as it’s a universal human tendency to drink far beyond one’s capacity and then get garrulous, boisterous, quarrelsome and destructive – in that order. Also, people tend to drink till tipping point and then usually throw up.

Yes, don’t cringe, though not you, but your staff will have to clear that up too. But rest assured, it’s nothing too grossly close for comfort – after all, starred hotels are so priced because they employ the latest in cleaning technology and manual scavenging is just not an option!

Again, please note that you can never get away with the excuse that your uniform is stained thanks to the nature of your job. At a seven star, right from the usher to the valet, everyone is expected to be prim and proper, no matter what time of the twenty-four hour day it is. You’ll usually have a lot of spare uniforms – use them rather than turn up in smelly wrinkled clothes that are so very revolting to the human senses. So, please be a little OCD about hygiene as no-one like to be referred to as ‘the stinky unkempt guy’!

And please remember, you’re never fully dressed unless you’ve worn a smile!