The last article was about my first night back in Shanghai, and how I went to club Modu, which was probably not the smartest idea. However Modu would become a hangout spot that became a theme in my time in Shanghai.
I was told by FYU (Guest Service Manager) that I would start work at 10am, so obviously I figured I would have some time to rest, however my room was called at 7am and asked if I was coming to morning briefing. Obviously confused I asked who I was speaking with and of course it was the Front Office Manager.
They texted me on my US number which didn’t work because I was now in China. I also arrived at the hotel a little past 11pm which means I did not have a phone number yet; but I told them I’d be ready by 8 and ready I was.
When I got to the desk it was quite exciting, we had some international interns, two interns from Indonesia and one from Hong Kong but was originally from India! I got introduced to the team, surprised everyone with my Chinese, got all the materials I needed and just a brief department rundown and I was done for the day.
I figured I’d relax and get some sleep, I was obviously exhausted, but not even an hour later my room got called. The front office manager was a gentleman from Germany, but he had stepped away and there was an international guest who demanded to speak to an international manager.
The problem? The agent didn’t understand his English accent, when she said “let me get my manager,” he began attacking her English, poor girl. So I was called to rescue the damsel in distress. Guest wanted a room with a tub and extra coffee in room.
So after putting out that fire, I decided to just stay at the front desk and observe; that first day showed me 90% of the issues the front desk suffered from, and I had realized why I was hired.
1.) I’m from the United States and I can speak Chinese. I can bridge the gaps at the front desk since the Front Office Manager didn’t speak Chinese. (In China usually at the Front office manager position and above, you don’t need to necessarily need to speak the local language because you don’t have too much guest engagement, you’re more administrative, but, I suggest learning)!
2.) I’m from NY, so I know how to handle crazy situations. I know how to tell the guest no if they’re being overly inconsiderate of our efforts to work together, but I don’t physically say no! (In Chinese culture, their version of polite is to agree then find a reason to decline after the other party leave, so as to not cause a loss of face; face being an article for later)!
3.) Grand Hyatt Shanghai had a large foreign clientele base and many contracts with multi-national companies; much more than I expected, even for Shanghai! The western traveler likes to small talk, laugh, meet new people, and have a warm check in experience. The Asian traveler wants to be checked in ASAP. Does not really want to engage strangers, does not want to be kept waiting and it’s a little awkward to make useless small talk. (Of course generalizations, and doesn’t entirely apply to all business guests either. But most western guests are more casual, most Asian guests we had, just want their room and does not like being asked questions).
4.) The staff was a bit robotic. Staring at the computers like robots and not engaging the guests. In NY we have a 5-10 rule; 5 feet engage guest (good morning, evening, etc.) 10 feel acknowledge guest (nod, give Guest a smile, look inviting, but don’t shout hello from the across the lobby). So they needed me to teach the staff how to give good customer service and to be more approachable; I could tell that the guests felt awkward passing the desk.
5.) Teach them English… The English level in hotels in China is decreasing. This is because there’s so much supply of positions, and not enough qualified personnel to choose from. The hotels hire anyone with decent English scores but conduct the interview in Chinese so they don’t actually know how the speaking capacity of many new hires. Also in Asia schooling is based on memorization not application. For example many agents could write English beautifully, but, could not pronounce what they wrote. Hence, when a western guest walked past, I actually saw a agent put their head down hoping the guest wouldn’t see them…?
On my first day I noticed easily what the department struggled with. I realized what they needed from me and I felt that I could easily provide.
Win-win situation since I had the skills to provide, minus the English teaching. I don’t have anything against it, but I don’t have the patience to be a teacher and have never done it. I’ve spent years convincing people in China just because a western person speaks English doesn’t qualify them to teach it and that was definitely my case. But I was certainly going to try my best.
My advice is that although I ended up in a pretty good situation, however, if you’re going to China, find out your job description first! What they need from you, and what they expect from you before you arrive. Again, contracts and negotiated terms are stretched and there are many gray areas; It’s not unheard of for expatriate workers to be given extra responsibilities outside of their normal duties while in China, and you will be persuaded quite convincingly to agreeing to help; then it becomes your responsibilities forever! Just make sure you’re aware what you’re getting into, I was not fully aware, but again, it worked out for me.
All in all I quite enjoyed my first day, it was spontaneous, interesting, I love to fix things, and I was back in China baby!
Thanks for stopping by, and see you in the next article.