Appreciative guests make work enjoyable for hotel staff

SINGAPORE - Dressed in a buttoned-up shirt and giving advice to new service staff, 65-year-old Harry Lim has been mistaken for a manager at Furama RiverFront's Waterfall Lounge.

But the former human resource manager is just a guest who - after 10 years of regular visits - has become mentor and friend to staff at the hotel lounge.

Mr Lim explained: "I want to build rapport with the service staff. Just because their work is serving you doesn't mean you don't have to acknowledge and appreciate them. I don't believe the customer is always right, and I tell the staff that too."

Mr Lim, who visits the hotel three to four nights a week, has forged strong ties with the staff.

He advises them on work and personal matters, teaching new trainees how to handle demanding guests. He attends birthday celebrations and even helped plan a staff gathering a few years ago.

For his involvement, Mr Lim won an inaugural Gracious Guest award at this year's Service Gold Award ceremony.

Ninety-four employees from 53 hotels were lauded for giving excellent service, and a new category was launched for guests who have shown care and respect to service staff. Eleven guests from countries including Indonesia and Australia won the award. Two were Singaporeans.

In his opening address at the event yesterday, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said: "An excellent culture of service cannot flourish in a one-way street where guests are demanding and unreasonable."

He urged guests to play their part by showing service staff appreciation and encouragement.

The Service Gold Award, jointly organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Singapore Hotel Association, was started in 1994.

This year's oldest winner is Ms Hong Foong Ming, 64. She has been a room attendant at Mandarin Orchard Singapore for 23 years. She said it is always a pleasant surprise when guests show their appreciation. Some have given her chocolates or souvenirs as thanks, and second-time visitors remember her.

"They say 'Auntie, you're still here!' To know they remember me makes me happy," Ms Hong said. "It makes me enjoy work."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.