As the General Manager of Springfields, Simla, I had many challenges of dealing with a hotel marred with a union problem, high fixed costs because of a relatively small size and extreme competition from the 3 other 5 star hotels in the city. The competition had the advantage of scale of economies as those hotels were a part of the ‘Oberoi’ group.
I had to find a way to create an edge. And there were not many choices.
Bishop Cotton School is one of the most popular boarding schools in Simla (Eaton of the East), and one of the very few in India where parents want their sons to read. As a habit I have always invited one or the other guest for a drink in the lounge every single evening of my working life. During one of these evenings a visibly upset parent shared his difficulty to find a local guardian for his 8 year old son as that was the pre-requirement of the school.
I offered to be the local guardian and took the responsibility and subsequently would visit the child every Sunday and take some “Butter chicken and Naan” (very popular with Indian kids) – all this outside the call of my duty.
This word spread so fast that within a year I was the local guardian of some 2 dozen kids and their parents would always keep a line of credit open so that the children could have meals and sweets over weekends. It just took me an hour or two to make these kids happy and ‘Uncle Manu’ became popular.
The word of mouth is definitely the greatest marketing tool and the hotel was full not only with parents visiting their kids but also their friends and relatives. Many guests who could afford a three times more expensive Oberoi’ Hotel, also shifted to my hotel. Parents knew that the child was being taken care of and the hotel staff were authorised to serve food to these children and simply retain the bill to be collected later.
A new market was successfully created and if Porter is anything to go by – without the threat of any entrant or substitute.
Customer service is an art and has to be given from ones heart. Just be a good human being, a considerate human being – and watch the competition become insignificant.