Sunday, 20 December 2009

Filipino shows Singapore how service is done

By Corrie Salientes-Narisma
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WINSTON M. Lim and his team are the public face of premier serviced residence Ascott Singapore Raffles Place.

They welcome guests with their sweetest smiles, help them register, bring them to their apartments, address their concerns and make them feel at home.

Winston fits well in the multicultural setup in Singapore, in general, and Ascott, in particular.

People who see him receiving and confidently chatting with guests at Ascott may think he is Singaporean or Chinese, or even Japanese.

But when one, particularly a Filipino, comes closer, he would sense a different kind of warmth in Winston—the kind that can only come from a Filipino.

“I am from Manila,” he says, and that explains it.

Winston Mallari Lim is one of the many Filipinos in Singapore who have helped changed the face of OFWs in this city-state for the better.

He is assistant resident service manager of Ascott Singapore Raffles Place, the highest ranking Filipino there.

He was part of the pre-opening team of Ascott’s flagship serviced residence in Singapore, which opened only in July last year, and he now leads its front office team.

Cut for the job

Winston’s natural charm and warmth serve him well as he goes about seeing to the needs of his clients at the serviced residence—a second home for those who need to stay out of their own homes for some time. Ascott provides an ideal environment with professional support—a place to relax and enjoy life with the most personalized services possible.

The difference between a hotel and a serviced residence, he says, lies in the service provided.

“Because our guests stay long term, as against a hotel setup, we have to connect and live with them. The relationship is more personal,” he explains.

Winston doesn’t have any problem with that. In fact, he finds it easy to connect with guests.

“This is one area where Filipinos are very good at,” he says, adding that Filipinos can be effortlessly warm, hospitable and customer-oriented.

“We are maabilidad (resourceful). No problem is too big that we can’t resolve. We don’t mind working extra hours if only to finish a task,” he says.

The patience of Filipinos comes in handy when dealing with the most demanding guests and handling their most “unique” demands, as Winston refuses to call them “difficult.”

These are the factors that endear Filipinos to many service-oriented companies in Singapore, and the reasons why Filipinos end up at the front lines of these establishments.

Winston says that when Ascott was just starting to get off the ground, half of its front service staff of 14 were Filipinos, and the training manager was also a Filipino. The number is now down to four as some of his fellow Filipino staff members moved to other countries or have settled down.

“I’d say Ascott and other service-oriented establishments here want to hire more Filipinos but they have to maintain a certain mix.”

Happy resident

Terry Smith, a British psychologist who has been residing in Ascott Singapore since February this year, readily puts in good words for Ascott and its staff, particularly the Filipino front service personnel he has been dealing with since the start of his stay in the serviced residence.

“There is an interesting mix of people here and they are all nice, but what I like about the Filipino staff members is that they are confident, relaxed and easy to talk to,” Smith says.

Although Smith knows he won’t stay in Singapore forever, he has come to appreciate life in Singapore and feels right at home in Ascott.

“There’s peace and fun here, and the personal attention I get from the staff is second to none.”

Landing in Ascott

Winston graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. He started his career in a five-star hotel in Manila before transferring to a resort in the Maldives. Later, he moved to Singapore.

Although his major was culinary arts, his strength turned out to be in the area of dealing with people, and there is great demand for that particular skill in the hospitality industry.

He was on vacation in Singapore while still working in the Maldives in early 2008 when he found out that Ascott’s flagship serviced residence was opening there and was in need of front office personnel. Upon the prodding of his friends, Winston applied and was immediately taken in by Ascott.

His current job involves supervision and administration of the front office staff, now composed of 16 people.

“We bring guests to their apartments, orient them on how to fully enjoy their stay in their new ‘homes’ and help them settle down,” he says.

Ascott’s guests are mostly executives who have to stay in Singapore for weeks, months or even years. Thus, they need more than just rooms to sleep.

“We should be a family to them,” he says.

Winston loves his work and the place where he is working now, for Ascott Singapore has become his home away from home.

Also, he is happy and proud that, in his own way, he is able to promote the Filipino’s warmth and hospitality for all the world to see and experience.

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