Tourist Whines About Marina Bay Sands’ Service
Its 9,500-strong workforce caters for a million guests a year – working in over 60 restaurants, exclusive boutiques (with personal shopping), 12 miles of car park, two theatres and one of Southeast Asia’s biggest casinos.
That’s what The Mirror once said about Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS), and we’ve probably heard much more on why the 5-star luxury hotel is so great and why its famous infinity pool is the place to go for visitors to Singapore.
However, one literally ang moh tourist doesn’t quite agree with these glowing endorsements, after a recent experience at the hotel that encapsulates all that’s wrong with Singapore’s customer service.
The Wandering Redhead
42-year-old Cherene Saradar, who maintains travel blog the Wandering Redhead, posted last week about her experience in becoming an actual wandering redhead at MBS.
Just last week, she decided to treat herself to the luxurious hotel after having travelled through South-east Asia on a tight budget.
And of cource, like the social media influencer that she is, she couldn’t pass up the chance to snag a dramatic photo in the infinity pool.
But she arrived at the hotel after 5pm due her flight to Changi landing late. So Cherene requested for a later check-out the next day to enjoy the pool to the fullest.
In short, her plan was to hang out at the pool, check out, then continue hanging out at the pool after that. To her delight, some guy at the check-in said she could do that.
So far, so good for her.
The next morning, Cherene enjoyed a few hours at the pool, then left her valuables there, took the rest of her stuff from her room at 12pm and headed to reception to check out — wearing just a bathrobe, bathing suit and slipppers.
Things did not go as planned, as the lady at the desk said nope, she can’t use the pool after check out. Simply put, room checkout = pool checkout.
Erm, that wasn’t what she was told the night before, she said.
While Cherene said she kept her composure, we can imagine her looking like this inside:
Considering she was actually spending money on cocktails and food, she probably thought the hotel could have just let her stay.
People want to spend money at the pool let them lah.
Well, after a tense conversation between Cherene (who, by the way, was still in her bathrobe) and the hotel supervisor, her checkout timing was extended to 3pm.
After drowning her sorrows at the pool for a few more hours, Cherene left at her appointed time and headed to shower at the spa, like the check-in guy had said she could do the day before.
Alas, she was told to use the gym shower instead, in another instance of everyone in the hotel not getting the same memo she received the night before. Do they have separate staff on different days, or what? Oh wait — we guess they do.
Anyway, in her words, she had to “go up the way [she]came and back down a different elevator and then walk three times around the block, then swim across the moat with crocodiles” — becoming a true wandering redhead.
Treated Like Scum?
Needless to say, Cherene didn’t appreciate that MBS’ hospitality ended the minute she checked out of the hotel. As she phrased it:
It turns out, that the millisecond you check-out of Marina Bay Sands, you become pond scum to them.
After all, she was out of her room by 12pm, and was continuing to spend money in the hotel despite being pissed at them — she didn’t understand why they had to go so strictly by the book, and why what she was told the night before didn’t pan out that way the next day.
There are customers who are demanding and self-entitled, but there are also customers who are hoping that their hotel can be flexible enough to make her travels a little smoother. And that’s arguably what a hotel should be all about.
Unfortunately, it seems that MBS is plagued by the same customer service lapses that plague many companies in Singapore.
While our front-end staff know in theory that they should be pleasing customers, they are also bound by rigid rules and not empowered to bend them to make their customers happy.
Singapore’s cultural obsession with following rules and hitting KPIs often results in lack of human empathy that translates into poor customer service, as good customer service is all about knowing what people want, understanding how people think and being able to give them what they want.
Instead, we turn people off, and we don’t even realise why. As Cherene again so eloquently phrased it:
The system is robotic and uncaring, just like those cyborgs at the front desk.
Other guests who have stayed at MBS have griped over how their room key cards automatically stop working at check out time — meaning the power goes off and they can’t even enter their room to get their luggage to check out.
Others have described how the computerised minibar at the hotel has sensors, so that guests get charged even when they lift an item off the rack to make space for other stuff, but don’t actually consume the item.
All these high-tech advances may make it easier for the hotel to keep track of things, but they also make guests feel like they are staying a some oppressive and cold place of business, and not an inviting resort.
It’s typical Singaporean customer service — advanced in technology, but lacking in actual care for the customer.
One Less Customer
We wish we could say that what Cherene experienced is an isolated incident, but unfortunately it’s not limited to her and not limited to MBS.
That being said, there are stories of great customer service in Singapore too, but just one story like Cherene’s is one too many.
Unfortunately MBS has lost itself one customer. Let’s hope Singapore’s companies that provide front-end customer service will learn this lesson, as we can’t afford for Singapore to lose any more customers.
Featured image from the Wandering Redhead.