Ultimate service makes residents feel at home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2008, 12:00am

A short wait in the lobby is enough to give a clue that the place is a well maintained machine. The doorman filters out the curious Harbour City shoppers and welcomes the apartments' residents into the brightly lit lobby with a smile and a polite nod of the head, while the concierge greets each resident by name and engages them in friendly chit chat as they make their way to the waiting elevator, where the door-control button is held for them.

It is no surprise then to learn that Gateway Apartments' mission is to provide, first and foremost, a personalised service that caters to residents' needs, sometimes before they even know what they are.

Maria Wergin, one of the concierge staff, said employees were often so attuned to each resident's whims and preferences that the same request rarely had to be made a second or third time.

'It becomes automatic,' she said. 'As you come to know each resident better, you become much more adept at anticipating their needs.'

Employees have access to a computer system that contains the preferences of each resident. The list is continually added to as the staff receive requests from the residents or observe nuances in their daily routines.

Housekeeping attendants are certainly in a position to notice a fair amount of these habitual preferences.

Sandy Wong, who cleans up to nine rooms a day, said that it often came down to the little things. If she sees an unusually large amount of used tissues in the waste baskets, for example, she makes it a point to leave behind extra tissue supplies in case the resident is sick or suffering from allergies. Even subtle differences in positioning don't escape the notice of these seasoned employees.

When Ms Wong notices that a particular resident seems to favour the left side of the sink for placing his toothbrush and cup, she makes the correct assumption that he is left-handed and starts placing the bathroom toiletries on the left, such that the resident can reach them with greater ease.

'Ultimately, we just want to be able to do things without the resident ever having to ask for them,' she said.

This dedication to providing a seamless service is one that can be seen in the other Gateway services as well. Chan Ming-kin, technical supervisor of the engineering department which takes care of apartment repairs and maintenance, said that one of the biggest challenges he faced with his job was working around the residents' varied schedules.

'We prefer to be as unobtrusive as possible,' he said. 'We try to be in and out of their apartments when we know they'll be out, so that they may return to a perfectly repaired apartment without having to deal with supervising the maintenance.'

Most of the time, residents will not even know that anything is amiss in their apartment to begin with. Mild damage to the ceiling or wallpaper may very well go unnoticed to all but the housekeeping attendants, who immediately inform the engineering department of the situation. Often, the necessary repairs are carried out and the engineers leave before the resident returns from work.

Every operation is carried out with the resident's comfort and happiness in mind. Gateway says it's the only serviced apartment company in Hong Kong to provide gas in the apartment kitchenettes, for the large number of housewives who enjoy cooking at home.

Although gas usage is provided in the kitchen, eco-friendly residents will be happy to know that alternate sources of energy are also available for many of the their daily needs. Gateway has been putting in significant effort into protecting the environment, and has installed a heat-pump system in the building that generates hot water for the residents.

Mr Chan said the system was considered environmentally friendly due to the fact that its processes did not consume fossil fuels or pollute the air.

The building also has 10, 1x3-metre solar panels on the roof that serve as a secondary source of energy for hot water generation, and the management plans to have 100 panels in place by the end of this year. Everyday supplies such as dishwashing tablets, laundry detergent and fabric softener are made with organic ingredients, while paper, aluminium and plastic recycling bins are also available under the kitchen sink for easy sorting.

Ultimately, what the staff set out to do each day is to ensure that residents feel at home. They say it's the level of personalisation that really differentiates their service from the competition.

'At the end of the day,' Ms Wergin said, 'what we provide is a deeper level of service.'