WHEN things go wrong, the man responsible is often the front office manager. Lawrence Ng endeavours to ensure that things do not go wrong, of course, and that guests in his hotel enjoy perfect service. But any guest with cause for complaint will be well-pleased with the attention given by this friendly, capable man. Apart from food and beverage and housekeeping, Mr Ng handles all matters to do with guest contact, from check-in to check-out. Under him is a staff which deals with matters relating to guest relations - everything from those who man the reception desk or organise tickets to the cinema, to the switchboard operator and the doorman. Mr Ng began charming his way to the top 10 years ago as assistant supervisor on the enquiry desk of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Then he was ''shuffled around'' in the New World chain, moving from Hongkong to China to help open the Xian Hotel before returning to Hongkong and working at the New World Harbour View in Wan Chai. After a spell with the Shangri-La in Beijing, Mr Ng again returned to Hongkong with the Regal hotels group. While his formal training was in hospitality and management at the Hongkong Polytechnic, his real skills are in his good-humour and efficiency - probably the two most important traits when dealing with the public. ''Setting up an operation from scratch is more time-consuming and can even be tedious,'' he admitted. ''But it is satisfying to be able to do things my own way.'' Mr Ng said the most important part of his job was in recruiting a good team. ''They must always smile and be kind and prompt,'' he said. ''Then we can begin training them about working for a five-star hotel. ''We want guests to feel welcome and confident that anyone from the front office department will attend promptly and courteously to their requests.'' His most important role is in training staff to ensure that contact with guests is positive. ''They learn that this is a service industry; it is not 'slavery', '' he said. ''If staff are happy and enjoying their work, they pass their feelings on to guests. ''We teach them to detect whether or not someone is pleased with service through a guest's facial expressions and gestures. ''This interaction is the part of the job I love best.'' Mr Ng said that he found British guests most polite, although Japanese guests were straightforward and easy to deal with. ''In fact, they are the best in the world as they have high self-esteem and this means they respect their surroundings and other guests,'' he said. ''On the other hand, Westerners are often here on holiday, so they are usually in a good mood and easy to get along with.'' Mr Ng said the motto he instilled in his front office teams - he has seven sub-departments - was that ''complaints should be turned into compliments''. Guests appreciate his attention and efforts to make them feel special. ''I sometimes receive letters of appreciation from guests after they return home,'' he said. ''I took care of a honeymoon couple once and, when they returned home to Hawaii, they sent me a book and invited me there. ''We still send Christmas and birthday cards to each other.'' Mr Ng will be looking forward to making more such ''satisfied customers'' in his new role at the Regal Hongkong Hotel.