The serviced residence market in North Asia has received an injection of class with the arrival of Frasers Hospitality’s Gold-Standard apartments in key cities in the region.
With a vision to raise the bar in the industry, Frasers Hospitality CEO Choe Peng Sum puts himself in the shoes of residents and staff at his chain of premium properties in order to deliver a level of service that will meet the exacting needs of business clients drawn from Fortune 500 and Forbes companies.
This means that for discerning guests at the newly-opened Fraser Residence CBD East-Beijing, semior client relations executives like Yukie Wang are always just a phone call away.
Yukie’s job is all about communication. A typical day will involve a series of meetings with guests, whether it is greeting new arrivals on check-in or troubleshooting for long-term residents.
“Before I came to Fraser Residence, I was a senior guest relations manager in a hotel,” Yukie explained. “I came here because I wanted to develop my career. In hotels it is mainly short-stay guests who are on business. For people staying in serviced apartments, we must provide a different level of service.We have to get to know our guests.”
Personalized service delivery
Yukie’s career path is like that of many of the 60-or-so staff currently employed at Fraser Residence CBD East-Beijing. They usually have experience working in five-star hotels or in the hospitality industry and are therefore familiar with the service standards required.
However, this is where the hotel-serviced apartment similarities end. The introduction of the Gold-Standard benchmark at Frasers Hospitality is a distinct departure from the industry norm.
“We try to avoid using the word ‘hotel’,” said James Wu, executive assistant manager at the property. “A hotel is a place you stay overnight; a serviced apartment is where you spend one to three years. It is a home.”
The difference is obvious once you step into any serviced residence around the world. Don’t expect the double-height ceilinged and marble palaces that give super-deluxe hotels their character. Instead, residents at Frasers Hospitality have come to appreciate the cosy ambiance of a home – together with the sense of comfort, safety and security that this brings.
Naturally, Frasers Hospitality provides a selection of premium hotel-standard facilities in its properties.
A guest in one of Fraser Residence CBD East-Beijing’s 228 apartments can enjoy the comforts of cable TV, wireless and broadband internet access, room service and a laundry service. On-site leisure facilities include a fitness center, steam and sauna rooms and a snooker lounge.
There are also 24-hour reception, concierge and security services, regular visits from housekeeping, complimentary buffet breakfasts, a travel agency, and grocery delivery and child minding services.
Part of it is about knowing your target market. Nine in every 10 guests are either expats living in China or overseas Chinese who have been posted back to the country by multinational firms.
At the well-established Fraser Place Shekou in Shenzhen, 85% of guests stay for more than three months.
Catering for a healthy mix of individuals, couples and families, Frasers Hospitality looks to accommodate all needs by offering apartments with anything from one to several bedrooms. But those on long-term placements are likely to bring their partner and children along too. This affects the nature of the services provided and even the location of the residence itself: Access to expat communities and international schools can be as important as access to a city’s business hub.
“A lot of families move to China and they have no idea what life is like here,” said Wu. “There is the language barrier and inconsistency in terms of infrastructure and transport.
“Serviced apartments are there to provide people with the standards they are used to in their own country. People choose this kind of accommodation because they don’t want any trouble.”
However, to turn a top-class package of facilities and services into a welcoming home, a personal touch is required. This is one of the cornerstones of Frasers Hospitality company culture.
“When a new resident checks in, we introduce them to the housekeeper who will clean their apartment every day,” said Rachel Ng, housekeeping manager at Fraser Residence CBD East-Beijing. “This way, they know that any special requests will be dealt with consistently. We offer a very personalized service.”
With this comes an element of trust. Long-term residents accumulate all kinds of personal possessions that they want to display in their apartments. At Fraser Residence CDB East-Beijing they can do this safe in the knowledge that the housekeeper knows what goes where.
Parents can also be confident leaving their children in the care of a familiar face, whether it is one of the liaison staff doing the school run or the security guards overseeing football matches in the yard.
“We just try to be part of the family,” explained Yukie.
The front desk and concierge staff all speak a foreign language so they are able to field more complicated inquiries. The aim is offer a one-stop shop for questions relating to utilities and services provided on the property, but the staff can also perform duties such as obtaining residence permits for new arrivals from overseas.
In the vast majority of situations, it is a case of ask for help and you shall receive it: One foreign guest needed local mobile phone SIM cards for himself and his family, so a staff member took them all shopping and helped them pick out different telecom packages.
Frasers Hospitality also organizes a wide range of leisure activities, a service that is, again, well-suited to expats new to China. There are off-site outings, particularly during school holidays, as well as numerous activities on the premises. The wives’ committee, for example, meets regularly for classes in yoga, cooking and languages, to name but a few.
“Some people say we spoil our guests and we do – that’s how we do business,” said Wu. “With time and money you can build whatever beautiful apartments and hotels you like. But the distinguishing factor for us is our staff.”