Reading the small print to name drop!

Speaking Out Clive Jacques

What’s in a name? Clive Steadman Jacques certainly means a great deal to me!

In the upper circles of global hospitality, whether staying in luxury hotels or travelling sky-high, names now appear to increasingly matter. While some frequently get the pronunciation of names dreadfully wrong, venturing in my case from Mr Jack to Meester Kive, and from Mr Jackqueues to Master Steedmen, however often misspelled or quoted, it is invariably done with the best of intentions, so I normally respond with a respectful nod and a smile.
Don’t be misled by this name-dropping. I am no more important and little better known than in my embryonic days many decades and more moons ago, but the interim corporate name game has become a global phenomenon especially with guest relations, client service executives, or whatever they call themselves.
As we go headlong into the fast-approaching 2005, spa resorts to car-hire companies and airlines to restaurants hospitably and increasingly personally identify customers, and not just when saying hi or bye!
Computers can be partly thanked – or blamed – for the increasing name-dropping habit, with full details now available to all and sundry at almost an instant, along with additional information from seat preference to food likes, and from wedding anniversary to favoured pillows.
The first time name-dropping became part of my travelling experience was on a Bahrain-to-Hong Kong flight with Cathay Pacific. On taking my upgraded First Class seat – in the days when there were always three Classes and the only jumbo travel was aboard Boeing 747 – a smiling hostess welcomed me by name. Well almost anyway.
The “good evening Mr Jeeves, welcome aboard” so impressed me that I felt well on the way even before a menu had been offered, or the doors closed and safety instructions given!
In those days the main up-front flight mission was to serve vast quantities of liquid, along with never-ending snacks and meals, assuring that you – in CX jargon – “arrived in better shape” even if slightly hung-over.
Since then the regional hospitality industry has become increasingly competitive and ever more personal, with each hotel that claims to be a luxury haven of peace and exquisite service going out of its way to name drop.
As VP and GM of The Fairmont Dubai Michael Kaile confided a couple of years ago during an interview, “There is nothing nicer for visitors in a strange place than the sound of their own name.”
The consequence of such a statement is clearly taken seriously in many hotel corridors of power.
From the limo drivers on airport arrival to the hotel doormen and even room boys, names are proffered with grace and dignity, along with cooling towels, fruit baskets, and chocolate (my favourite) on the pillow after the nightly turn-down.
Phone room service or face up to reality and call for help from the IT butler, and the sort of first words uttered are: Good evening Mr Jackquis. This is Daniel. How can I be of assistance?
While this no doubt scores all-important points in the employee of the month stakes, I feel challenged in face-to-face situations that see me unable to reciprocate by name, and not only because I have a poor memory.
Nowadays most hotel personnel – including GMs – along with trolley dollies and flight-deck crew on aircraft proudly don name badges. But those who need glasses to read will know the problem I face, unable to read names from a distance, and not wishing to peer too closely at the smiling – and nameless – hostesses’ chest!