AS THE service sector has become the new powerhouse of the Singapore economy, it is fitting to periodically applaud the men and women who put in their very best every day and night, and even go the extra mile, to provide excellent service.

The Excellent Service Award (EXSA), launched in 1994, is a national award to recognise and honour the very best in the country’s rapidly growing service sector. Among others, EXSA is given to those in the hotel industry and those manning the many attractions in Singapore.

Says Ms Margaret Heng, executive director of Singapore Hotels Association, which represents the business that is one of the largest employers of service staff in the country: “EXSA provides an important platform for us to acknowledge our service champions.

“Since its inception in 1994, EXSA has grown in stature to be a well-recognised national award for the hospitality sector. More and more organisations are participating in EXSA each year and, in this sense, it has truly evolved into a movement for service excellence. This is a testament of the importance of EXSA to the sector.

“Service is really the soul of the hospitality business. It is therefore crucial for employers to continually motivate their service professionals to go the extra mile to delight guests. EXSA, being an annual award, serves to do just that by creating the impetus for excellent service delivery.”

She adds: “The demand is certainly there for service-oriented individuals. Additionally, to attract and retain talent, hotels offer a progressive career pathway. Hence, with the right training and attitude, one can be assured of a rewarding career in our fun, exciting and vibrant hospitality sector.”

While it is important to reward service staff equitably, a non-monetary award such as an EXSA Award serves to inspire them to continuously upgrade their skills, scale new heights and uphold the service standards.

In the process, service champions are developed and role models are discovered and recognised for others to emulate, says Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, chairman for manpower and training, Association of Singapore Attractions. 

Formed in 1992, the association acts as the representative body for its members working with all tourist-related organisations, government bodies and international organisations.

Its more than 50 members cover a wide range of attractions from adventure to culture and history, edutainment, lifestyle, and nature and parks.

Says Ms Prihadi: “Singapore has a fine array of attractions like the Night Safari, Singapore Bird Park, The Flyer and wonderful museums for both locals and tourists. Good set-ups, rides and exhibits must also be complemented by well-trained and capable service staff to create a memorable experience for customers who are well-travelled and increasingly more sophisticated.”

She adds that “good ‘hardware’ coupled with excellent ‘heartware’ go a long way in maintaining the high standard needed in the service industry”. It is therefore, important for attractions to recognise the invaluable contribution of their service staff who are the ‘heartware’ of the business.

The EXSA Award is an important tool that the association uses to raise the service standards of the attractions’ industry. The increasing number of nominations received from members every year is an indication of its importance and its value.

Says Ms Prihadi: “One of the unique features of the EXSA Award is that recipients must go through a development workshop as the qualifying requirement.

Such a training workshop provides EXSA recipients with the platform to meet, learn and exchange ideas with fellow participants from other attractions.”

The attractions industry in Singapore has small, medium and large set-ups with corresponding levels of human resource requirements. 

To attract and retain people, the association emphasises the importance of having a good training road map and a clear career progression path complemented with various schemes to reward employees.

 “While the big attractions have the resources to do so, it is always a challenge for the smaller attractions.

“Empowerment is a tool that should be exploited to allow staff to perform their job better especially in difficult situations, to prevent or salvage a bad experience and create memorable experiences for guests,” says Ms Prihadi.

Spring Singapore, which supports EXSA, says that together with agencies under the GEMS Up movement, it is heartened to see the active participation in EXSA.

Says Ms Choy Sauw Kook, co-chairperson, GEMS Up Committee and assistant chief executive of Spring Singapore: “It is evident that the industry recognises the importance of giving due credit to employees who have performed and served their companies well.”

She adds: “However, driving service excellence in Singapore does not fall solely on companies and service staff. Consumers too have an integral role to play.

“Complimenting exemplary service and offering constructive feedback to address any service lapses can help to continue this virtuous cycle which will benefit all key stakeholders — consumers enjoying better service, employers reaping business gains and employees getting better rewarded.”