Fresh out of school after his O levels more than 30 years ago, Mr Matthew Rajavarma started his career as a “Mandarin boy” — bellboy at Mandarin Orchard Singapore by Meritus — and worked his way up to his current position as chef concierge (French for chief concierge).
In between, he left for a change of environment to work as an airport representative.
But the requests from many of his former guests to return to the hotel eventually led him back to Mandarin Orchard.
Today, the 52-year-old veteran is also the only one at the hotel to be a member of The Society of the Golden Keys Singapore, or Les Clefs d’Or Singapore.
Les Clefs d’Or is an international network of hotel concierges who aim to improve and maintain the quality of their service and ensure that the profession is given its due recognition.
Mr Rajavarma’s road to receiving the coveted recognition dates back to six years ago, when the hotel’s general manager wrote a letter of recommendation for him.
Subsequently, he was invited to represent the hotel in the Les Clefs team, and after about three years, he was nominated to receive the Golden Keys for his contribution and participation within the society.
He says: “This is definitely a great honour, which I am proud to have. Every hotel views this award highly.”
As chef concierge, he supervises the operations at the hotel’s main entrance, ensuring a smooth flow of traffic, especially during peak periods.
He leads a team of 54, comprising the assistant chef concierge, front desk, valets, bellboys and bell captains, and oversees baggage placement and transfer, checking guests in and out, and transport arrangements for guests and VIPs.
He also provides guests with crucial information on anything from hotel matters to dining and leisure activities in Singapore.
“The biggest challenge I face is managing the operations between the Orchard Wing and the Main Tower,” he says.
“Ferrying luggage and assisting guests between the two towers require precision, teamwork and speed,” he explains, adding that the team has a stringent and proven system to ensure efficient service in this area.
“I am very fortunate to have a strong, vibrant and bubbly team. Working here has been most enjoyable.
“We encourage open communication among colleagues to clear all misunderstandings that may compromise the excellence of our service standard.”
A helping hand
An example of his brand of service excellence is the help he rendered to a distressed guest a few months ago.
The English woman had been stranded in Singapore for a week due to flight disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption. She was so short of cash that she did not even have enough money to buy lunch.
Like a knight in shining armour, Mr Rajavarma offered her money from his own pocket, arranged for her to get to the British High Commission helpdesk at Marina Mandarin and kept her informed of her flight details.
Subsequently, in her letter to the hotel’s general manager, she said she was very surprised by Mr Rajavarma’s actions and was impressed with him.
Such compliments have played a part in grooming his personality and made him more confident and want to make a bigger difference, he says.
“I love this job because of the people I meet, who include the guests in my day-to-day services and my own team, whom I am truly blessed with,” he says, adding that he is also thankful to his family and friends for their support.
“People have the misconception that being a concierge is an easy job, but it actually requires a lot of time, commitment, organisational skills and leadership.
“One is also needed to keep smiling when greeting and assisting guests, showing the Asian hospitality, warmth and grace of Mandarin Orchard Singapore.”