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The Taj on 26/11: Things to learn from the top brand’s hotel culture.

On the 26th of November, 2008, a group of 10 terrorists attacked the city of Mumbai. They broke up in teams to attack different locations. One of those locations was the beautiful, iconic, 116 years old, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. For 3 nights, 2 days, there was absolute havoc. Guests were terrorized, people wounded, shot, killed. Group of terrorists with automatic weapons, plastic explosives, and grenades in backpacks roamed freely and spread barbarism, all across the place.

It was a typical busy Wednesday for The Taj. More than 500 guests were registered at the hotel. Another 500-600 were attending functions in the banquet halls or sitting down to dinner in the hotel restaurants.

About 600 staff members were working there, most of them young people. All of these hotel employees knew the back exit routes. Natural human instinct at a time of terror is to flee. That day, the truth was that nobody ran away. They all stayed there throughout the sage. Most of them even helped hotel guests to get out safely and then came back to escort others back too.

There were no hotel manuals, no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for what should be done in such a situation. So, what was the force that lead to such an extraordinary show by the hotel staff?

Some say it might be the inherent culture of the country which says, ‘atithi-devo-bhava’ ie. the guest is to be treated like a God. It is something in the value system of the people of India.

But some also say that it is the industry culture that’s inculcated in the team of Taj hotels. The incident took place at a hotel. It is hospitality ethics to put guests before everything else.

But when one studies the HR policy of the hotel- it explains a lot. Taj Hotels recruits its first line of employees from high school, and those not from major cities but smaller towns, and the recruitment is done based on attitude, not in terms of grades. They also recruit those who have the most respect for their teachers, parents, older people.

Secondly, Taj trains its first line employs to be ambassadors for guests, not the brand.

Third and most important, their reward system is not just monitory, but they also reward with personal recognition. When an employee does something that delights a guest, within 48 hrs the employee is recognized, not at the time of Diwali or Christmas bonus.

All of this combined, it has built a customer-centric corporate culture within the Hotel. They have redesigned the relationship between employer and employee.

We at Crossotel, try and imbibe the same value system in our team members. We call them team members, not employees and have tried to develop a culture where each and everyone contributes towards customer experience, regardless of what role they are here for.

Industry these days is changing rapidly and it is boiling down to become purely customer-centric. Customer experience is the top prioritized aspect that organizations these days are considering. In such an environment the first line employs need to be trained very well to meet the expected demand.

All the organization should work towards developing such customer-centric culture, where each member of the team contributes from his part to make to customer experience.

If you run a hotel, or belong to the team that runs one- try and imbibe more customer centric approach for your team. When such change starts happening in an organization- it often drives magical results.

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Colin Matthieu/Getty Images
The Taj on 26/11: Things to learn from the top brand’s hotel culture. Image Credit- Colin Matthieu/Getty Images

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