Thursday and Friday were my first days in the rooming department. I will be working in the concierge section. I get to wear the front desk uniform but unfortunately I cannot post pictures of it publicly on the internet because it will give away the hotel. Whenever I wear the uniform I feel very official and honored to represent the hotel brand.
The first day I did not go out in the front, but rather studied the hotel (i.e. restroom or restaurant locations) and hotel whereabouts. The concierge is responsible for greeting and directing guests and helping them with any needs, mostly for services outside the hotel such as booking a restaurant. We also deal with VIP guests and give them special services. It is a huge responsibility and I have a lot of respect for the people here who execute flawless service with confidence.
On Friday I actually went out to the concierge desk for the first time. It was so scary and it was the hardest professional thing I have ever done, and also the most challenging use of my Japanese ever. Instead of sitting at the desk with the computers, I stand near the desk and people often come up to me and ask questions. My grandma said that it is mostly Westerners that ask for help and that may be for outside hotel services such as needing suggestions for places to go to dinner, but the majority of people just need help with directions for inside the hotel and those guests tend to be Japanese. At our hotel the clientele is a little bit older, and I have a tremendously hard time understanding native Japanese as it is, but understanding older Japanese people is just another level of difficulty for me.
First, the challenge is to understand what is being said to me. Then, the challenge is to remember where that location is or how to get there. Finally, the challenge is to convey that message in polite Japanese without looking too much like an intern or a foreigner. Of course, I wear a badge that says "trainee" and my last name is foreign so I hope they will be understanding, but I feel that guests have a right to complain because this is a five-star hotel and they are paying so much money for good service so I ought to get it right. The first half hour I was out there I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't even direct people to the nearest bathroom and whatnot, but my seniors were very understanding and stood near me to help me constantly, so for that I am very grateful. There is also another intern who is in college who helped me out so much. She is trilingual and is so outgoing with a lot of confidence, and I am so thankful for her assistance today. I feel really bad that my team will probably have to help me much more because I am not a native Japanese speaker…I really hope I am not too much of a burden.
Honestly, I felt pretty bummed after my first time going out there and almost wanted to ask them to switch me to an easier place like the cloak or takuhaibin (I don't know how to say this in English…it's like the package and luggage delivery) where there is only a few set jobs and easier to memorize phrases. In contrast, the concierge has countless amount of things to be memorized and so much knowledge about literally everything (inside and outside the hotel) and I was just so overwhelmed. Of course I didn't show that I was overwhelmed, but my Japanese was just terrible as I stuttered due to lack of knowledge and confidence.
Another task that I got to do with the other intern was to greet VIP desks at the front entrance who use the chauffeur services. They gave us the foreigner guests so we could speak English to them, so for that I wasn't nervous. I am also okay at giving instructions in English when people ask me, it is just the Japanese that is super stressful for me right now. I feel that if I work in a hotel in the U.S. after this all these little tasks I will have to do that I am doing now in my second language will be a million times easier in English.
Finally at the end someone sat me down in the back and pretty much went by place by place and told me how to describe to clients how to give directions. I asked her to give me direct phrases to memorize and wrote them down. I also asked for her to tell me questions that are most often asked and if there are multiple ways to say them. I am taking soooooo many notes and will make a long script this weekend to memorize so I can be better on Monday.
Towards the end, I was able to give directions to Japanese people on simple things like the bathroom, ATM, restaurants, etc. albeit with probably not sophisticated Japanese. I am also okay at greetings and bowing, but I need to have a more confidence and loud voice. One Japanese person in particular was super understanding and if anything most people are just a little confused because I look Japanese but I can't speak so eloquently, however I can't dwell and others' opinions too much. I want to give a shoutout though to one of my grandma's friends who also was in the lobby (he does other work) and he talked to me and helped me once when no other concierge person was out with me. I'm thankful to have friends here and also thankful that I have been here before because I am so directionally challenged and still get lost in the hotel–imagine if I had never been here and had to work at the concierge knowing nothing.
I think there are a lot of differences from the sales department compared to the rooming department. For one, everyone here has to wear a uniform and appearance and overall rules are much more strict because you are constantly in front of clients and are the first impression of the hotel brand. In contrast, sales people wear typical business suits and meet with clients who aren't necessarily directly staying guests quite yet, but are from different businesses mostly. Sales people are selling a story (the hotel brand), while the people who do floor service are the hotel brand directly. I feel there is much more leeway of how to act and talk when you are a sales person because you adjust to each business and can be a little more creative, while in the floor service unless it is a foreigner, you are very much giving traditional Japanese hospitality. I am a little bit intimidated by the atmosphere but I came here to learn this type of service so I got what I wished for!
I might be a little bit stressed for awhile but I'm praying that I don't let it get to my head. It is easy for me to think self-hating thoughts when I get discouraged, so I will try to change how I think. I'm thankful for the weekend so that I can rest and renew my mind.