In one sense this article began with a casual conversation with Mr. Wanchoo during a game of snooker. Mr. Vijay Wanchoo is the Senior Executive Vice President of The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, a position he has held for the last 12 years and in which he has been inordinately successful. As with many effective leaders, though, he is by nature self-critical. Why? because the man believes in 100% and would settle for nothing less.

In conversation with…

1. Being in the hospitality industry I am sure you would have been in situations where you have to calm down a dissatisfied guest. What approach do you normally follow in this situation?

The hotel industry is a constantly active industry that never sleeps. Therefore, the Head of any hotel has to deal with around 300-400 guests, and an equal number of employees, the ownership, and other clients. It is a fact that there is never a dull moment.

Over the past 40 odd years in the hotel industry, I have faced a few challenges due to guest experience as every customer comes with an expectation, which if not met, dissatisfaction is imminent.

My experience has been that I have confidently and successfully handled 99.99% of situations and have been able to ensure complete service recovery. However, there is always that possibility that one odd customer/situation which cannot be handled satisfactorily, has to be handled nevertheless. In such cases, one has to use tact and patience and the best way is to not give excuses and to accept the fault.

There was one situation which I must mention about where I had to use my experience and careful dialogue with the guest. Some years ago there was a wedding and a conference booked at the same time in the hotel.

However, due to a miscommunication, both events were confirmed at the same venue erroneously and neither party was willing to budge. I had to finally get on top of the situation and with extreme care, tact and persuasion managed to shift one event to another venue. It took about a week to resolve the embargo and that week was extremely difficult. Both parties were satisfied.

2. Your hotel being one of the best in India is known for its celebrity guests. How do you motivate your staff in dealing with them? I am sure it can be difficult at times.

It has always been a fallacy in the minds of fresh hotel industry entrants that hotels are full of glamour. This is very untrue.

Though one will see celebrities, the hotel discipline requires all staff to sure restraint and avoid any unnecessary interaction with the celebrities. However, only the very senior resources may interact on a personal level and in my position I have close association with many celebrities.

Depending on their mindset at times the celebrities may permit an interaction with the staff and I would like to share two specific episodes.

About 8 years back, my dear friend and Late actor Mr. Rishi Kapoor and Ms. Neetu Kapoor stayed with us. I requested Rishi Bhai to suggest a comedy movie of him and Neetu ji which we could show to our staff for our ‘movie of the month’ initiative. With pride he suggested “Rafoo Chakkar” and before I could even ask him to join us, he said that he would like to come and interact with staff and this was a huge motivation for everyone. In fact he spoke for ten minutes and sat through the movie with Neetu Ji.

Continuing on this it was a repeat of history in a way early this year. Rishi bhai and Neetu ji’s son, Ranbir Kapoor stayed with us and he agreed to join us for a Lohri celebration at the Imperial. This was again motivation for the team members as he spent time and danced with the team.

3. Being in a very senior position in the industry, what do you miss the most?

It is a known fact that once you enter your work place for your duty, you need to forget your watch. In fact one is not even able to attend personal family celebrations. I often Imagine and go back in time when I was a Food & Beverage Manager between 1987- 1995.My children where toddlers and during these years, I was unable to spend much time with family and this will always remain in my memory as a sore point.

4. Besides the Hotel industry, what are your other interests?

I am personally a very sporty and active person and have extensively played cricket throughout my career. Since 2009 at the Imperial we have won Two inter- hotel cricket tournaments and were runners-up three times.

Besides cricket I have been a good badminton player and was doubles champion in college. Moving indoors I am pretty adept at Snooker and billiards, having won One Gold and Two Silver medals in corporate games in the years 2012- 2013 & 2014.

Besides the above having worked as Chef from 1978-87, I enjoy cooking occasionally.