Make It

A Waldorf-Astoria bellman with 50 years experience shares the key to great customer service

Jillali Elidrissi (center) has been a bellman at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel since April 1966.
Source: Jillali Elidrissi
Jillali Elidrissi (center) has been a bellman at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel since April 1966.

Jillali "Jim" Elidrissi started working for New York City's Waldorf-Astoria hotel as a bellman shortly after arriving from Morocco in 1966.

He was 20 years old and "scared stiff," he tells CNBC.

In April 2016, the 70-year-old celebrated his 50th year at the iconic hotel, making him the Waldorf's longest-standing bellman.

Over the past five decades, Elidrissi, whose responsibilities range from escorting guests to their rooms to giving tours of the historic hotel, has become a fixture of the Waldorf. He's greeted former president Ronald Regan during his stay — twice — and has even been an extra in Hollywood movies filmed at the hotel.

"You have to make people feel at home." -Jillali Elidrissi, Waldorf-Astoria bellman

He's also seen a couple of ownership changes within the Waldorf, and the dress code has evolved significantly, he notes. But the key to great customer service has remained the same: A big smile, sincerity, and greeting the guest before they have the chance to greet you.

"When you see the guest, don't wait for him to come to you. You go to the guest," emphasizes Elidrissi, who now trains the Waldorf's younger bellmen and new hires.

"Rather than having the guest say, 'Hello,' or, 'Hello, Jim. Nice to see you,' I say, 'Welcome. Have a nice stay.' Or, 'Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So. Good to see you again.' It goes big."

Remembering names and faces also goes a long way.

Especially names, the bellman says: "It's special for the guests when you use their name and ask about their trip or their family. You need that in business — you have to make people feel at home. And they'll say to me, 'I stay here because of employees like you.'"

Correction: This version corrects the spelling of Jillali Elidrissi.