People and culture is a crucial part of the hospitality industry – after all, service is all about relationships! But this essential element can be easily overlooked, especially for industry newcomers.
In today’s blog, Typsy chats with industry veteran Samantha Mellor about fostering good interpersonal relationships in hospitality, both with customers and with colleagues.
Can you tell us a bit about your role while working with Art Series Hotels?
As an experienced People and Culture leader at Art Series Hotel Group, I was responsible for the HR function within eight hotels across multiple states.
In this role, I was the journey expert for employees and managers across all departments – providing advice; implementing engagement and retention strategies; driving culture, and health and well-being; creating and delivering training programs; implementing policies; and directing disciplinary procedures. I was also responsible for staff recruitment and induction.
I see the job – actually, all roles! – as being in two parts: ‘task’ and ‘relationship’. Of course, the ‘task’ components of the job must be completed, but I see the relationship side as just as important. It’s a chance for human connection, creating an experience or a lasting memory – the feel-great factor!
My time with Art Series Hotel Group has provided me with amazing career opportunities: from Front Desk, Conference, and Events Operations, to Sales, and then five years in People and Culture. A career in hospitality is filled with exciting career prospects that can really take you on an amazing journey.
It can even take you around the world!
What drew you to the hospitality industry?
I love people, their journeys, the stories they tell, and the stories I get to tell. It fascinates me how a simple smile and eye contact can brighten someone’s day. You can make connections while you work, and I feel a great sense of achievement when I can help someone make a memory.
I also gravitate to fast-paced and challenging environments – it’s never boring.
And from a very young age, I saw hospitality as an opportunity to travel the world while growing my career at the same time.
What do you think makes for great customer experiences?
Genuine and unique experiences have the greatest impact. That said, never underestimate the impact of something small and simple! Asking someone’s name and then remembering it days, weeks, months later can have a huge impact on a person and can be the reason they return to a business. This is something that doesn’t cost the business a cent!
A unique experience doesn’t have to be costly either. You can get creative by getting to know the guest. Ask genuine questions and demonstrate positive body language.
What’s one thing you recommend new workers on the front desk to do?
Make sure you really get to know your venue and its best amenities. For example: where the bathrooms, pool, and gym are, and what time the bar or restaurant opens.
Use the team around you – if you don’t know the answer, ask for help!
Once you have mastered the ‘task’ part of your role, you will have more time and confidence to build on the relationships with the customers.
What are some challenges you faced while working as a front desk team member? How did you overcome them?
While working on the front desk, it can become extremely busy from one moment to the next, so it’s important to be prepared at the start of your shift. When you arrive, make yourself aware of how many people are checking in and out, as this will help you to forecast the busy periods. If you have lots of arrivals that day, ensure you have stocked up on luggage tags and maps of the area, and check for any VIP arrivals.
When managing a long check-out queue, remember that guests may not be aware of express check-out options! Offering these options in line can usually cut a queue in half. It satisfies guests who may be in a hurry and ensures a short wait for guests who do want to speak to someone at the desk.
This process is vital as it provides the foundations of the rest of the guest’s stay and is a deciding factor in whether they’ll return. Providing a positive first impression sets the tone for the duration of their trip: it instils trust in you and the company.
We want the guests to be delighted by the experience – to surprise them with our amazing hospitality, so that they tell their family, friends and work colleagues. As an employee, this gives you the feel-great factor, knowing that you’ve provided exceptional service; the guest is happy; and the business generates revenue – win-win for everyone.
With new technology, the hospitality industry is constantly evolving. We can enable guests to update their reservation profile, so that we’re notified of requests or changes before arrival. Things like a quiet room, or champagne on ice.
I’m not sure if there are hotels already doing this, but I know some cruise ships have introduced face recognition. So a guest can access their cabin and facilities with facial scans, as well as being used to charge their account for expenses around the ship.
Imagine this for hotel rooms! Front desk wouldn’t have to cut a key. I often wonder how many keys get lost or taken home. Those key cards are very expensive and made of plastic; facial recognition would be much more environmentally friendly.
Also, some hotel companies are also starting to offer a free mini bar, which I’m sure guests are thrilled about – and for the front desk, it’s one less task to monitor and charge for.
I loved shift work, especially if I had a weekday off as the shops would be quiet. Most of my family and friends would be at work so I could have a ‘me’ day. On my other day off, I would spend time with loved ones. Working an AM shift, followed by 2 days off, and then a PM shift would feel like so much time off! I loved those rosters.
I have missed out on some events, but within the hospitality community there’s always someone who has similar days off to you.
Now that I have a family of my own, with two young children, I’m no longer working in a rotating roster and life is challenging enough as it is! I would love to hear how other people manage with young families, I’m sure they would have some great life juggling tips for everyone!
Always be open to learning! If there’s an online course or in-house training session, go and learn something new. This can lead to better career opportunities.
Remember that every department is part of the same team: you are one team, one hotel. Everyone is part of a department that contributes equally to the guest experience, and everyone is important. Respect and support your colleagues.
Sam Mellor is an industry-leading People and Culture professional and hospitality trainer. She presents Typsy's course on Front desk check-in and check-out, available now.
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