Maxine Jacquet, Studio Artline

Maxine Jacquet, Studio Artline – as presented at BLLA’s Leadership Conference 2015

In my conversations this week with one of the world’s best restauranteurs, a brilliantly creative hotelier and one outspoken, award-winning travel agent to the wealthy, I’ve come to the conclusion that we attract individuals who want to connect with BLLA as they view us as being on the same playing field as theirs. In other words, we’ll all out of our minds with happiness as we love what we do and value life to the highest.  This validates the belief that those who choose the boutique space to play in, want to work with and employ others who are just like them – from the Doorman to the GM, those who share that same passion for life.

Concierge – For luxury boutique clients, we’re not just talking any concierge by the way. After speaking with Melissa Schwartz of Destination Happiness, if your head concierge isn’t calling French Laundry and getting your client in, then he/she has been asleep at the wheel. Discovering a treasure trove of truly amazing experiences is the job of a concierge. Order takers they are not (these you can replace with digital concierges and save $$). Knowing which room number is the best, or the preferred table in a restaurant who is served by the most experienced wait staff, is what counts. If the client wants a reservation in your on-property restaurant, why not send them a sampler of each of your desserts, “a gift from your hotel?” Details!

Valet  A hotel valet (parking) is the customer’s first point of contact in many cases and thus, a position of utmost authority and capability and yet many luxury hotels who outsource this service leave the management of the operation to the valet company. This includes proper employee training and understanding the necessity of providing a very high quality customer experience. Leaving this important job to an outside company is like walking a tightrope. Unless you’re closely involved and rating service delivery, this could be a nightmare!

AKA LondonRoom service – Starting with delivery of a customized welcome gift (this is where you actually take the time to know your client) to delivery of an in-room meal, Food & Beverage (F&B) is one of the greatest revenue opportunities in a hotel. However, many do not take the time to make it memorable. The quality of the food with room service should match the quality of the food served at your on-property restaurants and bars. Any special touches, such as cold drinks served in an ice bucket, a short thank you note or a complimentary dessert can add a special flare that will set you apart. One of the most important parts of F&B at boutique properties is presentation, so really take the time to add lots of special touches to room service deliveries!

Director of Sales & Marketing – A skilled hotel sales manager must possess the ability to produce incredible results by maintaining strategic relationships and intimately knowing clients, all while creating opportunities through the ups and downs of our changing economic landscape. A salesperson who visits travel agents and corporate clients or attends trade shows representing the property, MUST do more that just show images of a property (that’s a yawner for sure!). Finding the most intricate, unique, special aspects of the “destination” (which a hotel is unto itself) is what will be memorable! This presentation may also be a great story about a staff member or owner who has an interesting background or story, or someone on social media who shared some special moments, pictures or videos.

Group & Event Catering Director – (For boutique hotels who have conference space or even small group facilities.) This position is the make or break factor in the outcome of a successful group or meeting. Like conducting an orchestra, even one person on the Director’s team can mess up the entire operation.Taking the time to understand a client’s needs is important but many forget about customer service when it comes to this department. For example, if a potential group client comes in for a site inspection, you must at least do the following: be prompt, offer them not only beverages but also food, introduce them to other hotel staff including the GM, take care of any valet fees, take notes, and follow up within 24 hours. Groups & events are usually a huge part of a property’s revenue, thus, treat these clients as you would your most special VIP guests. For the Director or GM to not realize the importance of groups and meetings, is a lost opportunity!

General Manager – If hotels were speaking the truth, they would admit that most GM’s are not necessarily needed, according to some top level luxury owners (who will remain unnamed). Unless they are actually doing their job ….. which includes getting out from behind their desks to greet clients, bonding with staff or leading an important educational/training program to continually improve operations and customer service. I personally love to meet a GM that doesn’t sit in an ivory tower pushing papers and is out in the day-to-day world of real hospitality and delegating the rest as much as possible. Also, rule #1 – if a client, any client, calls to speak to you, always either take the call or respond back personally and promptly!

Chief Digital Officer – This position now replaces the Revenue Manager as the most important position in the hotel!  Most of your customers engage throughout the travel cycle, digitally. This is the hotel’s opportunity to shine and become connected with admirers, clients, past clients and future clients. Without a clear digital strategy with 24 hour, 7 days a week surveillance, your hotel could lose a lot. Business strategies need to intermix with digital strategies these days including mobile, social and local.

Revenue Manager (RM) ­– Revenue opportunities are around every part of a client’s journey to a hotel, from the time they are looking to book the room to arriving, straight through to their stay. The great RM stays abreast of the best trends and looks outside the industry for others who are succeeding, such as the airlines or online shopping networks. Great RM’s are involved everywhere on the property and have unfettered access to data from every department. Analysis plus creativity are a great combination!

Loving what you do can show-up in so many ways. In the hospitality industry, there is a definitive connection about the level of service one gives, how much they love what they do and how happy they are about their lives in general. Having a positive outlook is the key to delivering the most outstanding customer service!

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By:  Frances Kiradjian, CEO, BLLA
Contribution by: Ariela Kiradjian, Executive Director & Editor, BLLA