A life spent in Customer Service – How things have changed!
I grew up watching 1970’s sitcoms and Fawlty Towers was definitely my influence for entering the hospitality business all those years ago!
After completing an HND in Hotel, Catering and Institutional management I began my career by working in various hotels and establishments in the South of England. My first Guest Services role in London in the early 1990’s was completely different from life as we know today. My interview lasted all of ten minutes, I think the person I met with was just pleased that I had turned up. She was the only person I saw and I started work the next day with no proper induction or training. Procedures and standards were non-existent and after 11pm at night you could smoke and drink whilst working on reception! In this role Managers were rarely around so you learnt to be resourceful and trust your instincts for decision making. There was no manual to assist, you just had to get on with things. We had no formal training and did not know what an appraisal was.
In general the people I worked with were all wannabee actors or had another profession they were aspiring to enter and very few were doing it as a career choice. Making friends was easy although restaurant chefs as now could be a bit fierce and scary and had a reputation for aggressive behaviour.
Within this organisation I was lucky to be given the opportunity to try my hand at other roles. I spent a year working in accounts as well as 5 years organising events. After many years of working unsociable hours overseeing weddings (some of which ended up in Hello Magazine) and other evening events I decided to try life in the corporate world.
I started off temping. This was a great way to see lots of different organisations and I soon found myself at the company I am working in today. After temping in 2 different departments I was offered a full time role after only 3 months which I was delighted about.
When I moved to my current role I found it odd having a lunch break and indeed being encouraged to take it. Also leaving on time was an alien concept. But my previous role definitely gave me confidence to succeed by having a go, offering to work late and making suggestions for improvements. Even back in 2005 when I stated life in the corporate world, standards were much more relaxed than today. There was no dress code and eating and drinking was acceptable on the front desk. Things have gradually changed so that today interviewing for a role in guest services can be a complicated affair with more than one interview and sometimes a session of role play. Candidates need to do their homework and be prepared for probing in depth questions.
During the day expect anything to happen. You may have to escort someone to a tube stop, assist dialing into a video conference or ensure a visiting Partner’s shirt is laundered in time for a meeting the next day. A colleague in another office once had to revive goldfish when their bowl smashed and they ended up dying on the floor.
I feel that now the role of Guest Services is taken very seriously. We are the face of the company and offer the very important first impressions to our visitors. Recruiting, daily procedures for the team, training and regular appraisals are now commonplace to ensure the smooth running and professionalism of our very important and happily now acknowledged departments.
Annabelle, Reception Manager, London
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