The Life: Constance Schrader, the front office manager at the Kempinski Grand & Ixir hotel in Bahrain, explains why paying attention to small details is so important in making guests happy.
A calm voice in the hubbub
Constance Schrader is the front office manager at the Kempinski Grand & Ixir hotel in Bahrain. Originally from Germany, she has worked in the Middle East for more than a decade. Here she explains why paying attention to small details is so important in making guests happy.
My day starts with walking the premises then meeting the night shift team to see whether there were any issues the previous night I need to follow up on or whether anything has been planned for the day that I have not been made aware of. I had an aptitude for hospitality very early: at the age of five my parents said I had no hesitation in walking up to people and talking to them. I would order for myself in restaurants and was really interested in what was behind the scenes.
I say farewell to guests; they really appreciate this little touch. Front office is the heart of the hotel, the first and last impression, and the main responsibility for me is guest satisfaction. Our operational meeting is at 9.30am. I communicate guest requests to other department heads. I look after the guest service centre, phone operators, the reception, our executive lounge, the concierge and bell desks, and the valet parking. This is a city hotel so there is a combination of guests: throughout the week it's business, then at the weekend the leisure guests come. Our main market is Saudi Arabia.
I have a meeting with reservations and after that it's all about greeting guests, showing them around and showing the value of this hotel compared to other hotels in the city. Between 10 and 12 is best for me to meet my team as it's the most calm time. I have 58 people working for me. I make a point to meet all my team members individually on regular basis to know about their well-being. I am also a master trainer at Kempinski and there is a lot of on-the-job training. I walk the premises several times a day and contact guests I haven't contacted previously. I follow up on complaints and comments. I phone or email. Some of the guests prefer telephone conversations as email can be very impersonal especially if the guest doesn't know you. I've been told that over the phone my voice is really nice and calming and soothing.
I have lunch at the staff cafeteria. Little groups of colleagues always go together for lunch - it's a calming point. Afternoon is my busiest time as I catch up on everything related to the evening: last-minute inquiries of guests, last-minute arrivals. I had 70 arrivals for today when I looked last night; this morning when I came in I already had 100 arrivals. Often you have to change allocation of rooms. You have to make sure families are on the same floor, you can't split them up over several floors.
Our operational meeting takes place 365 days a year and we discuss the following day. Sometimes it takes an hour depending on how many arrivals there are, sometimes half an hour. Every single guest gets looked at. We look at whether it's a smoking or non-smoking room, whether it's an anniversary, whether the guest is coming with children. We have little presents for the kids - if the kids are happy the parents are happy and this is why they come back to your hotel.
I take this time to do emails and paperwork. Sometimes I have the chance to leave after the 5pm meeting, but there are days when all 460 rooms are booked and I don't want to leave my team so I leave at 10pm or 11pm. But you have to find a balance. Every Saturday a massage is a must. I go with girlfriends - we call it maintenance day because it is a maintenance for mind and body. Adliya is a fantastic place in the evenings with cafes and restaurants and I like to go there with friends. Meisei, for sushi, is my favourite place: the chef is very dear to us we never order from the menu any more; he always has a surprise for us.