Excellence does not happen by chance – It takes hard work, development and determination

Photo: Johanna Dlugosch UK receptionist and International first runner up 2013- Beatrice Gallo UK and International receptionist of the year 2017- Paula McMinn UK and International receptionist of the year 2015

I am lucky enough to have worked with both the AICR Internationally, the British and still work with the Swiss section. This is the International Association of Front of House and Hotel Managers. They also host the David Campbell Trophy which brings together the best receptionists from each section across the globe to choose a final international winner.  The photo above of three UK entrants across several years, the middle one being Beatrice Gallo who in 2017 won the trophy while representing the The Connaught Hotel, she beat 300 candidates across 17 countries representing the best receptionists working in 4 and 5 star hotels from around the globe. Was this luck, absolutely not? It took hard work, coaching, development, ambition and a fantastic attitude to help her rise to the top. Incidentally since then her career has sky rocketed, she is now working as part of the sales team at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel London. Paula having represented The Savoy hotel when she entered now works with the Dorchester Hotel Academy and is fulfilling her ambitions as a training and facilitator, whilst Johanna is now Assistant front office manager at Claridge’s hotel.

“It’s funny how the harder I work the luckier I become” –  Samuel Goldwyn

The receptionist of the year – otherwise known as the David Campbell Trophey was launched in 1995 by Marcel Elbaz, Graham Bamford, Annie Boslem and the late David Campbell  – Chef de reception at The Ritz Paris in association with the international AICR organisation. It has grown from strength to strength, initially it comprised of  8 countries submitting candidates, this year there were 17 countries represented including the newest members Poland, Qatar, Dubai, and Morocco aswell as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and several European countries.

In order for hotels to submit entrants they need to be a member of the Association Internationale Cordiale Reception in their respective countries. The membership is comprised of and is fantastic networking for front of house managers from some of the most well known and admired hotels in the world.
International candidates must then win their individual country (section) competition, with part of the prize being automatic entry into the international competition with an all expenses paid trip to whichever city is hosting it that year. Host cities have included Singapore,  New Zealand, Austria, Germany and Italy with this years held in Paris. London are due to host the competition in 2019.

Having been involved for several years in both the UK and the International competiton where I help to develop the candidates, I have gained a unique insight into the attributes needed to be top class receptionist. These attributes are as relevant for our front of house teams within the corporate world as with those in hospitality.

What are the attributes that have helped Beatrice, Johanna and Paula be the best of the best? 

1. Immaculate first impression 

This was not just about being smart and well dressed this is about being immaculate with every detail perfect. Yes they did wear shoes with a small heel to improve their stance and demeanour and were proud to do so no matter how much walking they had to do and despite the fact most hospitality receptionists stand at the desk unlike corporate front of house who sit.

Their warmth shone through however it was the authenticity of their welcome that made a difference.

2. Team player

Despite this being a competition during the few days leading up to the final all the candidates had to take part in a series of problem solving activities, role plays, interviews, games and team events. All of which were assessed to ascertain how they would perform on a daily basis and handle complex challenges and difficult guests.

Throughout this period although Johanna, Beatrice and Paula showed confidence and put across their views they also ensured they were team players, supporting the other candidates, being inclusive and helping others shine.

3.  Listened and sought help when needed then acted on it

During the competiton and since all three have been proactive in seeking feedback and suggestions on how to improve and then acted on it. None of this was done in a “needy” way they were matter of fact and honest, as initially they moved through the competition and now as they are moving forward in their careers. Their straight forward approach had enabled them to take advantage of the development and advice offered.

By being charismatic and proactive others were willing to join thier posse in order to help thier development.  Johanna and Paula have given support to subsequent UK and international winners by hand holding and coaching. Johanna, who has since been promoted to duty manager flew into Paris and Paula McMinn now an account executive for leading hotels made sure she was never off the phone and helped prepare Beatrice in the UK.

All three have also taken advantage of any development available in the business to ensure they continue to build their skill set not just as a receptionists but in order to be a future leaders. This has included mentoring from myself and attending mjinspire training sessions and have said how much they are looking forward to attending the “Skills Bootcamp” from next year.

4. Creative problem solving skills

Reception is often the main point of contact within any business- when in doubt guests, clients, employees and team members will often go to reception to get answers to any question they cannnot get answers from elsewhere or as it is the easiest option when seeking information. This means our front of house teams need to be aware, calm,  tactful and knowledgeable about about a wide range of areas not just their specific role.

During the problem solving role plays each of the three stood out. They gave creative solutions to the problems, all of which had guest satisfaction at it’s heart. We often hear the phrase think outside of the box but reception are often bogged down with systems and procedures, which although important, can impede guest and client satisfaction. They were able to navigate the fine line between procedure and service to strike the right balance.

5. Visibility with humility 

Rather than waiting for opportunities to fall in their laps at The Connought for Beatrice  and Johanna and for Paula at the Savoy got involved, volunteering for projects and being visible in order to understand all aspects of the hotel, this enables them to see the big picture. It is no surprise therefore that they became the natural choice when their hotels were deciding who to nominate for the UK competition. This did not mean they promoted themselves to the detriment of working relationships in fact it is the opposite with their team spirit and humility still shining through. Edit

It is therefore no surprise that two of the three have already been promoted or have enhanced their career.

6. Calm under pressure

During the judging process the reception teams are purposely put under pressure to ascertain how they perform when it gets tough. Each remained calm throughout, whilst still being aware of the urgency of  the situation, they thought through what was needed and then put the plan into action. Their smile and warmth remained throughout and at no point did they lose their cool. They were put under intense pressure at key points in the problem solving role play with several people shouting and complaining at the same time to truly test them.

7. Ambassador on and off stage 

On every occaision I have met all three before, during and since the competition they have represented their company in the best possible way. Never once when it was just the two of us have they been critical or moaned about the business or the people in it. In fact they take every opportunity to promote their companies. Their social media posts are appropriate yet still real. They are the perfect ambassadors.

Although this is a snapshot of these three Harriet Henderson our 2016 winner is equally as impressive and has also since been promoted to Assistant Reception Manager at Gleneagles hotel whilst the international contestants all have the same characteristics and are going from strength to strength.

When working with corporate organisations I am often given the brief to help their Front of House teams to deliver 4/5 star service. This blog should go some way to illustrate what is needed.

Why not share it with your team or better still contact me about how I can develop them to achieve excellence and competitive advantage at www.mjinspire.com

Skills BootCamp – Watch this space coming soon

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