Valentine Carriere has been working in hospitality for nearly a decade and has real passion for the industry. Her current role is guest relations manager for Hôtel Le Meurice, a palace level establishment, in Paris.
She recently joined us for a discussion about the ins-and-outs of the guest relations department and her exciting journey in hospitality.
What does the guest relations department do?
It’s a very dynamic department. We are in charge of making sure everything goes smoothly from the beginning of the guests’ stay until they head home. To do this, we’re in contact with all of the other parts of the hotel, especially the front desk. But we also have to deal with F&B, housekeeping, and other departments when it’s necessary. This helps us plan everything in advance.
When a guest books a room, we have a phone call or email conversation with them to understand why they are coming to the hotel and how they imagine their stay going. This allows us to put some amenities into the room that are tailor made to their preferences and needs.
Once the guest gets to the hotel, we are the ones who greet them with a warm welcome and introduce ourselves to them in-person. That’s when we’ll let them know that if they need anything at all, we’re the person to come find.
Also, one of the main functions of a guest relations manager is to deal with any complaints or issues the guests might have. If they aren’t satisfied by the room allocation, the hotel’s service, or even the food on the menu, they come to us. It’s our job to offer solutions to their problems so they leave the hotel as happy as they arrived.
As a guest relations manager, what are your main tasks in a day?
We start by planning in advance based on the arrival order of the guests to make sure that the rooms are allocated correctly. Once the rooms are allocated, we move on to amenities.
Some guests don’t drink alcohol so wine or champagne won’t work as a welcoming gift. But they are still paying a premium price per night so we must think of an appropriate item to place in their room to achieve the “wow factor”. We also work with the florists to ensure lovely flower arrangements in the rooms.
A big part of my day is getting in-person feedback from guests during their stay. I try to catch up with my guests during breakfast time to see if they had any issues the previous night and what I can do to help them with their itinerary for the day ahead.
Talking to your guests in this way gives them a chance to be honest with you about their experience while they are still at the hotel so you can adjust things to make sure they leave happy and satisfied with their stay.
Can you give an example of something special you might do for a guest?
Well, since we are a luxury hotel in Paris, we have a lot of guests coming to make a marriage proposal. It’s actually quite common.
First, we’ll speak with them to see if they want to propose at the hotel or somewhere outside. If it’s outside, we put them in contact with the concierge because they have a ton of romantic places they can recommend.
If they’re going to do it at the hotel, then we’ll find them a suite with a breathtaking view to make the entire stay much more memorable. Then, we ask if they would like some champagne, rose petals, or little details like that to make the moment even more special.
How do you move up the Guest Relations career path?
The guest relations career path actually starts at the front desk. It’s really important to have worked in the reception department to become a guest relations manager. For instance, if you are trying to switch careers to hospitality or just finished your studies, it would be difficult to apply for this role.
So, I would say the front desk is the place to start if you want to follow the guest relations manager career path.
If you had three adjectives to describe your work, what, what would they be three adjectives?
The first word that comes to mind is intense.
Another word would be unpredictable. By that I mean, every day you go into the hotel you are dealing with different guests with a different reason for their stay and fresh complaints as well. So when I clock-in to work, I never know for sure what my day will be like.
Even though the job is intense and unpredictable, the third word I’d use to describe it is fun. You get to be creative and think on your feet every day as you try to find solutions to whatever problem the guests might bring to you.
How did you transform your passion into a career?
When I started, I wasn’t actually into hospitality at all, I was doing art studies. The school I was studying at also offered a course in hospitality studies and my boyfriend was enrolled in it. When he told me about his internship, I thought it sounded much more interesting than what I was studying at the time. That’s when I decided to make the switch to hospitality.
So for me, the passion has grown along the way as I’ve gained more experience in the industry and have made connections with other passionate hospitality professionals. For me, the passion just keeps growing with time because it’s such a dynamic job and industry that there is always something to learn or improve.
What is the most useful bit of professional advice you have received?
Well it actually came from my dad. He said, “The number one thing in this industry: network. Number two: network. Number three: network.”
I’m only here right now because all of the people I’ve met before and have kept in contact with. The only way to succeed in this industry is to build your network and stay in touch with people because you never know when they might be able to offer you a job or vice versa.
How do you think a platform like Hosco helps people kind of do that?
Networking is important in any industry but especially hospitality, so a tool like Hosco that is specifically for that purpose can be really useful. It’s a great place for people who are new in the industry to network, but what’s even more useful is that they can read articles and news that will help them understand the industry better or move forward in their career.
Why did you go to a hospitality school like CMH?
I decided to join the sector, and specifically go to a hospitality school like CMH instead of business school, because the hospitality industry gives you more opportunities to practice while studying.
It’s more than just going to classes or taking some modules. The internships or apprenticeships that you do are incredibly valuable. They help you get an idea of what working in hospitality will be like so you can decide if you’d enjoy yourself or not.
When I did my first internship abroad, I realized that interacting with the international guests was a lot of fun. That reassured me that I was on a good path and in the right industry for me.
What would you say to recent hospitality graduates about to start their careers?
I would tell them to be brave. Hospitality can be really challenging at first with impatient guests, long work shifts, or being on your feet all day. But if you’re invested in the work then it’s also really rewarding. It’s an industry where you not only learn from your colleagues but also the guests that you serve. There’s always a new person to meet with a new story to tell.
What’s something you think is important to succeed as a guest relations manager?
When I started my job at Le Meurice, my manager advised me to keep my personality. He told me: “If a guest is asking you something you don’t know, don’t t lie to them. Be honest and say: I will direct you to the concierge or front desk manager. But keep your personality.”
So I would say it’s incredibly important to be yourself and always be up front with your guests.
I don’t know what it’s like at other hotels but at my hotel they really look for guest relations managers with strong personalities.
If you had to describe in one word why you love hospitality, what would it be?
Three reasons you would tell someone to join the industry?
The first reason I’d give them is that there is no boring routine. You meet new guests every day coming from all over the planet, so there is always a fresh cultural lesson to learn. Talking to your guests can teach you so much about what is going on in the rest of the world.
The second is that now is a great time to join the industry because there are so many job vacancies so companies are really looking to hire dedicated people. Especially after COVID. You can use this need for employees to your advantage to negotiate better contract terms, salary, or working conditions.
And the final reason would be the possibility for career advancement. The skills you gain in hospitality move with you from department to department. Before guest relations, I was working at the front desk so after I gain some experience here maybe I will move back to the reception department in a higher position or a manager role. If you’re talented, there’s always an opportunity to move up the ladder
What are some things about the industry that need to be improved?
The main thing I would say are the working conditions. Hospitality is open 24/7 so someone in our industry is always going to be working no matter what time of day it is. Companies need to address these unsocial hours to some degree.
It would be nice if they could guarantee one weekend off per month so people could spend more time with their family and friends outside of the industry. F&B has already started offering more attractive shift schedules so hopefully the rest of the industry will follow suit.
Also, hospitality is an extremely profitable business but the wages for a majority of employees are still quite low. Starting salaries need to be higher so people can have a decent life and companies can recruit new employees more easily. Raising wages would be a great way to attract more people to the industry.
What’s your best memory of working in hospitality?
My greatest hospitality memory is getting the job here at Le Meurice as guest relations manager. I interned here a few years ago so it was really nice to come back with some professional experience, go through the interview process, and then get a “yes” from my old manager.
When I realized that they believed in my capacity to be a great guest relations manager, it was an amazing feeling.
If you have what it takes to pay attention to the details and give your guests the world class service they expect, check out the open guest relations positions available on Hosco to find your next dream hotel job!