Front-of-house: Meet the executive lounge & guest relations manager at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City

Carmen Pre talks about her role, five tips for guest satisfaction and the challenges she faces

Carmen Pre
Carmen Pre

Tell us about your role.
I oversee and assist with the daily tasks of the executive lounge and guest relations team. Together with my team, we mainly take care of VIPs and long stay guests. Generally dealing with any guest concerns, queries, special occasions and identifying opportunities where we can personalise the guest’s experience and create special moments. I spend most of my time talking to guests before, during and after their stay which makes my job very spontaneous as there's always something different to do and keeps me on my toes.

What made you want to work in hospitality industry?
Becoming a hotelier did not cross my mind until life handed it to me; I studied entrepreneurship and franchising management back in college. I started my journey in the hospitality industry as a telephone operator at a five-star luxury hotel. Within two to three months I knew I wanted to pursue my career in this industry. Hospitality suits my personality best.
      My ultimate dream job would be to run my own boutique hotel so what better way to start making that dream come true than by living it every day?

What are the career obstacles you’ve faced?
Transitioning to a managerial role was definitely a turning point in my career. I have had to manage managers whom I was reporting to when I first started out. Looking back, clarifying the work objectives with them, supporting them, including them in projects and taking on the position that you want the best out of them helps ease out or eliminate passive-aggressive resistance to this change.

What makes you thrive in your place of work?
I think it all starts off with motivating yourself. The mood you bring to work affects your performance and people around you. As the old saying goes “happiness is in the state of mind". More importantly, working in a company with an empowered culture and inspirational leaders enables me to work on and implement my initiatives and foster success all throughout.

Tell us about your experience in the industry.
I started off as a telephone operator for Jumeirah Group which was a great ground point as it lets you connect with different people in different departments plus know all the products and services in the hotel. From there I got promoted to guest service executive in the executive lounge then worked my way to team leader concentrating more on F&B service. I was then asked to manage Business Centre wherein I introduced DDR menus, converted the computer room into a fourth meeting room and learned my P&Ls. After less than a year I was offered the role of a duty manager and was one of the upselling key drivers. Then I was given more responsibilities as a guest service manager before being promoted to assistant front office manager. Currently, I am now handling executive lounge and guest relations in an international hotel chain.

How do you monitor feedback?
We use a customer feedback management software which pulls in guest feedback from all channels such as TripAdvisor, and Expedia to name a few. I also look into and reply to all the guests’ feedback that we receive.

What is the trickiest situation that you have had to deal with?
I recall handling a double booking for the Royal suite over Christmas and New Year holidays. Understandably guests were furious however in the end it all worked out after offering them three junior suites at a negotiated price and they actually enjoyed the setup of having private suites better.

What do you do to motivate yourself?
Being in a positive work environment definitely plays a big role. Although once in a while, everyone deserves to have a great pep talk so having my family and friends here really keeps me stay in check.

Five tips for guest satisfaction
1. Prepare – know your guests. Are they here for business or a special occasion or attending an event? To be confident in dealing with guests you have to be prepared.
2. Anticipate – now that you know them how can u make their stay seamless and exceptional?
3. Be flexible and creative
4. Personalisation - it can be from the simplest way of writing a welcome card and adding in a note about when their favourite TV show is on or placing a cupcake with the company logo in it.
5. Consistent quality service – you have to commit and deliver the same all throughout their stay ensuring that they will be coming back because of you.

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