& Charles Prince
Noel’s career path
- Front desk
- Front desk supervisor
Prince’s career path
- Chief engineer
- Chief engineer
6 Customer Service Tips for Most Situations
TownePlace Suites in Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach is one of those hotels that attracts repeat guests—and those who like to stay awhile. That includes employees.
Front desk supervisor Cintra Noel has spent seven years of her 20-year hospitality career there. Chief engineer Charles Prince’s lodging career began in 2002. He retired in 2013 but returned in 2015. He’s been there since and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.
“I enjoy it, and I’ll probably be here until they put me in the ground,” he says.
Prince, a lifelong tinkerer, says one of the things he likes most about his job is that he’s always learning. If they need to call a plumber or electrician to help with repairs, Prince watches them and asks questions about what they’re doing.
“I’ve learned a lot, and I continue learning,” he says. “I’m learning to do things a little bit better the next time.”
Prince, who has been recognized for his outstanding customer service, says some guests stay for several months at a time. Many are in the area for construction jobs, he says. When guests are frequent or stay over several months, they get to know each other by name, he adds.
Noel, who’s often the first person guests see when checking in, says she used to prefer working behind the scenes. Her hospitality career began with dreams of becoming a chef. But while in culinary school in California, she started working as a bookkeeper for Courtyard by Marriott. She found her calling in lodging and never returned to restaurants. She learned several hotel roles across departments, but it was at the Wyndham in Chicago that she found her spot at the front desk. Upon moving to North Carolina, that’s the role she applied for.
“I got good at what I did. So, with confidence, I just stayed [in that role],” she says.
One thing she’s learned is that nearly every department interacts with guests.
“When we’re training new hires [in housekeeping], we tell them if a guest comes to you, even if it’s not your room, you still have to give them good customer service,” she says.
Between them, Prince and Noel have more than 40 years of lodging experience. Here are their top tips for delivering good customer service in just about any situation:
1. Know the area.
Noel says that guests ask for recommendations frequently, so hotel staff are prepared to share suggestions about where to dine and things to do. She also tries to attend local events so that she can share helpful tips that could improve their experience.
“We actually go to different restaurants and try it because everyone has different tastes, and everyone prefers different restaurants,” she explains. “We go and experience it for ourselves and recommend it to the guests. Then we ask them, ‘Let us know, give us feedback.’ That’s how we keep our scores up.”
2. Learn to read people.
In addition to typing fast and multitasking, Noel says her job requires being able to quickly assess people’s needs at check-in. Some people are happy when they arrive; others are not. She’s even had guests talk about their personal problems while checking in.
“Some people just want to check in fast, and some people want you to have a conversation with them and ask how their day was. What I’ve learned in working at the front desk is that you have to read people’s body language, big time,” she says. “You have to actually observe what they’re doing and how they want you to actually check them in.”
3. Jump into different roles.
Noel says a smaller hotel staff like theirs sometimes has to be nimble. She pitches in at the breakfast area or in housekeeping when needed.
“Coming into this field, you must have an open mind. You have to try working in different departments. I’m not good at housekeeping. I am good at working the front desk, but I still go and help. You have to actually be able to move around to help your co-workers. We don’t say, ‘Oh no, I’m just front desk and that’s it.’ You have to have that mindset of being able to jump to different departments.”
4. Just listen.
Prince, who excels at staying calm even when a customer isn’t, says sometimes people just want you to listen to them.
“I just let them rant, and then when they cool down, 90% of the time we’ll solve the problem,” he says. “I just want to make sure everything gets fixed right and make sure that they can say, ‘Well, that was a nice place to stay. When I come back, I’ll stay here again.’ I want to make sure that they are at home away from home.”
5. Don’t take it personally.
Both Prince and Noel say that you must accept that some customers cannot be satisfied, no matter what you say or do.
“I would say don’t take it personally, because you have guests who are very nice and some are not. You have the ones that flirt with you and the ones who are mean to you. You just have to smile and move on,” Noel says. “We have the ones that you cannot make happy. You cannot judge them, because we never know what’s happening with anyone, really. Their personal life could be a disaster.”
6. Know when to walk away.
Prince says it’s also important to know when to step aside and direct them to the hotel manager.
“A lot of people, it doesn’t matter what happened, they’re going to argue, and I come to the point where I just step back and let it go,” he says. “I’ll just tell them, ‘Listen, I know how frustrating this can be, and we can either keep talking like this or we can go talk to the manager. Just calm down, and we’ll get it fixed one way or another. We want to make you happy, and we’ll take care of you.’”
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