What makes an amazing guest experience? We talk a lot about how the right technology and automation means that hotel staff will have more time to engage meaningfully with their guests, and we’re happy to say we have the perfect example of exactly that.

Emilie Hermenier works at Maison Albar Hôtels L'Impérator in Nîmes, and recently won the award for Best Receptionist in France. We spoke to Emilie about what makes great hospitality when you’re on the front line with guests, and the role that a good PMS plays.

Q: First off, tell us a little about yourself. 

I’ve been a Receptionist at Maison Albar Hôtels L'Impérator since August 2020. Previously, I worked in several palaces and five-star hotels in Paris, where I’m from. I did a BTS in Management, then a Masters in Hotel Management at the Vatel Institute in Paris.  

The hotel industry has always interested me. First as a customer, and then I wanted to see how the experiences that I lived as a customer were organized on the side of the hotel. And that pleased me. I decided to be the one who would allow people to have a really great experience – as well as being a guest myself whenever I get the chance! 

Q: What makes a great receptionist? 

Above all, passion. 

Be in contact with the customer, provide service, provide emotions. You have to be passionate to be able to do all this. This requires real personal involvement, and it has to be natural. Customers will appreciate seeing someone who is naturally dedicated and eager to please and serve them, rather than someone who pushes themselves. 

A good receptionist must also be a good theorist. Knowing how to use the software at your disposal at any time and in any circumstance, to be able to do everything quickly. It is this mastery of the tool, in addition to the mastery of the product itself (the hotel and the offers offered), that make it possible to anticipate the needs of the customer. 

Q: Do you have any memorable stories about going above and beyond to help guests? 

There are many unforgettable moments. Each request is very special for those who make it, and we respond as if the request was made for us. 

I’ve organized marriage proposals, weddings, and receptions for baptisms. I welcomed clients who were just married and on their honeymoon. Each of these moments is unforgettable, by the emotion it gives to our customers, and the satisfaction it gives us to please them. 

One particularly strong memory is of a regular customer in one of my previous hotels. She always came with a little Cavalier King Charles – it was like her child. Unfortunately, he died after some time, and she was so sad that the Hotel Manager asked us to look for a breeder to find another dog. She was so happy and emotional when we handed it to her; this kind of unique moment is unforgettable.

Q: What’s special about Maison Albar? 

The Maison Albar group is incredible. It's actually a big family – the Maison Albar Hôtels L’Impérator is already a family all on its own. There’s always someone to help and support, and there’s real cohesion in a close-knit team.  

When we need staff to help out at times when the activity is higher, the other hotels don’t hesitate to bring in staff. When you have to support someone, as in the contest for best receptionist of the year, everyone has a little word of encouragement, whether we know each other or not. The test is done together, the victory won together. 

I love this state of mind where the leaders are as approachable and attentive as the colleagues. It’s amazing to work in such a privileged environment.

Q: What is it like to use Mews? 

It's very easy to use Mews! 

All the screens are easy to understand, the interface is simple even for someone who does not know the hotel industry. You quickly get the information you want when you look at the screen. 

I worked on Opera before, so I might as well tell you that things are changing radically, and for the better! It took me barely two weeks to use the software smoothly and autonomously.

Q: How does Mews help you to provide a great guest experience? 

The good thing about Mews is that all departments can use it, and all employees. We each have our access codes and therefore can all add all the information necessary to provide the customer with a great experience. 

The client requests an arrival at 1 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.? All you have to do is change the arrival time on the interface and the general manager receives a notification. He can prepare the room for an early check-in. This makes for a great experience for the guest, as we all like to have our room ready as soon as we arrive. 

If a guest is unhappy with a service, we put a note in his reservation, and everyone can see what happened and adapt the experience in their service to make up for things. 

Check-in and check-out are faster too. Payment is made directly by software, so it's an incredible time saver! Mews enables even more advanced inter-service communication and allows us to focus on the customer and their requests, and not spend too much time on the software.

Q: What is the most important thing about working at front desk? 

There are two hugely important things: 

  1. Be available at all times and whatever the circumstances for customers 
  2. Be as invested in customers as we would be for ourselves 

This is the key to being able to flourish as a receptionist and satisfy customers.

Q: How do you think that the role of receptionist will change in the future? 

We are currently in full evolution mode in terms of customer experience. My role is expanding and I now also have the role of Customer Experience Manager. I am their main point of contact during their stay, to meet their requests and their expectations, to make sure that everything is going well, and if this is not the case, to do everything possible to make up for disappointments and their provide a great experience. 

The hotel industry is constantly evolving and customer expectations are ever more personal, so we are always adapting to be better. 

Summing up

There we have it. Thanks again to Emilie for all of her wise words and insights, and congratulations on the award. She touched on a particularly interesting point at the end, and we’ve written in more detail about the changing job roles in hospitality.