Meet Magic Maker Melinda, Duty Manager at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa

One of your main responsibilities is to make sure all your guests are satisfied during their stay at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa - tell us how you interact with guests and find out how they are doing? My main goal is to deliver an outstanding guest experience. It is important for me to know my guests, even before they check-in. I spend time reviewing the booking form to get an understanding of their likes and dislikes, what they enjoy doing, drinking...are they celebrating anything at all during the trip? I rely on my smile and good eye-contact and where possible I address guests by name. Being polite and friendly, maintaining a neat and well-groomed appearance, keeping all my promises all add to the experience. At AtholPlace Hotel & Villa we are committed to “Creating a home away from home” which generally puts guests at ease.

Communication skills are very important in your job - do you have any advice on how best to deal with guests as well as colleagues? For me, communication is a two-way process of speaking and listening. Being able to communicate effectively is a vital life skill regardless of who you are dealing with, be it guests or colleagues. Communication skills are essential in order to deliver and understand information quickly and accurately.  Good communication at work is to be clear and direct. If any issues arise amongst us as a team we must not avoid them pretending they don’t exist. Address them head-on. The moment there is poor communication, it starts having a negative impact resulting in misunderstanding and frustration

If any issues do arise - explain your method for handling these tricky situations in a professional manner? Our guests are our priority. Sometimes misunderstandings do happen. I concentrate on staying humble and using the right words for each unique situation. Tricky situations call for me to remain calm and not to panic. Over the years I have learnt that in this industry it is essential to keep the situation in hand and  always have an alternative It goes without saying that I never argue with a guest, no matter the circumstances.

Customer service skills are crucial in your role - tell us which strengths are most important? As challenging as it is working with people from all walks of life, having self-confidence is my main strength. My ability to communicate with the people around me, be it, guests or colleagues. I can add that qualities such as kindness, bravery, perseverance, hope, gratitude, teamwork, humility, curiosity and fairness are part of this framework.

A Duty Manager needs to oversee the daily operations - give us a brief run-down of how a typical day unfolds at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa? That is quite a difficult question!  On a typical day at the hotel, I’m responsible for a variety of management tasks like the opening and closing of the facility, as well as overseeing everything from individual staff members and guests. Throughout the day I have to complete various administrative duties, answering phones, drafting documents and emails, filing and interacting with the guests. I also supervise the Front of House team and Housekeeping to the standards laid down and ensure that guests are greeted, checked in and allocated rooms promptly and courteously and that check-in procedure is strictly adhered to.

Another part of your role is to create a positive working environment - how do you use your special magic to encourage this? As a manager, one of the most important things I can do for my team is to set the right tone. This helps to kick out negativity in the workplace environment. It is important to have a team that respects you rather than fears you. I also trust my team and recognise how hard they work. I try to establish an understanding of what we both want to accomplish, and an idea of what is expected from both parties.  I encourage my team to voice ideas because it’s important that everyone has a say and this also reinforces how valuable the team is.

New employees need to be trained up - how important is passing on your experience to new hires and give us an example of how you mentor new employees? Mentoring means that I am assigned to act as an advisor or guide to a junior or trainee. This is a huge responsibility.       I enjoy doing training though because it helps create an amazing communication stream, this helps to bring new members up to speed quickly and effectively. Having a one-on-one relationship provides us both (mentor & mentee) the opportunity to be better and more productive.   It is the best way to ensure consistency while making sure that new or junior employees are taught the right way. Sharing my knowledge with others makes me want to continually strive to be the best that I can be and having an opportunity to participate in training programs gives me higher job satisfaction as an individual.

How do you stay committed to your job and keep delivering first-class service to guests? Personally, I believe that commitment is one of the most important principles of success in all that I do. I am so passionate about what I do and that alone gives me the drive to keep delivering the best service. Knowing that my job is making someone happy at the end of it all, keeps me motivated.

Tell us a few of the must-visit places in Jozi that you recommend to  guests.There is so much to do and so many places to visit but here are a few:

The Apartheid Museum: this is a really important place for guests to visit, an opportunity to learn about  South African history as well as the rise and fall of apartheid.

Soweto with the Nelson Mandela House Museum, the thought of setting foot in the place where a great worldwide known legend lived part of his life is exceptional. And the Hector Pieterson Museum is also found in Soweto.

The Cradle of Humankind - this amazing heritage site is just an hour drive from AtholPlace Hotel and Villa and guests can experience the birthplace of humankind first-hand.