Making the cut

It’s 08h59; the meeting is at 09h00. I can’t help but feel excited with a touch of anxiety rising in my stomach while I stare at the screen. Only a few more seconds now and the door to a new adventure might open for me. The clock strikes nine. The screen lights up and I hear “Good morning, thank you for joining us, can you hear me clearly?” There is no time to give in to my nerves; I gather my thoughts, take a deep breath and I jump in!
“How did it go?”, my husband asked. I am relieved to get confirmation that it went well as meeting two, three and four follow over the ensuing weeks. Each meeting is filled with upbeat conversations; I learn about the company; they learn about me and I meet inspiring people. I am set an assignment for the next meeting – a restaurant assessment. Better equipped than Danny Ocean on an observation mission at Caesars Palace, I make my first reservation in a restaurant. Am I overdoing this? Before leaving my flat I decide to cancel the team of four undercover agents I hired to sit at the adjacent table and I remind myself that I am qualified. I’ve got this!
Several weeks have passed since my first meeting and the subsequent delivery of my mission report about Berners Tavern. I am now waiting for the offer and I feel calm. They know me now, I feel reassured, the selection process has left no room for misinterpretation. It was professional, thorough and fair, so I patiently wait. The offer arrives and is followed by ecstatic jumping in the living room!

The Training

In the following months, I join the vibrant world of LQA. The weeks are filled with comprehensive training and one-to-one meetings to ensure every single detail is covered and once understood, repeated. The analytical tools are dissected, each function is explained meticulously. Precision, consistency and fairness are key and I am guided in the importance and understanding of emotional intelligence and its role within our industry. The foundation of our every move is integrity, transparency, respect, passion and commitment.
What impresses me most is meeting the other consultants. I feel humbled and privileged to be working among such a dynamic, skilled and experienced group of people. Everyone is so different yet all are driven towards one common goal; supporting hotels worldwide in benchmarking their service and helping them create memorable experiences for their guests.
In fact, I learn that annually the team spends over 6,000 nights in client hotels, visits 4,000 restaurants and inspects 1,500 spas. Each year, close to 35,000 service evaluations take place with more than one million employees across global hospitality brands. This makes LQA’s analytics platform the world’s most comprehensive databank for leading luxury hotels and brands. Fireworks go off in my brain; it’s incredible!

Flying solo

Months have passed and my first solo audit is on the horizon. My mission is very well defined and I’m proud to say I could teach Danny Ocean a couple of things. The most exciting email of the month will be delivered any day now. Just like me, I know that my colleagues are watching and waiting with anticipation. My smartphone tells me that it has arrived; the schedule is published and my next assignment is revealed. Now I know who the client is, they will receive my full attention. I will plan every detail of the trip and thoroughly investigate the hotel, brand, clientele and destination and even the competition to ensure the most representative evaluation is carried out. No stone is left unturned. Preparation is crucial and I can’t wait to get started!

The Audit

The assessment has started from the moment the client was revealed. Since then I became a guest. Someone with a purpose, someone who perhaps is looking forward to a getaway stay or even a business trip. Undeniably, located in the beautiful south of Portugal, Vila Vita Park is the perfect destination for a luxurious leisure trip. There is simply no room for a business trip in this magical destination; except for me. The chic sea-inspired rooms, the utterly appealing Sisley spa and the ten restaurants including the grandiose fine-dining Michelin experience at Ocean have captured my senses and my anticipation is building. I flip open my laptop and I begin. What would the guest be looking for? Will the concierge appease my concerns about finding the perfect restaurant to suit my fictitious dairy-free diet? Will the spa receptionist be able to answer my every question and recommend the perfect treatment to sooth my sore neck? How will my last-minute request to book an airport transfer be handled? In a nutshell, will the team rise to the challenge and provide a personalized experience prior to my arrival? Like most guests, my first contact with the property will be making the reservation and so it begins, after two rings, my recorder is activated, Carla offers me assistance in a cheerful tone and I instantly feel welcome.
When I arrive at the hotel, the dance continues. I meet doormen, receptionists, luggage porters, housekeeping attendants, food and beverage employees and each contribute in their individual way to the quality of the experience. I love observing the employees’ passion for service as they outdo themselves in wonderful ways to ensure their guests’ comfort. Alexandre was a natural and he intuitively connected with me to ensure I felt looked after and special. He could not have been more helpful; I will nominate him as an Outstanding Employee.
The stay is coming to an end and I have prepared for the final interaction; the luggage collection. I have carefully packed and my luggage is ready for Miguel to collect. He promptly arrives and swiftly collects the bags. As he quietly closes the door behind him, I allow myself to relax for a moment. The assessment is complete and my favourite part of the trip is fast approaching; meeting the General Manager and his team to discuss the stay. However, I have an odd feeling that I forgot something… I push the thought away.
I gather my things to leave the room but when I reach for the door handle my heart skips a beat. All the training in the world could not prepare me for the lesson I was about to learn. I suddenly realize I have allowed Miguel to leave with my shoes packed in my case. I dread to think of the General Manager’s expression if I turn up barefoot. So once more, a wonderful employee comes to my rescue as I press the speed dial button for assistance and my concerns are instantly washed away. Let’s just say… I will never forget my shoes again. Lesson learnt!

The Feedback

Meeting with the General Manager and his team is my favourite part of the assessment. I love meeting passionate people who are engaged, eager to hear feedback, excited to celebrate the successes of their colleagues and are ready to improve. I respect the wonderful people in our industry and feel privileged to have the opportunity to share my years of experience. I believe our contribution positively impacts the hotel and in turn the guests’ experience, to keep them coming back time and time again.
A weight lifted, the first part of my mission is complete and I leave the hotel. There is still a lot to do before sending through the final version of the report but I have a little spare time before my flight. I walk along the beautiful coast overlooking the ocean and come across a group of locals who are bravely taking turns to jump off a cliff into the clear water. The view is stunning. I am not sure how but they managed to convince me to take the jump too! After all, it’s nearly eleven o’clock and I need a little pick me up before lunch time; what better way to feel re-energized than an adrenaline rush. Here I am looking down the cliff and as I jump in I tell myself; another great day at work!