Novotel ?American-style management? If you prove your worth, you move up!?
We interviewed Caroline Laroche, 26, who is in charge of guest relations at the Novotel in New York?s Times Square, an exciting challenge and a unique opportunity in the city that never stops.
And that made you decide to stay?
Yes, it did. I worked with the human resources director, who was really passionate about her job. I also discovered a working environment, a good relationship between all the hotel?s departments, which all pulled together to serve guests. And the job was different every day.
After returning to France to have your degree validated you went back across the Atlantic.
I wanted to speak English and live abroad. I also wanted to experience first-hand the American culture of customer service, which is so strong, probably because employees often depend on tips. Plus, I met my ex-husband in Saint Louis and went back there to be with him before we moved to New York together. So in January 2012 I arrived in the United States with a green card and three months of savings and started looking for a job.
How did you get into the economic mainstream?
In May I found a job with a headhunting firm, even though my goal was to work in the hotel sector. In July 2013 I found out that the director of the Times Square Novotel was looking for a French-speaking assistant director because 30% of the clientele is French. I applied for the position? and got it! A week later I left the headhunting firm and started working at my new job.
What did that experience teach you?
I enjoyed the customer-orientated teamwork in a multicultural environment. Though the setting is highly professional, relations between people are less formal than in France. The American way of management gives you a chance to move on up once you?ve proved yourself and shown you?re willing to invest and take on responsibilities. In August 2014 the hotel advertised for the position of customer relations director. I applied and got the job.
What does your new position involve?
I?m there to make sure guests are happy. I look after VIPs and the Club Accorhotels Gold and Platinum guests to make them feel acknowledged when they arrive. I get in touch with them beforehand, to organise their reception?for example, to find out whether they need a ride from the airport. Lastly, I solve any problems that might come up and answer all the guests? questions.
What qualities are indispensable for your job?
You?ve got to be a good listener and responsive. I get asked all sorts of questions about what to do, how to get around, shopping and even tipping. Sometimes, information that seems trivial can make a guest?s stay successful, especially since people who come to New York expect a lot from the time they spend here, which is often for a special occasion.
Do you ever get any offbeat requests?
Some guests ask us to help them organise surprises for important events. One asked us to fill his room with balloons for his wife?s birthday. So I went out and bought 250 of them, filled with helium, to decorate the room. Another time, a guest who wanted to celebrate his son?s sixteenth birthday asked us for a cake, candles, sweets and decorations in the room. It?s always a pleasure to see the look of satisfaction on our guests? faces and to make their stay unique.
Have you ever had any special guests?
For Super Bowl 2013 we set up a TV screen on the hotel terrace, which overlooks Times Square. Former Super Bowl players came to watch the game at the hotel. We also hosted the participants in Shark Tank, a TV show about millionaires who invest in companies. They came to watch the first episode in our hotel.
Do you feel it?s unique to work in Times Square, the heart of Manhattan?
Yes. It?s the theatre district, brightly lit with illuminated billboards, bustling with excitement. I?m still starry-eyed a year and a half later. Times Square really illustrates the spirit I love in New York, a city that never stops and gives off an energy that pushes you forward. Being a city girl, that makes me smile every day!
How did your American experience start before New York became your home?
After high school I went to a business school that offered a semester abroad before graduation. That?s how I ended up in Saint Louis, Missouri, in 2009. While there I found a five-month internship at a hotel.