General and Hospitality Managers are at the forefront of guest relations, playing an essential part in ensuring guests have the perfect stay. We asked four top managers from properties around SA to share some of their experiences and advice for great guest relations, as well as finding out how guests’ requests have changed over the years.

Mat Matysik | Hospitality Manager, Shamwari Game Reserve

What is a guest-related mistake you’ve made while you’ve been working in the hospitality industry, and how did you rectify it?  Being in the industry for over 32 years I have made my fair share of mistakes, working as a waiter I made the usual mistakes from taking the wrong order to spilling wine over a guest, to now when I am in a senior management position. The best way to rectify any mistake is to be sincere in your apology, be truthful at all times, and to rectify the mistake as soon as possible.

What do you personally do to make sure that your guests experience the best service? Constantly updating your product along with Staff training and development, along to listening to guest feedback is key so that your guests have the best experience possible.

How have guests requests changed over the years? I think the most obvious one is WiFi, every guest expects free and speedy wi-fi these days.

Jo Massie | General Manager, The Marine Hotel, Part of The Liz McGrath Collection

What is a guest-related mistake you’ve made while you’ve been working in the hospitality industry, and how did you rectify it?   A couple of years ago on New Year’s Eve at The Marine, all the power went down in Hermanus, just as we were serving the main course for 160 guests.

Out of the darkness, an ex-army British officer came marching down the passage, demanding that we secure all doors in case we were under attack! I closed the front door, assured him all was well, and showed him back to his table with a glass of bubbly. Needless to say, the party went on by candle light, chefs serving by torchlight and the musicians improvised. Power was back on to see in the New Year and it is wonderful to now have a generator for unexpected power outage.

What do you personally do to make sure that your guests experience the best service? Work very closely with the service teams and personally meet all our guest during their stay.

How have guests requests changed over the years? There is a big change in dietary requests especially with gluten, lactose intolerance and special diets.

Dominic Prendergast | General Manager, The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, Part of the Liz McGrath Collection

What is a guest-related mistake you’ve made while you’ve been working in the hospitality industry, and how did you rectify it?  In all honesty, I cannot recall anything other than in my youth when a guest arrived at reception late one night completely naked, other than a room service cloche and a serviette covering himself. He had put his tray outside the room and the amazing self-closing door did just the job and locked him out – needless to say we had a good laugh about it the next day.

What do you personally do to make sure that your guests experience the best service? I walk the floors and stop to chat to guests during meal times or while they wander the premises. I also listen to what they have to say and ensure anything that requires attention or is significant, such as his/her dietary preferences, newspaper preferences, birthday etc are loaded onto his/her profile for future reference.

How have guests’ requests changed over the years? Excellence in customer service has always remained the same, however, technology has changed the guests’ needs and behaviour, fast, reliable Wifi is very much at the top of the requirements, and mobile accessibility is important. As they have access to all the online information, they will want to also know that they are able to get the same benefits and rates that are on offer over the various mediums. They are very much in touch with specials and offers.

Social media can have great benefits to the Hotel but a disgruntled guest can air his/her views to a very wide audience which can affect consumer decisions, reviews will be noted by potential guests and they will compare with other Hotels – it is important too that the Hotel Manager respond to these reviews immediately and positively.

Guests have come to expect more services and amenities at lower costs, and these offerings can often make the difference in the decision process, like free breakfasts, large selection of satellite channels, gym access etc. In addition, the mini-bar, previously a revenue generator is offered complimentary as well.

Marelize du Preez | Hospitality Manager, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

What is a guest-related mistake you’ve made while you’ve been working in the hospitality industry, and how did you rectify it?  I had a guest wanting to propose to his girlfriend on the evening of their arrival but they were arriving late. So, we did a beautiful setup outside by the pool with lanterns and copious amounts of flowers so it was very romantic.

The guests name was Clive, but I did not check the arrivals properly and unfortunately we had another Clive checking in that day. I took the wrong Clive and his partner down to the proposal setup and as I got back to the reception area the real Clive arrived – full of smiles and nervous as can be and I quickly realised my mistake. I couldn’t let them know about the mess up, so we sent them to their room with some Champagne and we did a very quick setup at the jetty area. Needless to say, it was not as gorgeous as the other setup, but still lovely. Neither of the couples knew about the hiccup and they eventually got married here about 4 months later. The other guest and his partner were blown away and thought I was the best thing since sliced bread, as it was actually their anniversary and we didn’t know about it, so everyone lived happily ever after!

What do you personally do to make sure that your guests experience the best service?  I have always and will always try to make every single stay as memorable as possible, so the smallest details count. If I pick up that there is a problem, I will go out of my way to ensure the ship stays on course.  I’ve done a vast number of things that was not in my job description and all with pleasure. For example we had an elderly lady that had climbed Kilimanjaro and had blisters and sores on her feet and legs and she was in pain. So, I took time out, daily, for the 3 nights that she was with us, to wash, put treatment on her feet and bandages to ensure she healed properly until she could depart back to the UK to see her Doctor.  I have also personally done washing and ironing for guests and on numerous of occasions been the cleaner for the rooms to ensure that all is 180%.

How have guests requests changed over the years?  I have noticed a change in requests especially with regards to fitness and dietary requirements.  Most guests are more fitness orientated and watch their diets carefully now.  We’ve also seen an increase in vegan, soy, high count of no diary requests and gluten and sugar free requests.

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