Interview with a Swedish student from Hotel Institute Montreux
This week we met with a buoyant young talent and a soon-to-be graduate of the Hotel Institute Montreux (HIM). Already a skilled people person, Joel is on a task to nail down the formula of outstanding customer service. He is now getting ready for a summer internship at a private country club in the US. Before the upcoming escapade, we met up to discuss how he landed such an opportune internship offer, life at the campus of HIM and where the hotel industry is headed in the future.
Hi, Joel! Congrats on your internship! Why did you want to go to the US in particular?
I have always been intrigued by its culture as well as by the spectacular variety of nature throughout the states. I have visited the US a few times and enjoyed both the urban areas like New York or Miami and such wonders of nature as Niagara falls. Now I wish to experience what it would be like living there as a local. And especially, to understand how the professional culture is different there, only this time – from an employee’s point of view and not a consumer’s.
What do you hope to learn there?
I am going to North Carolina to work in the F&B department of a private country club. This business concept is very intriguing to me since I’ll be forming relations with and serving the same customers over a long period of time. It feels like a unique opportunity to develop my approach to excellence. It is the perfect setting to learn the specific needs and wants of different customers and do so consistently.
Share the secret – how were you able to land such a promising internship?
It’s actually quite a story! Soon after I first arrived at the school in October of 2019, we were serving welcome cocktails for all the attending companies of the International Recruitment Forum (IRF).
It was nerve-racking since I had to serve the CEOs, department directors, and recruiters from some of the biggest companies and organisations around the globe! But because of this, I was given quite an opportunity… to showcase my skills and personality ahead of anyone else also competing for the jobs.
That is exactly how I met the gentlemen from North Carolina who gave me a job offer the next day (only the job start got postponed due to the lockdowns everywhere). Without that fateful welcome cocktail and HIM organizing the IFR, I believe it would have been significantly harder for me as a student with just two weeks of experience to get an internship in a place like that.
What factors, in your opinion, contribute to excellent customer service?
There are many dynamic elements to consider here, but I think that to deliver great customer service is, first and foremost – to be able to adapt to the different needs of all sorts of people we – the future hospitality professionals – serve.
Understanding what is it that the customer wants or expects and then knowing how to accommodate goes a long way in providing an excellent service. It is a complex matter, but an interesting and rewarding one, too.
Why did you decide to study hospitality at the Hotel Institute Montreux?
I didn’t go to a local university because of the lack of quality programs in the area. After talking to the representatives of the Swiss Education Group (SEG) that came to my high school I got very intrigued. HIM offered so many interesting courses in their long-established programs and a rich network of high-level hotel partners – it just seemed right to me.
I think I could not have made a better decision – the people I’ve met, all the things I’ve learned about the cultures of the world, the incredible teachers with extensive professional experience and the opportunity to study in such a beautiful place have all been very rewarding to me.
How have you changed during the years studying at HIM? On a personal, and a professional level?
I think in most ways I am a completely different person than I was before this experience, especially on a professional level. How to address peers and teachers, how to dress to look the part, how to efficiently manage tasks and how to teamwork with people from so many different cultures – these questions have all been very challenging.
However, overcoming these challenges brought me a sense of independence and confidence in that I will be able to create lasting professional connections and further progress in my career.
On a personal side, I feel like I have been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime. There are so many different personalities and cultures here that nothing is seen as odd or ridiculed. Everyone’s accepted for the person they are – and this value is embedded in the school. Because of this, I have learned how to nurture new friendships. It’s been a process of finding myself and who I want to be, and from that, I have gained so much knowledge and so many friends for life.
What recent trends in the hotel industry have you spotted? What do you think is the future of hotels?
I am currently taking a course on environmental science where we develop sustainability programs for a destination. After learning more about it, I now strongly believe that sustainability is going to be increasingly relevant not only for businesses but also for entire destinations. I believe that soon failing to adapt to the grooving interest in sustainable travel may cause hotels to lose the qualifying edge to compete.
Another increasingly prominent part of the future of hotels – and many other industries as well – is the applications of artificial intelligence (AI). Some already implemented examples include robot concierges or chatbots that allow instant responses and interactions with customers 24/7.
What are you most excited about your future after you graduate?
My experience here has already opened many opportunities I will be able to pursue after I graduate. Although I am still undecided about my future, I’m excited to explore these paths to find the best suited for me.
Thank you, Joel! Have a great learning experience during your internship!