If ever an irate guest goes barrelling down towards reception, waving their grievances like a battle flag, management quietly moves back to make way for Tebello Polisane, who squares her diminutive shoulders and goes out to do battle with the problem.
The dynamo GM of The Spier Hotel, Tebello, says people just want to be heard. “Not many staff like dealing with the inevitable angry guest,” says Tebello with her hair-trigger smile, “but I love it. I take great satisfaction in solving the guest’s problem, and turning the whole thing around so that they are happy with the outcome and they go away with a positive attitude. It’s the way you do it, the way you connect with people.”
‘Connect’ is a word that Tebello uses often, because she believes it is the secret to successful hospitality.
“I try to spend a lot of time with guests,” she says, “because the only way you can provide the service they need is to get to know them. But hospitality is not only about connecting with guests, you also need to connect with your team. You will miss a vital part of your service if you are not on the ground with your people, understanding them and what they need in order to offer the best service.”
Hospitality was not Tebello’s first choice. After school she studied medicine ( she comes from a family of doctors), found it unsatisfying, tried project management in the construction industry, and then IT.
“I had tried hospitality for a short while,” she says, “and then a few other things. But eventually I returned to hospitality. I found it was the one profession that I really enjoyed. I discovered that I really loved dealing with people. That was the only part of the other careers that I cherished. In medicine, it was talking to people. In construction, it was handing over the keys of the house to the new owner. So hospitality is like that: it’s caring about people.”
Tebello is looking forward to the post-COVID hospitality reset.
“We were pushed out of our comfort zone, so this is our chance to reinvent ourselves. The industry is different now, our guests have different priorities, they want more connection – both face to face but also through technology.”
“In hospitality, no-one gets to work on their own terms. People must understand that in hospitality you must love to serve. It is not a job, it is a passion, a passion to serve. Not only your serving your guests, but your team members as well.”