Aileen Carmelo is the friendly, ever-helpful receptionist behind the booking desk at the Alpine Slopes Lodge in Summit County, Colorado.
The 36-year-old welcomes every guest with a warming smile and she’s always keen to offer advice about the 58-room hotel’s facilities and the town’s best local attractions.
What makes Carmelo different from other hotel receptionists is that she’s not actually on the premises. Instead she’s projected onto a screen via an internet connection from her home in the Philippines, where workers in her role can expect to earn around $2500-a-year.
Eric Utz, owner of the Alpine Slopes Lodge, is more generous than the Philippines’ minimum wage employers and he’s recently given Carmelo a raise - but still she earns only around $12,000-a-year, less than half the average salary for a hotel receptionist in the US.
When politicians talk about working people being let down by globalisation, it’s examples like this that they refer to – ordinary jobs previously done by the populations of developed nations being ‘offshored’ to countries where wages are significantly lower.
Until now it was thought service industries were largely unaffected – you can’t, after all, be served a coffee by a waiter who’s 7000 miles away.
But Carmelo demonstrates how employers are finding ever more novel and resourceful ways of outsourcing jobs previously thought to be immune to globalisation.
She symbolises the futility of arguments made by some politicians that the best way to combat the negative effects of globalisation is by controlling immigration.
Is this the future of service industries? We don’t think so. While we don’t mind ordering a burger using a touch screen in McDonalds, when we’re paying for an ‘experience’ we will always want the personal touch.
Hotels and restaurant staff will always have an advantage over machines and remote workers because they’re able to provide the human touch. If you work in the hospitality sector, here are 10 reasons why you’ll never be replaced by a machine.
- Your dedication. One of the most important qualities of a good receptionist, waiter or bellboy is your commitment to customer satisfaction. Working in hospitality isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and the intensity, effort and energy required to succeed will always separate the journeymen from the truly committed.
- Your communication skills. Those who succeed in the industry will have excellent communicators, both orally and in writing. Because of this, your personality shines through and you exude confidence, connecting easily with customers and making their experience more memorable.
- Your cultural awareness. There are few industries more cosmopolitan than hospitality – your customers and colleagues come from many different parts of the world. Because of this you’re aware of lots of cultures and you can adapt easily to different demands.
- An ability to multi-task. Working in an often-frenetic atmosphere, you become accustomed to fulfilling different roles. The customer’s needs always come first and so, if you’re a wine waiter, you’re also prepared, if necessary to help in the kitchen or to turn down a guest’s bed.
- A positive attitude. To make guests feel comfortable you always demonstrate a positive attitude . Not only does this make it easier to do your job, it also helps you to deal with the stresses that come with it.
- Organisational Skills. Your ability to organise effectively makes you approachable and assertive. You’re always willing to respond to questions or requests from guests, no matter what they are, and you’ll always stand-up for your guests’ interests.
- Flexibility. Hospitality is a round the clock profession and you need to be prepared to be flexible. You can be called on at any time and you should always be prepared to answer the call, even if it interrupts your home life.
- Your networking skills. Today, your networks are everything because they encourage customers to keep coming back. Networking allows you to build a loyal clientele, which is one of the driving forces of hospitality.
- Your leadership skills. Executive chefs and housekeepers, operations managers etc need excellent leadership skills to deal with crises during peak season. Leadership skills help your team stay aligned to the common goal of providing exemplary service.
- Because you’re a person. Anyone who visits a hotel, or a restaurant wants the personal touch. From a chat about the weather to sharing a joke, guests feel comforted that they’re dealing with someone they can see, hear and talk to. Automation and remote working will never be a substitute for that.