29 Mar Women in Corporate Housing and Relocation-Part 3
In honor of Women’s History Month, three women in the corporate housing industry discuss their careers–from difficult decisions to satisfying moments and things they wish they’d known.
Part 3 Features Emma Thurston
Emma Thurston makes dreams come true. Well, maybe not dreams, but she will definitely make your day a whole lot better. In the case of shipping a guest’s wedding dress across the country, she might have even saved the day. As SuiteAmerica’s National Guest Services Supervisor, Emma shapes the guest experience.
She’s impactful. She once learned how to say hello in 20 languages so she could welcome guests. Like Guest Services, Emma is kind, assuring, and has genuine intentions. She won’t admit it, but she’s one of the reasons SuiteAmerica shines a little brighter.
(Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
1. Tell me about your career arch. How’d you get to be National Guest Services Supervisor for SuiteAmerica?
I’ve been in SuiteAmerica’s Guest Services for eight years. I started as an East Coast Guest Services representative. Anything East of the Rockies was my area. Over the years, I’ve gotten to help with scheduling, Destination Services, and meet and greets. I’ve done just about everything in Guest Services.
Before SuiteAmerica, I worked the front desk at a hotel. I like the world of hospitality and had no idea about the world of corporate housing until I started at SuiteAmerica. I love to travel and learn about new cultures. Traveling is the best. When I can’t do that, hospitality is the best way to travel in a sense. You still get to learn about other people’s cultures and families and way of life.
I also worked in restaurants. I worked at a call center, coffee shop, and in payroll and real estate. I tried figuring out what I liked to do, and what I didn’t like to do, and hospitality was the world I liked best. I’ve learned about the other parts that make SuiteAmerica whole. I’ve done Destination Services, meet and greets, and I even flew out East to help people move in. I get fulfillment from interacting with guests. I was recently promoted to National Guest Services Supervisor this past year.
2. What’s the toughest decision you’ve ever made in your career?
When I became a supervisor, moving from something I’m comfortable with and have been doing for many years, to taking on something completely different and having to change. It wasn’t just taking on a new job. I took on more responsibility, and I’m more in the center of things. The way you handle things is a bit different. I have to focus on my team as well as the guests.
You question whether you’ve made the right decision the first few months when things are hard and you’re adjusting. Then, you get your flow and get comfortable. You’ve got to remember that you’ll be good again in a couple of months. It just takes time to get back to being confident.
3. What’s the greatest mistake you’ve made and what was the lesson learned?
I feel my biggest mistake has been not asking for help from my team or my leaders when I needed it. You take pride in being able to do handle most things, and when you can’t, it can feel like a weakness. It was a hard lesson to learn that it’s not a weakness to know where your limit is and how to ask for help. When you don’t ask for help, it shows a lack of trust in your team and can end up costing the company more time and money.
4. What’s been the most satisfying moment of your career so far?
A couple years ago, guests from about 20 different countries moved in on one weekend. I learned to say hello in 20 different languages. It was challenging. Some of the guests stared at me for a second. They had been traveling for a bit and were tired, but it was nice to welcome them in their own language. They were super happy.
Also, seeing things I’ve implemented benefit my team and seeing them grow. Making their lives a bit easier through new processes. It’s about looking at things from an outside perspective and seeing how we can change and be better.
5. What’s the advice you wish you’d been given before you started in corporate housing?
Don’t hold yourself back. Don’t hold yourself back just because you’re not comfortable doing something. Push forward and make things work. You can’t control everything. As much as you want to, you can’t control the entire world. Control the stuff you can. Adapt and flow with the rest.
6. What are the greatest challenges the corporate housing industry (maybe guest services in particular) is currently facing and how could they possibly be addressed?
People don’t always understand what corporate housing is. They think we might be a hotel or an apartment building. Educating people about what corporate housing is and especially that Guest Services is here for them.
Guest Services genuinely cares about guests. We have a whole team dedicated to each individual guest. Our worry isn’t about the bottom line but that the guest is really and truly satisfied. We recognize that each individual person has different needs, and we’re want to assist with those needs.
We tailor services to individual people. We’ve shipped a wedding dress across the U.S. We’ve picked up concert tickets and delivered them. We mailed a college diploma that got left behind. I drove down to the middle of California to pick up a bistro set for a guest, and drove it the rest of the way down to Southern California to deliver it.
One time, a guest’s son left a DVD behind in the DVD player. It was a DVD of his favorite show, which he watched every day. We picked up the DVD and mailed it to him along with a t-shirt of the show. We had another request from a guest for a larger TV and a Play Station so that he could play Fortnite with his son who was hundreds of miles away. The guest was on a temporary assignment on the East Coast, and it was the only way he could spend time with his kid.
We enjoy the challenge of what each person wants. Guest Services enjoys the challenge and gray area of being creative to make a difference in people’s day and make sure they’re getting whatever it is that they need. Corporate housing feels a lot more like home than a hotel ever could. You have a full apartment and nicer amenities. Corporate housing builds more of a rapport with guests than hotels. We get to know guests and their families. It makes a difference. People should know that we’re genuinely here for them.