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Tampa Airport Marriott employees serve guests — and each other


Every employee at the Tampa Airport Marriott needs to have an inner hospitality radar.

It should go off whenever anyone staying at the hotel or attending an event there comes within 15 feet of the Marriott employee. The worker should acknowledge the visitor's presence, usually with eye contact, a friendly nod or some other gesture.

Then, when the subject comes within 5 feet, the employee should smile and say hello.

It's called the "15/5 rule," and employees must apply it to each other as well as those they serve. Everyone who visits the 298-room hotel is an "external guest."

Employees are "internal guests" — and they must treat each other with the same courtesy. That mutual respect for each other is one of the reasons why the Tampa Airport Marriott made it onto the Tampa Bay Times' employee survey of Top Workplaces.

"I learned it in all my years at Marriott," said event assistant Charmaine Kerr, 41. "A smile makes a difference."

It's part of the culture of mutual respect and recognition the hotel's workforce has built over the decades, and it's working. The hotel is ranked in the top 10 percent within the Marriott chain for customer satisfaction.

"Our 15/5 rule is something we practice from an external as well as an internal perspective," said general manager Zach Curry, 44. "The rule has been in place for Marriott for a very long time.

"Last year we really energized it as an organization. We made it our rule of the year and put a tremendous focus to on it to make sure that every guest was acknowledged and to thank them for selecting us."

Marriott does other things to foster that team spirit: Every shift starts off with a "stand-up" briefing, recognizing employee achievements, birthdays, milestones, and emphasizing the key customer service points of the day. The basement wall is already filling up with note cards from managers and guests alike, praising individual employees (recognition earned via online travel sites is especially valued). There are also constant contests awarding gift cards, and a chart outlining 27 categories of guest and event service that are graded weekly.

The employees responsible for those grades have had plenty of practice at customer service. More than a third of the hotel's 150 workers have been there for 20 or more years. The hotel itself celebrated its 40th anniversary in October.

What's even more impressive, Curry said, is that the airport hotel's guests only stay an average of 1.1 nights. So employees don't have long to make a good impression.

"The tenure of the ladies and gentlemen here is the thing that resonates so much," Curry said. "This hotel has always been a gem in our organization."

Even when she's off the clock, Kerr said, her hospitality radar is always on.

"I was at Burger King and I had to tell the cashier, 'Can you make eye contact? Can you smile?' " Kerr said. "When we go back, my daughter now says, 'That's the person who doesn't smile.' "

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji or (813) 226-3404.

Charmaine Kerr, 41, arrived from Jamaica in 1996 and has been working in Tampa-area Marriotts for 13 years. She's an event assistant at the Tampa Airport Marriott.

"I have been in customer service pretty much all my life. I'm a customer service person. I like take caring of people and making sure people are happy. And Marriott as an employer pretty much takes care of its employees. I enjoy planning meetings. I detail events, so that contact with people means I deal directly with them on the phone or in person helping them to coordinate their event. It's a plus. I like what I do."

Neal Dessauer, 45, has been collecting debts for eight years at five companies. He's worked for Hunter Warfield for two years now.

"It's just overall that they care about their employees. It's professional. The building is nice. The people are nice. To be honest when I first started here I didn't know if I would stay here. I wouldn't leave here now. It's a good environment. It's still collections but they generally do care about you. First off it's tough out there right now. But generally the benefits are good, but what they do for you here is they try to make it fun and competitive, and I'm very competitive. It can be anything from a roll of the dice (for a gift card) or spinning the wheel for a casual day.

"I had to quit one agency because it was infested with drugs. It can be a dirty business. This is not that. This is a nice place."


The other hotels

in the Top 100


Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

The hotel opened in 1986 just off the

Courtney Campbell Causeway and employs

357 full-time, part-time and on-call workers.

It's run by general manager Paul Joseph.


Hyatt Regency Clearwater

Beach Resort and Spa

Built along Clearwater Beach in 2010,

the hotel has 250 suites. general manager

Brian Kramer oversees 190 employees.


Renaissance Tampa Hotel

at International Plaza

The hotel, which employs 165, was built

in 2004 as part of International Plaza.

It is run by general manager

Jim Bartholomay.

Tampa Airport Marriott

Built in 1972 as a part of Tampa International Airport. General Manager Zach Curry oversees 150 employees.

Tampa Airport Marriott

Built in 1972 as a part of Tampa International Airport. General Manager Zach Curry oversees 150 employees.


Tampa Airport Marriott employees serve guests — and each other 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 1:50pm]
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