“Every guest interaction is important, and we empower our employees to help make each guest’s experience the best it can be while they’re at Avalon.”
One of the best business lessons Aniela Respress ever learned was from her father: “Make sure you surround yourself with a great team who has the same values and vision and will continue to push you to raise the bar.” A veteran of the restaurant industry, his words have served Aniela well throughout her own career in hospitality, first at luxury hotels around the world, and now as the General Manager of Avalon, NAP’s resort-inspired mixed-use community in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Aniela may be the one ultimately responsible for the experience of every guest and resident who arrives at the 86-acre luxury destination, but it’s her staff that has the most contact with them. “We have our mission statement and we have our values, but we have to make sure that it trickles down to every member of our team,” she explains. “They are going to touch each guest on property and we want them to be engaged: to greet them, have eye contact, smile at them. It’s about looking for opportunities to elevate a guest’s experience at every turn to make it more personal and memorable.”
That’s where their hospitality training comes in. Each team member, including our contracted services like valet and security, goes through customized, on-site training that melds Ritz Carlton’s benchmark program with Avalon-specific values and standards. “We want to make sure that they feel a part of the Avalon team and embody our core values. We share all the tools we have that they can use to do their job better, and to make the guests’ experience at Avalon better.”
Creating a rewarding experience goes both ways however: Aniela also ensures her employees are recognized for work well done. “We do line-ups twice a day with all of our staff where we just get everybody together and review the days plans and programs to ensure everyone is guest-ready,” she says.
“If I get feedback from guests about an employee that went above and beyond, I want to share that with everyone and celebrate them. Or if someone had a situation with a guest that was out of the ordinary, we can discuss those scenarios then. It gives us an opportunity as managers to connect with our team.”
It’s a glowing circle of benefit Aniela and her team create at Avalon—by empowering employees and ensuring they feel respected and part of the culture, they pass the experience confidently on to guests and residents, leading to positive impact for everyone. “
I see it when I walk down the Boulevard, and there’s a housekeeper looking up, looking at the guest, greeting them with a smile, saying good morning. I see it when the Concierge plans something special for a resident. That’s what we accomplish when we make them part of the team and empower each to contribute to the guest experience.”
“If you get the employees engaged, and give them the right tools, it can create a wonderful environment for both guests and colleagues.”