Rapport Guest Services

Creating a company that everyone loves to work with

An interview with Greg Mace,
Managing Director, Rapport Guest Services

Rapport Service logo

With brand values to believe in as well as award wins, market leadership and continuous growth

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Key points
  • The original vision and values for this business were developed several months before the company name was created.

  • Employees, or ambassadors as they’re called, believe in the company’s values and are empowered to interpret their meaning at a personal level to delight each individual guest in a unique way.

  • The values are reinforced throughout everyones’ career with Rapport. Starting with recruitment and induction, through training and personal development and onto awards for recognising outstanding achievements.

  • MyRapport is an employee engagement portal that maintains the community culture as ambassadors work full time on client sites not in one central office.

All too often, brand values are something that come late in a company’s story; bolted on, as it were, to the existing structure. It happened the other way round at Rapport, the specialist provider of guest services to corporate organisations, where the founder worked on defining the brand values even before deciding on a name for the company.

Managing Director Greg Mace, who launched Rapport – as a division of Compass Group UK & Ireland – in 2012, explains:

“We mapped out our vision and values before we even launched the business. When we started this journey, the brand story was the first thing we worked on, and the most important thing. It was six months into the process before we had a company name.”

He developed a set of brand values that employees or ambassadors as they’re called – especially for the younger people (millennials and generation Z) who make up most of the workforce – could believe in. Mace felt that they wouldn’t ‘get’ some of the conventional values of big organisations and wanted something they would relate to.

“We also didn’t want to use this year’s in-words; we wanted values that we would be comfortable with – and could develop –  over a long time,”
he explains.

The result was five brand values. The first - Be Brilliant. “We want people to feel empowered to excel and do amazing things on a daily basis. Be Brilliant summed up the overall spirit of the business,” says Mace.

Number two was Walk Tall. “This was based on our belief that people had to be really proud in their job of representing the company in front-line positions,” says Mace. “Sometimes in the UK, there is a view that if you are in service you are subservient, so I like the philosophy that the Ritz Carlton hotel talks about – ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen – because it suggests that no-one is subservient. This feeling of walking tall is very important; people should be proud in what they do. They are on a stage, they are the face of the company.”

The third value was Innovative Spirit. “A lot of companies use the word ‘innovation’ but we wanted more than that,” says Mace. “The spirit of pushing the boundaries, always looking for a different way to do things, always coming up with great ideas, is a key component of why clients choose us. We are collectively very good at being open-minded and encouraging people to come up with new ideas.”

Living the Brand values

An example of this openness to new ideas was responding to a client’s request for people to serve their own employees – as opposed to just their visitors or guests. “Until three years ago we had been very focused on front-of-house services such as managing reception, meeting rooms and conference facilities, but we were not doing much within the clients’ own internal teams as such,” recalls Mace. “Then a client said they wanted to put our people in as community managers, if you like. Our people would support theirs, enabling them to be more productive as they moved to more agile working. It wasn’t something we had considered doing, but with our brand values and our hospitality heritage, looking after clients’ employees was a natural extension of what we were doing for their guests. The pilot was very successful and now it is a mainstay of our service.”

Staying relevant

Which leads on to the fourth value: Stronger Together. “A lot of companies talk about ‘teamwork’,” says Mace. “But for us it’s more than just working in a Rapport team; as our people work within our clients’ teams providing services like reception management, concierge, switchboard, and also with other service partners such as security or catering. We are at the heart of the guest journey; we are the catalyst, the facilitator, of what’s good in working with other teams. The concept of Stronger Together is working collaboratively and that sits at the heart of what we are about and why our offering resonates so strongly.”

The fifth value was Create Rapport, “because this perfectly sums up what we are about,” says Mace.

“Our ethos is based on creating rapport with our clients and their guests from the outset by anticipating their needs.” The business name naturally evolved from here.

Our people get training in basic sign language, for example, to help them communicate with guests who have hearing loss. Mace comments: “We talk all the time about how the brand ethos works at a really personal level. As we refer to our team members as being ambassadors, not employees, and we give them freedom to interpret what excellent service means. For example, when a guest left his laptop on a plane, one ambassador phoned the airline to track it down and another went to the airport to retrieve it.”

The process of embedding the values in the workforce starts from the recruitment stage and continues throughout someone’s career. “There have to be touch points at every step of someone’s journey and a company has to constantly reinforce those values,” says Mace.

“The brand values are then discussed during induction and initial training. We are unusual in that the majority of our people are based at client sites. Yes, we want them to feel part of the client’s business but it’s important that they feel part of the Rapport family too. So talking about the values early on is very powerful.”

Overcoming the challenges

And vital for engagement, because, explains Mace, “if you go to a client site, you don’t see the Rapport brand. Our people don’t wear a Rapport uniform, there are no badges or other collateral. They represent the client’s business.”

The values are also reinforced through MyRapport, the employee engagement portal, where new joiners can read about what’s going on in the business, and through training focused around individual values. For example there is a course called Walk Tall, which is about personal confidence and communication skills, and one called Be Brilliant, which shows our people how to spot opportunities to excel. Providing them with valuable support and reinforcing the brand values at the same time.

Then the company’s awards scheme is based around showcasing and rewarding adherence to the values.

Building relationships

Attracting and retaining people is always a challenge in the hospitality sector – given that 90% of Rapport’s employees are aged under thirty-five - but Mace believes the effort that has gone into the Rapport brand has paid off. “With values, training and development, and recognition, we have made a brand that resonates and that people are proud to put on their CV,” he maintains.

Having expanded overseas – Rapport now has a presence in Denmark, Switzerland, Hong Kong and seventeen cities in the US – the business has addressed the challenge of how to ‘translate’ a British brand into different cultures. Generally the US and Europe are culturally well aligned and similar in their outlook and attitude, says Mace, but he adds:

“You have to be sensitive to cultural differences, you can’t just take a brand and drop its values into another country and expect it to work on a plug-and-play basis.”

Mace believes that brand values need to stand the test of time. However, that doesn’t preclude evolution, or as Mace puts it, “the need to evaluate by ‘resetting the dial’.” In 2015 the company had enlarged the senior team and, he says, “we wanted to look again at the vision and values from a fresh perspective, to see if they still held true. After ninety managers had discussed the vision, it had changed considerably, but when we did the same thing with the brand values, no-one wanted to change anything. The values had stood the test of time and people still believed in them.”

Being prepared to revisit the values in this way was all part of living up to the ‘innovative spirit’ value, suggests Mace, observing:

“A brand has to be prepared to keep reinventing itself or no matter how successful it is today, it will get left behind.”

Adjusting strategy

Researched and written by Decision Magazine as part of a special report commissioned by Greenfisher, called ‘Business As Unusual - Secure the Future of your Brand’.

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