Memoirs of a Placement Sales Administrator

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It is exceptionally weird to think that about approximately this time last year, I had absolutely no awareness of the serviced apartment industry. Flashforward to today and I could probably whittle off a general definition of the industry as well as a list of all the major operators, agents and associations in the field like snap. This is the power of working for a serviced apartments firm like “The Spires” and wherever I go now, whether it is a national or international destination, my eyes are attuned to looking for such accommodation firms – my travel habits have quite clearly been altered.

Throughout the year you may have read some of my sporadic blogs on what life was like as a Sales Admin and this is to be my swan song; the ultimate recap of my placement life. Of course I started the year with good intentions of blogging weekly but as happens with all New Year resolutions, this started to fade out pretty quickly as the months passed. As stated, this time last year I was completely oblivious to the service apartment concept but due to my internship I have been in far many than I count; I have tweeted about them; blogged about them, researched them and I kid not when I say that I have indeed dreamt about them. I have also not just worked behind-the-scenes in terms of promoting them, but have also ventured into the front line and been one of the faces for the Aberdeen Front of House. Therefore, bar finance and actual management, there is not a lot of the serviced apartments world I have not witnessed and learned from!

Over the course of the first six months, I was predominantly responsible for the online promotion of the firm in terms of social media management, website content and email marketing as well as for the administrative element such as updating booker contact details and classifying customers. These were tasks that I thoroughly enjoyed because they allowed me to use my initiative, be autonomous, use my creativity and as the world moves increasingly online, I know this can only benefit me. Moreover, I am not sure many can take the pleasure of saying they are being paid to be on Facebook! It is particularly surreal that it was a part of my job description and it did take a while for me not to feel the need to justify my internet habits if anyone happened to pass by my monitor – I was working I swear it. However, with that privilege came a lot of responsibility because you want to ensure you present the firm in the best light and to make sure what you post is synonymous with the values of the company. Similarly, as I have learnt, the aim of attracting new followers is not an easy one to achieve and it took a lot of work. Something that was quite surprising was how much researching is involved in terms of material to post and things to blog about, I never realised how difficult it is to come up with a fresh angle and to balance promoting the firm while not out-right selling it because that does not really work on social media. It is all about building that relationship and getting to interact with customers on a personal level, something which I realised in that my most popular postings tended to be in relation to things like team birthdays or accomplishments. I imagine that is because everyone likes to see the faces behind the firm.

Therefore, while being very active with the back-of-house team and phoning many a travel booker, my Sales Administrator position was quite independent and relatively laid-back in that I did not have a lot of contact with external stakeholders nor had strict deadlines to meet. This was epitomised by the fact that throughout the whole six months, I never had someone phone or email me. Conversely, Front of House was the complete flip-side of this. Between customers, agencies and companies, I made and received countless phone calls/emails a day and felt immensely popular – post-it notes became my best friends. I can honestly say that time has never passed as quickly before, while as a Sales Admin I was free to work at my own pace, in Front Of House it felt like I was juggling many balls all at once and so the sand-timer was always ticking down! However, while undeniably challenging, it was ultimately very rewarding in terms of testing my ability to think on my feet, multi-task and be responsible. Of course having the chance to interact with our guests, especially from international destinations like Japan and Singapore, was thoroughly enjoyable especially as you were playing a part in making their holiday to Scotland special. It was particularly gratifying getting to know the regulars to the extent where you already knew their name as soon as they walked through the door and they already had their ID at the ready.

Overall, I do not think there could have been a better time to work in the firm because with the opening of the Edinburgh location and the development of “The Apartment Collection – By The Spires”, it was such a dynamic atmosphere with a lot of excitement, as well as drama aplenty of course! Therefore, through the highs and through the lows, there was not a single moment I regretted working at The Spires because the people were some of the loveliest I have ever worked with and I loved the camaraderie of the office; it was always a joy to go in (particularly on the days where there was cake – which was a lot of them). I certainly feel I have developed personally and professionally and so I am immensely grateful I was chosen to work for the firm and that they have even allowed me to stay on. If there is one thing that is particularly surreal it is that when I make that 15 minute journey to The Spires from my home once a week, it never feels like I ever worked here full-time, not least for eight months. Thankfully, I have all those tweets, posts, blogs and databases to prove otherwise and as I continue on, even if for only a few hours a week, it is nice to know I am leaving my own kind of legacy.

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Travel Apps: Your New Travel BFFs

Whether you are travelling alone or in groups, for business or leisure, travelling will always be an experience that you simultaneously get excited for, and immensely stress over. However, gone are the days of manically remembering to pack paperback travels guides & maps and writing packing lists, nowadays all the information we need can be found in our handheld technological miracle sidekicks: mobile phones and tablets. Arguably, they are making us somewhat less self-reliant but if they can help reduce the stress of finding our ways in new destinations, it means we can have ultimately more efficient and productive business journeys or can enable us to fully bask in the glory of our holidays. These travel apps will become your favourite companions whether you are travelling for business or leisure and can help you from every stage of your journey; from planning to packing to even finding the best pizza in town when you arrive!

  • WiFi Finder

When I am travelling, one of my initial concerns is always how fast I can get to a WiFi spot; which probably speaks volumes about my priorities. However, I am sure I am not the only one. The WiFi Finder App spots includes over 500,000 free and paid WiFi areas in over 144 countries and means you will never be at a loss for spotting your nearest WiFi location on your travels. The App will help you to filter the locations so you can find the perfect place to go and it will even provide directions so you do not have to use a separate navigation app to track down your newly found WiFi supply. Available for IOS and Android

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  • WorldMate

Some people enjoy the challenge of planning their business trip or holiday, most of us loathe it. However WorldMate takes the suffering out of it and has aided over 10, 000 million users in organizing and planning their jaunts away for free. All you need to do is forward confirmations for your booked travel arrangements, such as flights or car rentals, to the email address provided and it will manage and hold all details: even compose an itinerary which you can share with family and friends. Extra functions it offers are in relation to Flight Alerts and real-time Flight Status so you know what is happening with your flights and can prepare for the unexpected. TripIt is a similar popular app to consider. Available for IOS and Android

  • PackPoint

Keeping on board with the planning stages, is Packpoint: a free app that acts as your personal packing organizer. All you need to do is submit your location and your duration of your stay and the app will help you determine what items you need to pack based on your level of stay; your purposes for travelling; the activities you will be getting up to and even the forecasted weather. PackPoint will help to erase the many hours of deliberation and debate spent over deciding what items to pack and potentially to avoid the charges associated with over-packing. Available for Ios and Android

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  • Around Me

Once you have found yourself on the move and at the inevitable loss for your surroundings, use Around Me to compensate for your lack of local geographical knowledge. Selecting from a range of defined categories, you can use this helpful app to locate how far away you from the nearest *insert your option here e.g. ATM, bank, supermarket* Available for Ios and Android

  • Waze

A particular useful free app for when you are commuting to a business meeting or even just trying to reach a popular tourist attraction, Waze is the world’s largest community based navigation expert. Using real-time advice and information from fellow drivers on the road, you can keep up-to-date with the best routes to take to dodge the traffic and accidents and arrive at your destination with plenty of time. It provides another gift in that you can find the cheapest gas stations based on the prices posted by fellow drivers. It is a team effort out on those roads! Available for Ios and Android

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  • Get Taxi

Alternatively, if you are on holiday and do not have a car to hand to travel by, make use of the free Get Taxi where you can order a licensed Black taxi/cab to beat waiting in queue or having to flag one down. This app, which is rumoured to be number one globally for corporate rides, can be used to pre-book taxis or book one on the spur of the moment if the weather takes a disagreeable turn! Available for Ios and Android

  • Feeling Hungry?

No, this is not an app in itself but as we all know, sampling the local delicacies is the best bit of travelling and these apps will help you in your mission to unearth the best food your destination has to offer. Use Urbanspoon; a free app which compiles rating and reviews for over a million restaurants and cafes so you can see where fellow travellers recommend. Foodspotting takes a differing angle to the “eating like a local” by recommending dishes, not restaurants. If you are in a very specific mind or want to try particular local dishes, you can use this app to view images and see what people recommend. Finally, there is the incredibly popular Hungry House app which can be used when you do not want to face the world and do not have the energy to cook. It enables access to over 10,000 takeaways and over 60 cuisine types so you cannot complain it does meet your every hunger need!

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  • Expensify

This is one for all you business travellers who do not like managing their expenses! Expensify is a free app which is reputably backed as being the best app for expense reporting which allows you to simply take a photo of a receipt and then select which report you want the expense to go on. Easy peasy! Available for Ios and Android

  • Welcome to Scotland

If you are happening to be staying at our Scottish apartments, the Welcome to Scotland and VisitScotland Explore apps are the perfect way to introduce you the tartan land. The VisitScotland app helps you to discover attractions, events and activities as well as provides itineraries so you will never be bored! The Welcome to Scotland App offers similar functions as well as exclusive offers and deals. Definite essentials for a first-time visit to Scotland. Available for Ios and Android

Facebook: A Workplace Friend or Foe?

When we think Facebook, we think of it as an online tool that keeps us connected with our social circle: we follow people who are friends; we post photos to show where we have been, and we write statuses to detail what is going on in our worlds. Up till now, any connection Facebook has had with people’s professional lives has probably tended to be in relation to being berated for inappropriate use of it at work or posting things that do not align with company values i.e. those infamous dodgy work nights out photos! Effectively, Facebook is where we live our out-of-office lives: no work allowed. However, in January, a new Facebook initiative was piloted which has the potential turn this on its head: “Facebook at Work”.

As was reported by Buying Business Travel in their March/April 2015 edition, not a lot has been released on “FB@ Work” due to it only being piloted with a few select organisations. However, as can be inferred from the name, the concept is very much to integrate corporate life into Facebook so that it is almost a rival to existing “enterprise social network” platforms such as Yammer and Slack. These existing networks enable business teams to collaborate and communicate online so as to improve productivity; and this is effectively the aim of FB@Work. As detailed by Tech Crunch, it will enable corporate customers to create their own business social networks, where only company members can view information shared, under the familiar interface of Facebook’s existing website.

The reason why the travel sector has been brought up in particular relation with “FB@Work”, is that as it is highlighted by Buyer Business Travel, it could be a potentially interesting development to see Travel Management Companies (TMCs) form joint social networks with their clients for travel consultation purposes. This would be particularly striking if the TMCs created specific accounts for each client to fully personalise the experience. In particular regards to the knowledge sharing and collaboration aspect of “FB@Work”, it could enable there to be more communication in relation to critical corporate travel aspects such as travel policies. This links to how it would really help to bridge the gap between employees working in large multinational companies with similar roles as they can share advice and expertise regarding all issues, including travel. It has the potential to even allow employees to be welcomed into the homes of their colleagues located in other countries!

“FB@Work”s creation has generated considerable debate. As was highlighted by Buying Business Travel, one of the greatest advantages of “FB@Work” is that it is a social network that is familiar to so many; enabling a quick adoption which can only benefit productivity as well as lower training and switch-over costs. This argument I do understand because dependent on how similar the interface is in reality, as an employee I personally would feel quite comfortable using it and I would not be daunted by its introduction. However, it is its familiarity which also works against it, because of its well-established reputation as a personal social network. It is hard to deny that many of us will succumb to temptation and use it to also access our personal Facebooks; or even just go off-topic.

Personally, having used Facebook and its ‘group’ function as a means of carrying out team work at university,  I understand how the product would be beneficial in the dissemination of information in real time; particularly when members are located in all parts of the world. Therefore, I can see the value in it. However, if I was to look at it from a company perspective, I am not too sure how professional it would look when there are alternative enterprise social networks available out there; particularly considering how Facebook’s initial purpose was to connect college students in their social lives. Its association as a personal social network tool is probably too strong for it to make a transition into the corporate arena. Similarly, I am not too sure how stakeholders such as customers would feel if they knew the company was sharing information over Facebook with its notoriously sketchy privacy policy. Above all, data privacy will be one of the biggest obstacles to widespread use as there will be concern about confidential data being able to be accessed by third parties, as will the management and control of such corporate social networks by management.

At the moment, “FB@Work” is a project still in the testing stage with many barriers to overcome, but it will be interesting to see if it will revolutionise the workplace and the corporate travel sector in quite the same way that it has shaped our personal social networking lives.  Being a part-time social media intern and a full-time Facebook enthusiast, I am very intrigued to see the outcome…

Make sure to comment to give your opinion regarding the feasibility of “FB@Work”; we would love to hear them!

(Image: www.society30.com)