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Manager Sees Hospitality and Customer Service From Unique Historical Perspective at Kansas City’s Original Boutique Hotel

October 5, 2013 Hotel News No Comments Email Email

Pamela McClain, controller at The Raphael Hotel, Autograph Collection, is an ideal emblem of Customer Service Week, celebrated during the first full week of October.

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Pamela McClain

McClain has been a part of the historic boutique hotel’s story since it was a gleam in the eye of the hotel’s owners. Throughout her career, she has contributed significantly to the guest service standards that have earned The Raphael consecutive World’s Best rankings by Travel + Leisure magazine.

McClain officially joined the hotel staff in 1976 from its “mother hotel” — Alameda Plaza, Kansas City’s luxury hotel of the day — less than a year after The Raphael opened on September 8, 1975. Ever the consummate team player, McClain worked the front desk night shift, finding the hotel’s historic lobby a place of peace in the wee hours. “It was a source of amusement when the night cleaning crew came in to vacuum the burnt orange floor-to-ceiling shag carpeting,” recalls McClain.

McClain is known for her big heart for hospitality and her ability to anticipate guests’ needs. “She is a genuine welcoming presence,” says Steve Miller, director of operations. “She has a knack for finding something interesting or special about each guest — be that person a Hollywood celebrity, an international corporate executive, or a pleasure traveler from America’s heartland.” McClain loves her city and is eager to suggest experiences or attractions relevant to a guest’s specific interests. She believes the secrets to hospitality are paying attention to the little things and genuinely desiring to make strangers feel comfortable. “Any hotel can offer a traveler a bed,” says McClain. “We try to create a memory.”

McClain is equally well known for internal customer service. Colleagues describe McClain as a go-to for institutional history, encouragement, sympathy, or gentle motherly counseling. She easily embraces change as a part of life. “Some hotel changes have seemingly occurred at warp speed,” McClain observes. “Like the time it took to move from manual check-ins and luggage without wheels to mobile check-ins and instant evaluations.” Others, like the vintage architectural facade of the Italian Renaissance Revival landmark in which she works, have changed little since it opened as a luxury apartment in 1928. “The essence of hospitality has not changed a bit. The aim is always to make guests feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated.”

McClain takes pride in the hotel’s legacy of progressive employment practices and the way it has preserved history while growing with the times. “The Raphael’s first general manager was a woman, the first in Kansas City hotel history,” says McClain. “She later became the first woman president of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City. I am equally proud that The Raphael was one Kansas City’s first hotels to provide developmentally disabled workers the dignity to earn a living.” McClain considers herself fortunate to have worked in one place for 37 years and that she has only worked for only two owners — each operating The Raphael as a family business. “Each created a family culture rooted in respect for the dignity of its employees, its customers and its vendors,” says McClain. “Each came into The Raphael’s life at the right time, extending its vitality and purpose from one century to the next.”

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