Northrop & Johnson France’s Senior Charter Broker Fiona Maureso is a well-known and highly respected figure in the yachting industry, having worked as yacht crew herself before making the move to land-based charter roles with Peter Insull’s Yacht Marketing and Yachting Partners International. The Antibes-based broker has also held the position of president and vice president of MYBA - The Worldwide Yachting Association.
Here, Fiona sits down with GUEST to discuss some of the feedback she receives from charter guests, what GUEST qualifications mean to her and the importance of formal, professional training for interior crew.
In terms of the guest experience, how often does client feedback relate specifically to the interior department?
The interior crew tend to have the closest relationship to the guests and the way they interact with them sets the tone for the whole charter. A smiling, well-presented and efficient interior team is therefore key to a successful charter. In post-charter debriefings with my clients, it is often the chief stewardess/steward in particular, who is mentioned first - even before the captain!
What are the main issues - can you share examples of both positive and negative comments in relation to the service on board?
Any negative feedback tends to revolve around guests having the impression that they are not being listened to or that there’s a lack of respect. I once had a charter where the chef did something wrong and the chief stewardess argued with the principal charterer and tried to make excuses, instead of apologising and dealing with the situation swiftly and elegantly. Slow and disorganised service is also mentioned from time to time and I believe this generally stems from poor organisation behind the scenes, or a lack of delegation or team spirit. These are all situations that properly trained crew would be able to avoid or deal with professionally.
Positive feedback always mentions welcoming, friendly and professional service, attention to detail, ‘second guessing’ the guests’ wishes and making everything seem effortless. If a client reports that he felt completely at home on a yacht, I know the crew – and particularly the interior crew – have done an excellent job.
In your view, are charter brokers generally aware of the GUEST program and, if so, how is it viewed?
I would say most European charter brokers are aware of the program. They recognise the value it brings to a crew (and therefore to a charter) and fully support it. I don’t believe American brokers are as familiar with the GUEST program at the moment.
When you see a GUEST qualification on a crew profile, does it inspire confidence?
I am always delighted to see GUEST mentioned on a crew profile as it shows that the owner and captain of that yacht have invested in their interior crew and recognise the importance of structured, professional training. This gives me confidence that my clients, regardless of their nationality, culture or experience as charterers, will receive the highest levels of service and care. I would generally choose a yacht whose crew have followed the GUEST program over a yacht that has not invested in such training.
What do you think GUEST achieves for the industry?
I believe the yachting industry, despite offering the most luxurious and exclusive holidays in the world, falls behind industries such as hotels and cruise ships when it comes to staff training. On yachts, training is often ad hoc and provided by more senior crew members. This can often give a good grounding but cannot replace the scope and detail that formal, professional training will provide. Lack of proper training can hold a crew back, limiting their ability to improve and expand their skill set. I also believe that a crew member who has received formal training will be more confident, more self-assured and happier in their work, and this will be reflected in their interactions with owners and charter guests.