Stephanie (Leese) Emrich, CGSP, Hospitality Professional of the Month (April 2019)

April 29th, 2019 | hereschicago
Stephanie Lees Service Speaks

Stephanie (Leese) Emrich, CGSP

First and foremost, can you tell us your current position, company and describe what you do?

President and Chief Service Officer of ServiceSpeaks which provides tools, techniques and motivation for organizations + individuals across all industries, transforming their service culture from transactional to the WOW experience. I am also the Founding President of the National Customer Service Association (NCSA) Chicagoland. Now in our 3rd year, we are planning our 20th meeting.

What aspects of hospitality do you incorporate in your business today? 

Hospitality is at the bedrock of every client interaction. Whether presenting a workshop, one-on-one coaching or delivering a keynote to a large-scale audience, the spirit and standards of hospitality are ever-present.

Where did your hospitality career begin and when was that “aha” moment when you knew you were supposed to be in hospitality as a career?

The Drake Hotel, Chicago — my first position one day after college graduation.  The “aha” moment –experiencing my grandfather’s Florida hotel as a young girl, idolizing the way he graciously greeted every guest by name and memorizing something special about each.  My eyes popped out of my head when he took me to the Disney World opening as an 8 year old.

How many years have you been in the hospitality business?

Officially since May 17, 1983.  36 years have gone by in a flash!

What would your friends say if they were nominating you for hospitality professional of the month?

StrengthsFinder 2.0 says it best, a classic “W.O.O.” type: Winning Others Over.

What qualities do you feel a person needs to have to be hospitality professional?

Positivity, curiosity, wonderment, agility, avid attention to detail, tremendous energy and an all around sense of humor!

What do you recommend for others who want to get into the hospitality profession?

Say yes to every opportunity. Roll up your sleeves and get a diverse, hands-on education on subjects that least interest you. You might be surprised and actually like it. Getting into others’ lives is not only fascinating; there can be long-term dividends.

What are you passionate about?

Customer Service!  One of ServiceSpeaks’ programs is called “Awaken the Ritz Within”. I truly believe that inside of everyone are 5-stars in the making. 

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

A major tie. My parents, Jack & Georgia Leese, are my heroes. Dad’s legendary coaching career made for our fascinating youth, beyond the football field and the wrestling mat.  Halls of Fame events are an honor to attend, not just about Dad’s athleticism, but recognizing how he developed the next generation. As a result, Dad has 500 email addresses at age 88. Proof that the human connection throughout life is vital.

Mom, teaching 1st grade for 33 years and now volunteering (Art Institute and Lincoln Park Zoo) every week for 27 years, is a role model. Mom’s organizational talents and “I Will” spirit are deeply embedded. Being one of Chicago’s most dedicated Cubs fans also teaches me perseverance.  Mom & Dad’s 64-year marriage inspires me every day.

What kinds of things really make you laugh?

Puns are my favorite type of humor.

Did you—or do you—have a nickname? What’s the story behind it?

“Scoops” While I love ice cream, I am extra-passionate about having the scoops, the news – and sharing what is appropriate and relevant to others. As long as it is not gossip which falls into the pet peeve category.

Have you received any praise or accolades recently?

The National Customer Service Association (NCSA) Chicagoland hit a double-header. Association Forum featured us in a 2-page article in their FORUM magazine. And, the CEO hosted me on her podcast for an exciting episode about the Customer Experience.

When not working, what do you love to do?

Directing and producing “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”, a play by Nora and Delia Ephron. Having been in this show 4 years ago, it is rewarding to have now staged this production 4 times so far. With nearly 20 sketches on love and loss, the script has incredible deep meaning.

What’s your go-to meal when you’re home alone?

Cold Pizza. Thick or thin, matters not.

Which book(s) have you read multiple times? 

Thesaurus – developing vivid communication and word usage is important to engaging all audiences.

Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, the book I was reading when Jeff and I met. It didn’t hurt that he was reading it too.

What’s on your bucket list? 

Deliver the National Poem at a future Presidential Inauguration.

If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?

American Sign Language, which I am actually studying now. With the number of returning Veterans who are hearing-impaired, ASL is essential to communicating with current and future generations suffering from severe hearing loss.

What are your thoughts about Hereschicago.com? 

Jim Grillo is a pied piper!  A can-do professional in a variety of capacities, making Hospitality long-timers and newcomers feel at ease. Unlimited resources and a unique energy in continuing to create experiences for all. Jim is one of the most positive individuals I have ever met, and someone whom I am proud to call “Friend.”


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