When running a hotel, your goal is to establish a good first impression with visitors from the minute they walk in the door, and this makes front desk operations crucial. If your front desk doesn't run properly, it may hurt your initial image and interrupt a guest’s experience for the duration of their stay.
Whether in person or online, nearly every visitor who stays at your property will interact with front desk employees at some point during their stay. Any issues that emerge during a guest's stay will likely be handled through front desk staff, which is why a bad experience may ruin their visit.
A hotel's daily operations can be hectic, especially during times when there are staff shortages, so efficiency is crucial to the success of any front desk. The smoother the operation, the greater the staff's ability to efficiently address any guest needs. If you don't match the expectations of your guests, you risk unfavorable reviews and financial loss. Therefore, all efforts should be taken to maximize the guest experience any time they interact with front desk staff.
Now, let’s explore what front desk staff need to know about their operations and responsibilities to be successful.
Before Guests Arrive
Even before guests arrive, the front desk has some very important duties to attend to, several of which, if handled correctly, can pay dividends throughout a guest’s stay.
Provide accurate information about the hotel
Before booking, many guests may call to ask questions about rooms, location, or specific amenities. It's the job of the front desk to not only know this information, but relay it to the potential guests in a kind and professional manner. Questions about topics such as occupancy limits, bed size, handicap accessibility, pricing and availability are common, so front desk staff should be able to answer them. A successful front desk staffer will also know about common tourist attractions in the area, the availability of nearby cafes where work can be done, and family-friendly restaurants. This ensures that the guests are confident in their decision if they end up booking with the hotel.
Protip: Learn about the local area.
Guests frequently want to live like locals. Each team member should be knowledgeable enough to make recommendations concerning local stores, restaurants, leisure activities, and tourist sites. You may also want to provide guests with discounts and vouchers for local hotspots, as well as arrange reservations for them. Most customers enjoy these small gestures, and you'll be more likely to get their return business if you take the time to offer them.
Manage online & phone reservations
Once a guest has decided to book a stay with the hotel, they may make their reservation online or by phone. A phone booking will involve collecting such contact details as their full name, phone number, and email. You'll also need the exact dates of their stay, what kind of room or event space they want to book, how many people will be staying, and any special requests.
Front desk staff should make sure guests understand their payment method options and assist them as needed.
If your property is still using paper to collect credit card authorization forms from guests, it’s important to note that this practice is no longer considered PCI compliant. Instead, modern hotels should have staff send easy-to-use digital authorizations forms to customers that can securely collect credit card data.
The Guest Arrival
At this point in the journey, the guest has actually made it to your property! It’s important to realize that the check-in process is a critical part of a guest's stay and can set the tone for the rest of their experience.
Perform all check-in tasks
One of the first things a guest sees when they walk into a hotel is the front desk, so a warm greeting from staff is of the utmost importance. The check-in process generally entails assigning a room (if one hasn’t been already), explaining the layout of the hotel and on-property amenities, and providing room keys. Hotel service details are also important to provide during these interactions, such as breakfast hours and location, cleaning and laundry information, shuttle service times, and more.
Protip: Add a Guest Management System to your operations
Guest Management Systems are powerful technology tools that hotels can use to enhance the guest experience, improve staff efficiency and boost revenue.
Generally speaking, a Guest Management System consists of several solutions, including Contactless Check-In, Contactless Checkout, Guest Messaging and a Dynamic Upsells platform that enables guests to purchase add-ons and additional services throughout their guest journey. All of these technologies are accessed by guests through their mobile devices.
Front desk responsibilities do not stop at check-in. The front desk has a range of other responsibilities that are critical to a hotel’s operations.
Respond to clients’ questions & complaints
It's likely that during their stay, guests will have some questions. Whether they're as simple as "What time is breakfast until?" or "Can children use the Jacuzzi?" to something more specific concerning their room or situation. Complaints may also be on their agenda — regarding their room, the hotel guest service or even staff members. It's your job to respond to these questions, complaints, and guest requests in a timely and professional manner.
A Guest Messaging solution generally allows your guests to message back and forth with front desk staff through their preferred messaging apps. This enables staff to prioritize guest requests and address inquiries more efficiently at scale. A good Guest Messaging solution will even enable you to broadcast messages to all of your guests at once to provide timely information on happenings at the property.
Connect with housekeeping & other hotel staff
Front desk agents are also responsible for running interference between other hotel staff, like housekeeping, and guests. For this to happen, communication with other departments’ staff needs to be both clear and timely. Specific instructions about the needs of particular guests will allow personal desires to be addressed and their stays to be memorable.
Protip: Establish interdepartmental communication channels.
Whether it’s short-range radios, text messaging, or an internal messaging solution, modern hoteliers need to ensure their staff are able to effectively communicate with other parts of the organization. Putting in place dedicated communication channels is a solid way to ensure people receive the resources and support they need in a timely manner.
Maintain updated records of bookings & payments
Though customer service is a huge aspect of the operations and responsibilities of the front desk, there are also some bookkeeping duties that need attention. The front desk is responsible for keeping updated records of the bookings, the particular dates of those stays, the number of guests, and any other relevant information that will be needed for check-in and throughout their stay. Staff must also oversee payments and ensure that all information guests provide is accurate and is accepted. Making sure the office operation runs smoothly is of great importance.
Protip: Create a handoff plan for every shift change.
Have a binder or notebook where front desk employees can write notes or announcements for the next shift team. Be sure to include when the note was written and by whom. Write in the message afterwards and include any other important information needed such as the booking or room number.
What makes the front desk unique is it is a touchpoint with the hotel that guests may engage at any point in their journey — from the moment they check-in to the time they checkout.
At checkout — the final instance in which a guest may interact with front desk staff directly — there are fewer responsibilities than during the other stages of the guest journey. However, this doesn’t make them any less significant.
Check guests out & collect keys
On their way out the door, many guests will come to the front desk to drop off their key and formally checkout. Though this is a fairly straightforward interaction with guests, it is an important one. It is only when a guest formally checks out that a housekeeping team member can turnover the room. It is the front desk staff’s responsibility to ensure an accurate accounting of which rooms have been checked out and which have not.
Contactless Checkout solutions enable guests to checkout from anywhere, at any time, directly from their mobile devices. This can erase the need for that final front desk visit, which frees up your staff to deal with guest arrivals, and provides hoteliers with an accurate portrayal of which rooms are free and which are not.
The front desk team is invaluable to the overall hotel experience. As the middlemen between guests and all other hotel staff, a well-functioning front desk team will be able to quickly handle issues and address guest needs. Failing to meet visitors' expectations means risking negative reviews and lost revenue. Disorganization, impolite or unaccommodating staff, or a general lack of professionalism and panache can be a real turn-off to guests, leaving them annoyed, dissatisfied, and unlikely to return.
Well-trained, warm, and friendly staff will meet, and often exceed, the needs of a wide range of hotel guests. By wrapping the above tips into your front desk operations and responsibilities, you’re sure to drive outstanding experiences and reap the rewards in loyalty sign-ups and repeat visits.
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