Thinking back on all the different roles I worked in in the hotel industry, most of my interesting and exciting stories come from working the front desk. Working as a front desk agent at a hotel can be a rewarding and interesting job!
The front desk of the hotel is the very core of the hospitality culture, which will shape your hotel operation.
As a front desk agent you essentially become the face of the hotel.
You are often one of the guests first point of contacts, and are a major part in shaping their overall guest experience impressions with your hotel. You will be the orchestrator of smooth check-ins and check-outs, the provider of helpful information, and the problem solver for any challenges that may arise during a guest's stay. Guests will be arriving with expectancy and (hopefully) departing with many fun memories. But no pressure, right?
Front Desk Duties
While each hotel will have their own standard operating procedures, here is a brief example of some of the duties the front desk agents are responsible for,
Confirm Guest Reservation
When confirming your guests reservations, the first thing you want to do is get some sort of Verification of Identification.
This is important as you want to make sure you are checking in the correct guest. Believe it or not, there have been many times where we have had more than one guest staying in the hotel with ironically the same names.
A valid government issued ID or passport is typical for the verification.
Once you have pulled up their reservation in the system, you want to verify that all the details are correct to ensure accuracy:
- Make sure their arrival and departure dates are correct, the rate, and the room type.
- If the guests have made any special or specific requests make sure to confirm them. You don't want your guests to have any surprises when they check out and realize the rate they were told is not the same.
- You also don't want your guest to go all the way up to their room and find out they only have one bed, when they are expecting two beds.
After the reservation has been confirmed you will want to properly register your guest. Make sure to confirm all their proper contact details and have a correct credit card on file.
Allocating rooms is often the role of the Front Desk Agent as well. Based on the rooms you have available and the room type they have requested, you will assign a room that is suitable for the guests and their preferences.
If the hotel has any available upgrades or the guest has specific requests (e.g., a higher floor, a room with a view), the front desk agent may consider these factors while allocating the room. However, it depends on the hotel's policies and availability. Larger hotels often outsource some of this directly to the customer through an upselling software that's integrated with their inventory system, so that guests are provided with options to choose upgrades and add-ons.
Communicating Hotel Information
Just before you hand the guest their key and allow them to whisk away on their relaxing vacation vacation, make sure to go over any policies the hotel may have. This includes their check out time, restaurant hours, what they need to do if their room rate includes something extra like breakfast and hours of the pool and gym etc.
Clear communication is an important key to the success of your role, so make sure you communicate warmly and clear with concise instructions. Give the guest an opportunity to ask any questions or concerns and then also reiterate to the guests that the staff are ready and available to help and address anything they need.
Because the Front Desk is the main hub for the hotel, you can expect many guest to stop by during their stay, or to phone down. So you want to make sure that you are all up to day with any information or any events that are going on within the hotel.
Efficient Guest Records
Remember that accurate documentation on guest files is very important. You want to make sure that if a guest has specified they have serious allergies, or if they have specified specifically how they would like to be addressed during their stay, that this information is recorded (usually in a hotel management or front desk system) and also communicated to other departments as needed.
By keeping up with these standards, as the front desk agent you are ensuring a positive guest experience and starting them off on a high note for a pleasant stay at your hotel!
Here is a brief example of a checklist template you should go through before you start your shift on the front desk.
It may seem odd as to why this should be a topic all on its own, but being quick and efficient with problem solving is a critical skill for a hotel front desk agent, and a major part of the job description.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s almost guaranteed that you will some type of problem that you will need to solve, daily.
Here are some good tips with problem solving at the front desk.
Ensure Guest is Satisfied:
This is the reality of working with people. Sometimes guests are not always going to be satisfied. They will have expectations, or complaints or concerns.
As the front desk agent, it may not be your fault, but its important to actively listen to them. Empathize with their situation, and work with them towards finding a solution that works for them.
By working quickly to address and resolve what their concern is, you have helped in enhancing their guest experience.
Listening and Communicating:
Be mindful when listening to a guests concerns. No matter how ridiculous their complaint may be, no matter how much you want to roll your eyes, its important to listen.
Try to fully understand what their complaint is. Ask questions to clarify if you don’t understand, and get all the necessary info you need. Remember that a lot of times its not even the front desk agents fault, but almost always the guest will come to the front desk first, and thats ok!
Some issues will require collaborating with other departments within the hotel or even outside companies. You want to have all the necessary information from the guest so that you can clearly communicate the situation to other departments, for example housekeeping or maintenance, or even the General Manager at times. Teamwork and coordinating with other departments helps to have a smooth and cohesive approach in your problem solving.
Once you have fully understood the situation and analyzed it, it’s time to figure out how to solve it.
Depending on what the situation is, you may have to evaluate available resources, hotel policies, consult with other managers or departments and come try to figure out potential solutions.
Sometimes a guest's concern is not so black and white. Sometimes as a front desk agent you will need to think outside the box for a creative solution. You may need to suggest room changes, or offer complimentary amenities and upgrades or coordinate with other departments. Whatever it may be, make sure that these options still align with hotel policies and the guest expectations.
Some guests are really going to test your patience. Most guests will approach you with kindness and respect, but unfortunately there are some bad apples out there, or maybe they are having a bad day and this one incident is the final straw, and they may be coming at you with anger and fiery darts.
No matter the reason , remember to stay calm.
You are essentially the face of the hotel at the moment. By staying calm and professional you are upholding the hotel's image. Guests are more likely to hold a positive view of the hotel if they are working with a front desk agent who is calm and respectful.
If you are encountering a guest who is upset and demanding, by staying calm you can hugely help de-escalate tense situations. It's not always easy when you have someone coming at your upset. But try to develop strategies to manage your own emotions and reactions. Take breaths if you need to, maintain a friendly face and tone of speaking. Remember that ultimately you are in control in that situation, if you need to take a second to take a breath or to think of a response, do it.
More than you realize, when you respond calmly and kindly to a guest, they also will calm down. If you are calm and professional, it will build their trust that you will take care of this situation.
Guest Service skills
Beyond the day to day front desk operations of running a hotel, the ultimate success of your hotel operations will be based on how good your guest service is.
Excellent guest service is the key factor in the hospitality industry. Its like having a great sports car, it can be the fanciest car around, have all the bells and whistles, but you are not fully going to enjoy it unless you have a key to get it going.
So no matter how beautiful your hotel is, no matter what amenities it offers or how great the location is, if you don’t provide excellent guest service, your hotel will not be successful, guests will not enjoy it to its fullest potential, nor will they want to return.
That being said, let's go over a few helpful tips on how to cultivate great guest service skills.
Positive Guest Interactions
Always greet guests with a genuine smile and a warm welcome as they approach the front desk. Make them feel valued and appreciated from the moment they arrive. Be sure to use open and inviting language. Smile naturally and genuinely when interacting with them, maintain eye contact, and actively listen to them.
Don’t be on autopilot mode where you have your same three greeting with all guests but have not actually listened to their answers. If you asked them how their trip was, and they said “it was brutal, our flight was delayed 3 hours and the airline lost our luggage ” and you responded with “Great, well we are excited you are here”. You may as well just pour salt in a wound, because you have now set the stage that you are not listening to them, nor do you care what they have to say.
Give the guests your full attention when listening, and be engaged in the conversation, show empathy when needed and celebrate with them when they are excited. Your positive attitude will most likely be contagious for the hotel guest and it start them off on a great welcoming hotel experience.
Your communication skills can really make or break a guest interaction, so make sure to communicate clearly with a guest. Use language that the guest can understand, don’t use too technical of terms or slang. Be mindful of your word choices and tone of how you speak. Once a guest has checked in they should know clearly the policies for the hotel and the hours of operation within the hotel.
So make sure you are also well informed about the hotel information, events in the area, and hotel services so that you can provide accurate details.
Be attentive to the Guests
Everyone loves to hear their own name, so be sure to use the guests name whenever possible. Being personal with the guests shows that you value them here at the hotel, and how important they are. Always be attentive to guests’ needs and requests, anticipate even in advance what they might need, before they even ask.
If you know the guests have small children, inform them about child friendly activities in the areas, or let them know how early coffee is served in the lobby if they have had a rough night. Stay in communication with a guest during their stay, if you know they had plans to see a local event, ask them how they enjoyed it the next day if they are walking through the lobby.
Be prompt to a guest's needs. Aim to resolve any guest issues or guests’ needs in a timely manner, this shows your commitment to their satisfaction and that their satisfaction is of the utmost importance to you. Once something has been resolved be sure to follow up the guest at check out, or if you happen to encounter them another day.
Collaboration With Other Teams
Effective teamwork will be a huge asset to your role working at the hotel front desk. Even though a hotel consists of many different departments, its important to maintain a good relationship with all departments within the hotel. You all need each other to be successful in your departments.
Teamwork with other departments enhances efficiency, guest satisfaction, knowledge sharing, support, flexibility, learning, stress management, and overall work culture. By fostering a collaborative and supportive team environment, front desk agents can deliver exceptional service and create memorable experiences for hotel guests.
Team work on the front desk
In the event of an unexpected circumstance, front desk agents will need to rely on each other as well. For example if you are dealing with one of these angry guests I spoke about earlier, you may need another front desk clerk to step in and help with the situation.
Also, as team members you can help encourage and affirm each other when you are having a bad day. This can help strengthen your team's ability to handle any situation and maintain a high level of guest service when you can confidently know that you have each other's backs!
Each front desk agent brings their own unique skill and strength. Fostering a good sense of teamwork will allow your team to provide incredible customer service to the guest and be able to address a wider range of issues effectively. When front desk staff and front office managers work together well, they begin to create a supportive and positive work atmosphere.
This will help with better communication, cooperation, and friendship among the team. This positive work culture will not only improve the employee morale on the front desk but will spread to other departments and be key in better guest interactions and guest service outcomes!
Teamwork with other departments.
When different departments within the hotel operations are working well together, they are providing a seamless guest experience. If the front desk is communicating effectively with housekeeping, maintenance, food & beverage and concierge, guest requests and issues can be communicated accurately.
For example if a VIP guest has been traveling a long time and they have young children and have requested an early check in; a front desk agent can communicate that to the housekeeping department who will then try to make that guest's room their first priority to clean for that day.
Some guest issues may require multiple departments, this is why effective teamwork, communication and camaraderie are so important in the workings of a hotel. The other departments should be seen as your ally.
You all work together to complete the mission of a guest having a seamless and relaxing stay!
Finally, Don’t Forget To Have Fun!
Although working a front desk can seem daunting and a lot of work, it still can be a lot of fun.
When you are having fun while working you are communicating a lot to those around you. Remember, you can still be professional and have fun. Not only will you be fostering a positive work environment for your teammates, but you are creating memorable experiences for your guests!