Ms. Gioia

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

"Welcome to our Hotel" Front Desk Tactics that Engage Guests and Employees and Reduce Complaints

By Joyce Gioia, CEO, Employer of Choice, Inc

The Front Desk is your front line for guest services. Most hotels do a very good job training their front desk people to be cordial. They understand the opportunity... and the liability. At one time or another, we have all experienced walking into a hotel and receiving a luke-warm reception from the person behind the counter. When that happens, in my brain, I hear the words, "Oh boy, I'm in for a mediocre guest experience here―at best". In addition, not surprisingly, that less-than-optimum experience usually happens.

It is understood that the best Front Desk people should be warm and welcoming, yet often at smaller properties managers overlook the important step of training their people to be that way. After a long day of travel, dealing with the many increased hassles of air travel, no one wants to be met by a sullen expression and the words, "How can I help you", spoken in a tone that communicates the person wants to be anywhere, but there with you.

No Second Chances

"You never have a second chance to make a first impression." These words are especially true for hotel and restaurant properties. Besides the design of your façade and the décor of your lobby, it is the demeanor of your Front Desk personnel that set up the entire guest experience. When handled well, guests feel welcomed and happy about checking in. When handled poorly, they feel unhappy and neglected.

Some properties have their people make follow-up phone calls to confirm that the guests are happy with the accommodations. These calls just reinforce the level of caring exhibited by the property. Some guests find these phone calls annoying so the solution is to let the guests know that you will be calling. That way, if the calls are not welcome, your people will not have spent the time and effort to make them, nor will you have incurred the ire of your guests.

At the Hilton Hotel Sydney, Australia, there is a full-length mirror next to the employee door. Having a mirror next to the door is not so surprising, however surrounding the mirror are pictures of their team members in full uniform, looking sharp. This station is a brilliant way to spotlight some of your own associates and take a step to insure that they will all look up to your brand standard. It also contributes to your front desk associates making that excellent first impression. Moreover, when people know they look good, they feel better about themselves and are better able to be warm and gracious to guests.

Handle Problem Situations Right Away

Once upon a time, hospitality consultant David Jarrett was Front Desk Manager at the property that is now the Walt Disney Company's Shades of Green Golf Resort. The property had just installed a new telephone system, during the time that a major client had a conference there. Everything had gone very smoothly, until the last early morning, when the new system failed. For two hours, guests were unable to reach the front desk or any other extension to arrange for help with their luggage. "Any time you have a new technology, you need to plan for eventualities", said Jarrett. "Having an effective recovery plan is vital to good guest services; it's part of making sure you're taking care of guests' needs", he added. Extremely reliable equipment and services support your delivering the high levels of service that guests expect.

Go Down to the Front

Jarrett also urges Front Desk Managers to be there when people are checking in. It is what Trout and Ries (Marketing Warfare, McGraw-Hill, 2005) call "going down to the front" and it is the best way to see for yourself what is really happening at your Front Desk. When you are there in-person, you have an opportunity to personally experience the problems that your staff encounters, as well as observe any missed opportunities for enhanced guest services.

Furthermore, from Jarrett's point of view, "Superior service starts with the manager being right there to take care of [guest] needs". Thus, when problem situations arise, as they inevitably do, the front desk manager is there to handle the situation. It gives guests a higher sense of satisfaction to know that someone in authority is handling their issue.

Perceived Authority Works

And speaking of authority, the cruise ship lines have discovered an interesting quirk of human nature. "When front desk people wear uniforms, it reduces guest complaints and increases levels of satisfaction", said James Deering, hotel manager of Holland America Cruise Lines. He also noted that when a cruise line forgets this fact, it inevitably pays the price in complaints and passenger satisfaction scores. In reaction, the cruise line will go back to having their customer care people at the front desk wear uniforms.

When you think about it logically, any uniformed person enjoys a higher level of credibility and commands more respect than those in street clothes. Most hotel brands embrace the idea of their front desk people wearing uniforms; however, some downscale brands have allowed their people to wear street clothes or a simple combination like black pants and a white shirt. We suggest that you try this tactic and have them wear uniforms. Our guess is that you will never go back to street clothes again.

Make Work Fun

One of the characteristics of Employer of Choice® awardees is that their people have a good time at work. Some managers encourage this fun at work by holding events that engage both employees and guests. Some time ago, I visited The Hampton Inn in Winchester, Virginia. At that time, they were conducting a contest to determine which department could do the best job of decorating a door for the holiday. The team members got very creative and had a great time creating their beautiful designs; then both guests and employees voted. The winners earned a pizza party. This kind of healthy competition builds camaraderie and supports employees in having fun at work.

Another popular idea comes from the chain of restaurants called Bonefish Grill. This division of OSI, Inc. engages its servers, bartenders, and other employees by holding many types of daily contests, including testing them on information about wine and other beverages. Creating quizzes with important information you need your people to know, which allow people to win prizes, is a fun way to reinforce knowledge.

It All Starts with Adequate Training

Though hotel executives may be tempted to put their new reception hires on the desk right away, it is much more sensible to give the newbies in-depth training. Without sufficient training, they feel lost and stressed. While it is helpful to give them a trainer to look over their shoulders, there should be adequate training before that activity as well. On-the-job training without preparation will only annoy guests and cause trainees undue pressure.

Marriott provides its Front Desk trainees Compass Training, in-depth computer training for two weeks with another Front Desk associate. After that, the new employees cross-train for two to three days in each area by job-shadowing, including the bell-stand, "At Your Service", and concierge. After that, new employees are paired with an experienced Front Desk associate for their final, in-depth job-shadowing session at the Front Desk; thereafter, the experienced person shadows the new person. Before "graduating" to independent status, new employees must complete an "Overview Training Sheet", testing their front office hotel knowledge. Once they have passed this "test" they may work on their own.

Voice training is also recommended for Front Desk employees. The voice conveys a lot―confidence, competence, enthusiasm, and knowledge. When employees are well-trained with the knowledge and skills they need, they are more able to "put a smile in their voice", as The Disney Company teaches all its people to do.

At Marriott Hotels, they have a saying, "Take care of your associates and they will take care of the guests". It's very good advice, whether you are talking about Front Desk, Housekeeping, Engineering, or any other team members. Invest in your people and they will take very good care of your guests.

Joyce Gioia is a workforce futurist concentrating on relationship aspects of the future. This arena includes workforce and workplace trends, as well as consumer, education, and business-to-business trends. Ms. Gioia is also CEO of Employer of Choice, Inc, a distinction earned only by companies whose leadership, culture, and best practices attract, optimize, and hold top talent. Employers of Choice® enjoy "a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits". Ms. Gioia can be contacted at 336-210-3548 or joyce@hermangroup.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

SEPTEMBER: Hotel Group Meetings: Demand is Trending Up

Dan Berger

A decade ago futurists and armchair analysts were convinced that the internet would move face-to-face interactions online and therefore kill the meetings & events industry as we know it. Instead of joining together under one roof, we’d educate ourselves via webinars, make new connections exclusively over LinkedIn, and swap catered lunches for granola bars and iced-coffee at the office. So, what happened to this dystopia? Today, it’s evident that technology is having the opposite effect on events. We’re actually seeing that modern connectivity and social networking is driving higher demand for face-to-face interactions. In the past, we predicted that broadband would make in-person meetings redundant. READ MORE

Ben Premack

Meetings and events need not be designed around stuffy, windowless rooms involving information overload and ten-minute stretch breaks. These types of gatherings are neither engaging nor fun for anyone. Today, meeting planners want more than just a location; they want a flexible venue in a desirable destination which offers an array of amenities and add-ons for groups looking to make their out-of-office gathering one to remember, and even envied. Well thought-out and customized corporate meetings and events that feel more like a retreat can create new opportunities for employee growth, networking, and creative-thinking – all while boosting productivity and morale. READ MORE

Jim Vandevender

As hotels head into the fourth and final quarter of 2016, sales operations and revenue management teams are beginning to look toward next year. Budgets and marketing plans are beginning to be developed that hope to capture the lucrative high demand group market, drive RevPar and meet occupancy and ADR forecasts. But questions loom. Which segments will remain robust and fruitful? Will the high demand within corporate, for example, begin to ebb with the hotel construction pipeline in full swing supplying more and more inventory in most cities? What subsets within corporate group will continue to drive demand and which ones will be the new emerging provider of group room night opportunities? READ MORE

John Hess

Social responsibility enables a culture of caring within organizations in all sectors of business, including the financial services, manufacturing, and retail industries. At organizations of all sizes, from large Fortune 500 companies to small startups, individual team members find satisfaction in helping others and often appreciate the opportunity to do so, because acting with purpose provides a shared experience that is positive and contagious. As the groups business continues to evolve and sales professionals and corporate planners explore the latest bells and whistles, such as 3-D Selfie Stations, to get meetings attendees engaged and excited. READ MORE

Coming Up In The October Online Hotel Business Review


Feature Focus
Revenue Management: Measuring All Hotel Revenue Streams
Revenue Management is a dynamic and ever-evolving profession and its role is becoming increasingly influential within hotel operations. In some ways, the revenue manager's office is now the functional hub in a hotel. Primarily this is due to the fact that everything a revenue manager does affect every other department. Originally revenue managers based their forecasting and pricing strategies on a Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) model and some traditional hotels still do. But other more innovative companies have recently adopted a Gross Operating Profit per Available Room (GOPPAR) model which measures performance across all hotel revenue streams. This metric considers revenue from all the profit centers in a hotel - restaurants, bars, spas, conference/groups, golf courses, gaming, etc. - in order to determine the real gross operating profit per room. By fully understanding and appreciating the profit margins in all these areas, as well as knowing the demand for each one during peak or slow periods, the revenue manager can forecast and price rooms more accurately, effectively and profitably. In addition, this information can be shared with general managers, sales managers, controllers, and owners so that they are all aware of and involved in forecasting and pricing strategies. One consequence of a revenue manager's increasing value in hotel operations is a current shortage of talent in this field. Some hotels are being forced to co-source or out-source this specialized function and in the meantime, some university administrators are looking more closely at developing a revenue management curriculum as a strategy for helping the hospitality industry close this gap. The October issue of the Hotel Business Review will address these significant developments and document how some leading hotels are executing their revenue management strategies.