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

By Joyce Gioia CEO, Employer of Choice International, Inc. | October 23, 2011

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 decor 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.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.