As a hotelier, your aim is to make a positive impression on guests from the moment they walk through the door – and front desk operations play a vital part. If your front desk is inefficient, that can damage that first impression – and disrupt the guest experience through the entire stay. Every guest who stays at your property will have to engage with front-of-house staff at some stage, either face-to-face or online. If problems arise during the guests’ stay, they will contact the hotel front office to resolve them.
A well-oiled front desk team will be able to address any issues effectively. With so much activity during a typical day, efficiency is key to any successful front desk operation. If you don’t meet the standards that guests expect, bad reviews and lost revenue could follow. Therefore, you need to embrace all tools and processes available to you that can heighten the guest experience. Here are six ways for businesses to improve front desk operations.
How to improve your front desk operations
1. Know your guests inside out
Nothing enhances the guest experience more than knowing your guests. Keep track of their preferences. Firstly, practical things like if they have a favorite room or like an extra pillow, or whether they have any allergies or dietary restrictions. But even noncritical information, like the names of their pet, can really make an experience remarkable. Just imagine the look on the guest’s face when you ask her how Rex is doing? Always aim to make a guest feel like a VIP, and not just a room number.
Storing guest data in a property management system allows you to give your service the personal touch, and stand out from the competition. Mews PMS keeps a record of guest preferences and actions, which you can use to provide a customized experience. For example, allergies can show automatically in reports for F&B and housekeeping, whilst room preferences can appear in reservation reports and housekeeping.
Imagine a guest that likes a specific newspaper every morning. Just create a task in your PMS for someone to buy the newspaper every day during this guests’ stay, to ensure a unique guest experience.
Of course, you’ll also learn a lot about guests by talking to them. A minor gripe for one customer might be a major problem for another. For example, by making the effort to speak to guests, you might discover that some rooms have an issue with internet connectivity. The guests you speak to might not mind, but for the business guests arriving later that day – who depend on fast broadband – this could determine whether they give you a negative or glowing review.
2. Prioritize your tasks accordingly
The majority of check-in experiences are different. Boutique hotels might aim to be highly attentive, while larger hotels need to focus on speed. Because the front desk is the hub of the hotel, requests can come flooding in around the clock. If tasks are not prioritized and organized properly, every member of staff will face an uphill struggle.
Depending on the type of property you run and your working methods, the way you approach front office management will vary significantly. Consider the types of guests that usually visit your hotel. Different guests expect different things from hoteliers, and this should determine your front desk policies. Leisure travelers want to feel at home, whereas business travelers tend to value efficiency.
3. Offer regular training to your staff
The most effective way to prepare your front-desk team for any eventuality is to provide regular support and training. Empowered staff members make quick decisions confidently, and react to unfolding events professionally. Ensure that you have a clear plan to deliver training on basic processes, along with extra skills – like time management, customer communication and organization.
Produce an operations manual for the front-desk that clearly explains the best practices and roles for your team. Because many hotel managers and owners lack the time for face-to-face training, train an employee to do this task or hire a professional trainer. In addition, for each shift, it’s wise to delegate a staff member as the main person in charge of resolving problems.
When documenting procedures, think practically. Define what’s essential and what’s a nice to have, so that during busy times your front desk staff don’t waste vital time. For instance, what’s the information you need to give at every check-in? And what’s optional? The kind of details that you can pass on if you feel the guest isn’t in a rush to get to their room?
Use information from reviews. If you see the name of certain receptionists in a lot of positive reviews, study their best practices and implement them in your manual. Or use a front office meeting to let this staff member run through a check-in so your team can learn from them. There are product experts within your reception team, so don’t be afraid to let them run the training. And don’t forget to keep learning yourself. Attend webinars by your hospitality tech providers as they constantly develop new tools that you can use to improve your front office operations.
4. Learn about the local area
One of the strongest elements of Airbnb is the local guide aspect. Guests are often looking to live like a local. But there’s no reason why you can’t facilitate exactly the same experience. Each team member should have enough knowledge to be able to recommend shops, restaurants, leisure activities and local attractions.
You can deliver an even better concierge service by creating a tourist guide featuring popular suggestions. You could also provide discounts and coupons for local hotspots and offer to make bookings for guests. Most people appreciate these little touches and will likely repay you with repeat business.
5. Harness the power of technology
Modern hotel management requires advanced software products. Dealing with incoming reservations, multiple distribution channels, guest communication/support, reviews and more takes a lot of effort. Without the correct tools, hoteliers are underprepared and could end up overbooking rooms and alienating guests.
A good hotel front office software gives your team everything they need to succeed. You can attach customized and automated tasks to bookings to track tasks and satisfy guests. You can email payment requests to guests from within the software and be alerted upon payment/expiration. Guests can also avoid reception queues and check in on their own, using a tablet or with the assistance of a team member. Better still, you can read messages from colleagues and guests in one place, using the housekeeping app, virtual concierge, or in-platform.
6. Embrace automation
Although you don't want to rush guests through check-in, you should work quickly to respect their precious time. Undoubtedly, a fast, efficient service will keep your customers happy. Guests can arrive at your hotel at any time of day or night. There should be someone manning the front-desk constantly, so that guests don't have to wait long for assistance. Deal with requests for pillows, towels, etc promptly, without undue delays.
Are there some tasks you’re performing repeatedly that don’t add any value to the guest experience? Look for ways to automate them so you can save precious time, allowing you to spend more time on your guests. Are you always looking for the same report and forwarding it to another person or department? See if you can automate them. Do you send emails throughout the different stages of the guest journey to improve upselling and the guest experience? See if you can automate them.
Payments are one of the biggest, most impactful areas where automation can mean big improvements for your front desk operations. Why make a guest wait around in reception making manual credit card payments? There are so many tasks that you’re doing over and over that you can automate, resulting in less boredom for your staff, greater efficiency, and much more time for your guests.
The quality of your front desk operations is measured by two standards: if you can meet the expectations of your hotel’s brand, and if you can live up to the expectations of your guests. To do so, you first need to set out your standard and identify your guests. Use that as a roadmap to create internal procedures, and use technology to help you in these endeavors. The correct property management system, like Mews, can be a powerful tool to increase your front-desk efficiency.
If you still use hand-written records or excel spreadsheets, you’re hindering your activities every day and exposing your business to avoidable risks. With Mews, you can reduce check-in queues at reception with self-service kiosks featuring integrated payment options. It’s also easy to manage the access rights of users to safeguard customer data and retain operational control.
Automation will decrease errors and free up time for you and your staff to focus on guests. By keeping information centralized, you can see that info at a glance, when and where you need it, making the guest feel important and creating a bond with your hotel brand. This will help turn them into a frequent guest and brand ambassador. Moreover, a happy guest tends to spend more, so your ADR will increase alongside your guest review ratings. Don’t take our word for it: check our customer success stories, or even better, book a demo with one of our experts and we’ll show you how to improve your hotel front desk operations.
10 February 2021
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