Understanding The Power of the Front Desk
So your property has a leak in the plumbing which leaves half your rooms without water. The hotel is in dire need of new wallpaper. The front neon sign is malfunctioning and the restobar next door just put a blockade on the road to your property! Sounds like a bad business day, right?
It doesn’t have to be. All these things can be mitigated. And if you play your cards right, they won’t even have to be a bad thing; as long as your front desk does a good job.
Little do most owners know that the lovely face you put at the front desk isn’t just for show. These people hold a very important role in the customer service experience process and evaluation. If you’re not investing in this foothold, then you’re losing out on more than just a set of bad wallpapers and plumbing.
A good front desk associate can help you overcome bad plumbing, dilapidated wallpaper, and even roadblocks just by saying the right things and flashing the right smile. The question is, are your front desk personnel aware of how good they’ve got it? Here are a few ideas on what to look for in a front desk staff.
Great Qualities in Front Desk Personnel
Travelling the Extra Mile
Ask any Customer Service-oriented trainer or person; this is the meat of the issue. The delight factor, the customer smiles, the commendations, and the high ratings all stem from the fact that someone on the team was going the extra mile. But what constitutes this mysterious quality?
To better explain that, it’s best to take a look at what DOES NOT look like taking the extra mile. Do you have people that only go within the confines of their tasks and responsibilities? These are the people that usually say “that’s outside my line of duty” when you ask them to do something. If you have people that exhibit this quality, they have to be trained PRONTO.
You simply cannot have people unwilling to go out of their roles to help customers and guests running around the lobby and interacting with your primary source of income. They’ll just be ruining the experience. Great customer service comes from people going above and beyond what is expected of them to make other people comfortable and happy. If you can’t train people who don’t have that quality, then they’re a liability.
You’ve probably heard of this term during discussions of BPO agents trying to get good satisfaction ratings from their callers. You’ll be surprised to know that this idea doesn’t just apply over the phone. It’s present anywhere there is customer interaction with your front-liners.
At its very core, empathy pertains to our innate talent to understand where someone else is coming from. It’s free from personal bias or preference; a genuine leveling and calibration of understanding and emotions between you and the customer.
No, it’s not rocket science. If your guest arrives at 1am from a 14-hour flight, you know they’re exhausted. All these people want to do is call it a day and get started on that nap they’ve been yearning. The last thing they want is someone pestering them about their preferences.
“Hi there! How was the flight? Did you have a good time? How long will you be staying? Will you be having dinner?”
Asking all these questions (which is a natural part of the job admittedly) may not be in the best interest if the customer just wants to rest.
“Welcome! I know you’re tired. Let me take care of everything for you. Allow me to summon a bellboy to carry your things. I hope you rest well!”
Doesn’t that sound better? Empathy just means being able to see the state the customer is in and act accordingly to those findings. Are they tired? Grabbing them a chair or lifting their bags for them goes a long way. Are they excited upon arrival? Highlighting your activities and attractions is sure to double up on their emotions.
As easy and as doable as that sounds, it’s a rare quality to find in some people. On top of that, it’s hard to incorporate through training! If you’re going to put people at the front desk, these people have to know people the only way people know people; that requires a certain degree of sensitivity that comes automatically with a little empathy.
Surprised to see a top-tier business sense being deemed necessary in a front-liner at the desk? You may not know it yet, but being able to make educated guesses about the future is absolutely necessary when it comes to dealing with your customers. Take this example into perspective.
By some poor twist of fate, your guest is arriving late from a delayed flight which has caused them much frustration. They’re not frustrated at the hotel, though, but their vacation is off to a bad start. They’ve just touched down from the airport and are stuck in traffic. That’s more bad news.
Continuing this train of events, your front desk staff also realized that the front portion of the hotel is undergoing maintenance. Driving through the front is impossible and the customer would have to circle round back to the rear entrance of the hotel.
Without foresight, your desk personnel wouldn’t be able to intercept the car and give the driver a heads-up. Without foresight, your desk personnel would have to subject the customer to extended travel in traffic which includes your hotel on the list of things that pissed off your customer.
There will be unforeseen things that will happen on a day to day basis. The people you put in front have to be able to anticipate and see these things coming from a mile away. It will save you a lot of trouble and one-star ratings.
Grace Under Fire
It’s easy to smile about and still be chipper when things are going well. Great customer experiences are easy when the customer is already happy to begin with. But what if you just got a bad rating and a queue of angry customers at the front desk? Are you sure your front liner will stay happy all throughout those encounters?
Being able to remain calm, collected, and dedicated, despite reasons not to, is a heaven-sent capacity. Treasure the people in your team that have this talent. They will be the rock on which everyone else clings to when things go rough.
When things are extremely busy and the requests and demands are ringing off the clock, you’re definitely going to need someone who can maintain a level, clear-thinking head that can stay on top of things along with you.
In addition to being calm, they also have to be able to project the image of composure in the face of panic. Remember, they have to look good and accommodating no matter what. When was the last time you saw your front desk personnel flash their pearly whites?
Here’s a tip for the struggling receptionist. To produce the perfect smile, just say the word “eight” or “brush”. The muscles required for these words are the same ones involved with photo-shoot quality smiles that models use all the time. Teach this to your receptionists and watch them boost your sales.
A Tourist’s Heart
What better person to deal with travelers than one who loves to travel? Now it’s easy for any employee to say that they like travelling. It’s another thing to prove it with knowledge. This is what this point is all about.
You shouldn’t have to ask your front desk personnel to do research on the area in which your business runs. That knowledge and know-how has to come automatically with the job. The people dealing with your guests have to be knowledgeable about the area.
When your regulars come down to the lobby for a night out, they should be relying on your staff for suggestions as to where to eat, drink, play, and party! Like it or not, your receptionists aren’t just acting as ambassadors of your hotel. They’re also ambassadors of the locality in which you find yourself.
You can’t get that kind of expertise from someone that’s forced to know them. You want to get that expertise from someone that loves to know them. Your people should be experts on the local bars, restaurants, specialties, attractions, and even transport routes. Remember, your customers will be looking to them for information of the locality. A poor representative in those cases reflects a very poor consideration for the needs of the customer. That leads to poor ratings and your business going next door for what they need.
This can’t be stressed enough. The job is demanding; if taken seriously. If your personnel are aware that the happiness and the convenience of the customer is king, then they know that achieving that takes an incredible amount of effort.
Fortunately, people that understand this need are easily identifiable. They’re the people that don’t fuss with their phones on the job. The same people that are willing to leave the security of the desk just to help that elderly lady get through the stairs. Also the people that have an umbrella, aspirin, towel, broom, and first aid kit at the ready just in case something happens.
If you really want your hotel business to fly through the roof, you’re going to want someone that’s already hitting the ceiling with their energy and willingness to perform.
To bring that out in your people, recognize their efforts. Make them want to feel good about being a delight to your customers.
And that kind of energy shouldn’t just be a one-time deal. It has to be a consistent commitment that has to be maintained throughout the whole day (or at least the length of their shift).
Effort from the Hotel As Well
But of course, even if the job of first impressions falls unto your staff, there are some things that you can do from the sidelines to help tip the weights in favor of your front liners.
You’re going to want to make sure that there is always someone at the front desk. That’s a non-negotiable for any hotel business. While booking and visiting hours may have limitations, customer needs and emergencies don’t stop after 5. Having someone at the desk even at the wee hours in the morning will show your customers that they are your priority and you’re willing to invest in their peace of mind.
Never underestimate the power of food. Snacks come in handy. Did you know that research has shown that people are more receptive to persuasive messages when they’re eating and drinking?
Enable your staff to offer water, coffee, juice, and even welcome treats to guests that have no choice but to wait in the lobby. You don’t need to have a buffet in the lobby if you’re not that extravagant. But you don’t want to do that just to keep your impatient guests quiet.
You want to have these things because it shows your guest that you are aware waiting isn’t nice, and you’re prepared to make the wait as comfortable as possible.
This holds especially true for the façade and front of the house. This is the first thing that your customers see. If their welcome is ruined by rain, hail, snow, sleet, or even a little more sun that you asked for, you have to be ready.
Keeping a coat or two at the bay as well as a set of umbrellas and boots will empower your people to meet your guests under any weather condition. That sort of gesture says a resounding “we’re happy to have you!” regardless of the weather report.
To wrap it up…
The above-mentioned tips and qualities will make for the perfect reception package. With these elements at your disposal, you can weather through almost any kind of business challenge because you have the backing of your satisfied and loyal guests that have been charmed by your staff and business practices.