Front-desk team is crucial to hotel marketing
24 NOVEMBER 2015 7:11 AM
A hotel’s front-desk team serves as the first impression. How staff members interact with guests can set the tone for the entire stay.
The front-desk staff always has played an important role in the success of a hotel by creating positive first impressions. Nowadays, however, these staff members are key players in hotel marketing.
As everyone who has ever worked behind a front desk knows, guests’ experiences at registration set the tone for their entire stay. If things go well, such as if they are properly greeted and if they truly feel welcomed upon arrival, the rest of their stay tends to be positive. When something goes wrong later, they tend to be much more forgiving.
However, if they have a negative first impression two things happen. For one, they become hyper-critical during the rest of their hotel stay, looking for flaws like a white-gloved inspector checking for dust at the tops of the picture frames. Secondly, they get what I refer to as “bad guest karma.” In other words, the guest who has a bad experience at check-in literally attracts trouble from that point forward. Theirs is the only room that housekeeping forgets to clean; the only roomservice tray that gets delivered late and the only wake-up call that gets missed.
Back when I worked at the front desk we were told, “Be careful. An unhappy guest will tell nine to 10 others!”
When I first became a hotel industry trainer I used to make my participants calculate the potential for lost business if one unhappy guest caused us to lose 10 future bookings, and it was scary. In today’s world, we can add at least a few “zeros” after that “nine to 10” number. Here in the era of online guest reviews, what we used to call “bad word-of-mouth advertising” is now “word of click.” As a result, today’s guests can become our biggest advocates and apostles to spread the great news about their wonderful experiences, or they can become our worst nightmares.
Although all guest contact staff have the opportunity to create memorable experiences, the front-desk reception has the most significant impact as it creates the initial impression.
We hoteliers used to think of hotel marketing as being a separate department serving a specialized function, such as creating public relations campaigns and developing printed marketing collateral and eventually creating website content. Now the majority of potential first-time guests start their research at online guest review sites such as TripAdvisor, or they read the reviews posted at online travel agencies and metasearch websites. What they read there is perceived to be far more credible than what is published on the hotel’s website.
Therefore, training your front-desk team to become “positive first impression makers” is more important than ever before. Here are some front-training tips:
- Conduct pre-arrival planning at least 24 hours in advance. Review special requests and block rooms accordingly.
- Train your front-desk colleagues to review your arrivals list at the start of each shift. Looking for guest names that seem familiar will help you recognize many of them when they enter the lobby.
- Similarly, review the list of events taking place. Immediately recognizing events and being able to direct participants creates a positive impression for meeting planners and also attendees.
- Make sure all guests are greeted with proper and dignified welcoming remarks such as “Good afternoon,” “Welcome to the hotel; how may I assist you today?” and not with a raised eyebrow and nod, or curt remarks such as “Checkin’ in?” “Hi guys” or “Last name?”
- Ask for an ID in a friendly way and don’t make guests feel as if they have just been pulled over by the police for a traffic stop. (Example: “May I just see an ID to verify?” versus “I need to see your ID and a credit card.”)
- Likewise, make sure guests who compliment us by saying “Thank you” are responded to with dignified replies such as “You are most welcome” and not with “No problem.”
- When a reservation is missing, and when rooms are open, train your staff to first let guests know, “We do have rooms tonight, but I’m trying to locate your reservation. Do you have the confirmation number? Could it be under another name?” This will avoid causing them to panic.
- For full-service hotels, train the front desk to encourage guests to use a bell services staff member so that they can ensure everything is working properly in the room and that guests know how to operate the features, especially in newer high-tech guestrooms. Train the front desk to say, “Douglas, our bellman, will escort you to your guestroom…” and not to say “Did you need help with your luggage?” making them feel like the proverbial 98-pound weakling.
- Train your staff to anticipate needs in advance. No guest will be impressed when he or she asks for a basic item and it is delivered; however, guests will be impressed when services are voluntarily offered. (Examples; offer a wake-up call for guests checking in late; offer more towels for larger parties; offer a late check-out for guests staying one night who arrive after midnight.)
- Encourage the front-desk colleagues to welcome and acknowledge all members of the party, including the children and pets if applicable.
- If availability allows, asks guests if they prefer a particular location for their room. Some guests prefer to be at the end of the hallways away from the elevator for privacy while others prefer to be right next to the elevator for convenience.
Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly.
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