It’s time to increase pay for front-desk staff
It’s time to increase pay for front-desk staff
23 DECEMBER 2015 7:14 AM
Unless your hotel has already done so, it is definitely time to consider increasing the pay for our front-desk colleagues. Here’s why.
As frequent readers of my monthly HNN column know, I often write about the important role of your front-desk team in creating positive guest experiences and generating additional revenues.
When I addressed this topic in last month’s article about how the front-desk staff is now part of hotel marketing and public relations, I received yet another comment from a reader asking a question I often get after such columns: “Don’t you think it is time to start paying our industry’s invaluable front-desk staff more?”
Having been a hotel trainer specializing in front-desk and front-of-house training for more than 20 years, I have been asked this question often and have been hesitant to answer it directly, as no one wants to be the first to advocate for an additional expense on the profit and loss reports. Maybe I am just getting bolder with the years, but when you take a realistic look at how the role of the front-desk staff has evolved, I am now comfortable with replying with a resounding, “Yes!” 
Unless your hotel has already done so, it is definitely time to consider increasing the pay for our front-desk colleagues. 
When one takes an objective look at how the role of the front-desk “clerk” has evolved over the years, and compares it to the changes in pay scale, it is clear to see that the impact of their performance has outpaced their compensation. 
When we journey back in time, the role of the front desk was more of an administrative or clerical position. Main priorities were establishing credit upon registration, assigning rooms and tallying the guests’ charges during their stay. Even then the role was extremely important and, had I more courage at the time, I probably should have advocated for higher wages even back then. 
However, in recent years the evolution of technology has increased the importance of the front-desk team’s job. Now, they have a significant impact on both the top-line revenues and bottom-line profitability of the hotel.
Consider the following:
  • Whereas in the past we were told that an unhappy guest will tell nine or 10 others and a happy guest will tell five to six, today’s guests can be our biggest advocates and apostles if their experience is extremely positive. Alternatively, if the experience is a negative one, today’s guest can become our worst nightmares with the proliferation of online guest reviews and social media postings. (Read: “Front-desk team is crucial to hotel marketing”)
  • With so many guests booking online, the front-desk staff has the biggest opportunity to upsell guests at registration, thus adding significant revenues straight to the bottom line. (Read: “How to implement a rooms upselling program”)
  • As the costs of customer acquisition continue to grow with the increase in bookings through third-party channels, the front-desk staff has a huge opportunity for “channel conversion” to encourage those who booked elsewhere to book directly next time. (Read: “Be proactive in encouraging direct bookings”)
  • Depending on the type of hotel and its location, the front-desk staff has numerous direct sales opportunities such as capturing walk-ins, securing return reservations and fielding “after hours” leads for group sales and catering. (Read: “Front-desk staff as a distribution channel”)
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the relationships your front-desk staff establishes with your existing guests truly make your hotel feel like the “home away from home” that hoteliers always have looked to establish. At the end of the day, having the most innovative in-room technology and most trendy amenities is nice, but it is still the people behind the desk that create guest loyalty. (Read: “People are still No. 1 key to hospitality”)

Factoring in all the opportunities that have emerged in recent years to directly capture more bookings, reduce distribution costs, foster positive “word of click” online reviews and social media postings, and create guest loyalty, if your hotel has not reviewed the pay scale for your front-desk colleagues now is the time to do so.
On the surface, this will seem like an additional cost that no one wants to be the first to push for. Yet, when you consider just the hard costs of turnover alone, it starts to make sense. Direct costs include posting the job opening on websites such as Monster or CareerBuilder, lost management time in screening resumes, contacting prospects, interviewing, onboarding paperwork and the cost of new uniforms. Then the hard costs of at least two weeks payroll to cover their new hire training before they can carry a full shift on their own. 
Add to that the value of having your guests be recognized by the same front-desk superstar when they enter the lobby, and top it off with direct revenues that can be generated by an inspired colleague who capitalizes on revenue opportunities. If you do all of this, a pay scale change starts to make sense pretty quickly.
If you don’t have the budget …
That being said, I recognize that some hotel managers come up against a proverbial brick wall when advocating for an increase in base hourly pay. If that is the case, perhaps you can at least win your fight for higher compensation by getting various incentives approved. Here are a few examples of incentives that directly affect profits:
Incentivize for: 
  • upselling guests to a higher-rated accommodation at check-in;
  • securing a return reservation at departure and thus decreasing distribution costs;
  • channel converting a guest who booked previously through an online travel agency to booking the next stay directly;
  • capturing a walk-in;
  • if you take reservations inquiry calls at your front desk, for converting an inquiry call into a confirmed reservation;
  • having your name mentioned in an online guest review;
  • team incentive for improving ranking on TripAdvisor; and
  • cross-selling hotel services such as dinner reservations, spa or recreation.

Of course, increasing compensation for your front-desk superstars is only part of the equation. We as human beings also are motivated by a positive physical and psychological work environment, opportunities for career advancement and perhaps most importantly by recognition for a job well done. However, the most fundamental reason we all come to work every day is to achieve the paycheck we need to support ourselves and our families. 

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 or email him directly.   
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.


  • Shawn G. December 29, 2015 3:19 AM

    Great points. Well done Doug.

  • Gerald January 1, 2016 7:20 AM

    Amazing. All I usually see on this site are people advocating against raising wages - bravo.

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