By Cloudbeds | Published in November, 2019
The front desk is one of the busiest locations inside your property. At some point, each guest will have to interact with your front office staff either online or in-person. For some hotels, hostels, apart-hotels, even vacation rentals, it’s a brand differentiator. All lodging businesses strive to make guests’ interaction with the front office as smooth and as efficient as possible but often enough, it can become a bottleneck. Different types of properties use their receptions differently but there are a few things every business can do to improve. In his article, we’ll see 5 ways to optimize front desk operations, no matter the property type or size.
First up, what are the main responsibilities of a hotel front office?
- Guest services such as check-in, check-out, room assignment, processing guest requests, room service
- Reservation-related tasks such as payment collection, invoice generation, upsells, and more
- Coordinating efforts with other departments such as housekeeping, maintenance, finance, and more
1. Divide Front Desk Tasks by Priority
Most check-in and front desk experiences are unique. Busy large hotels have to optimize for speed, while a smaller boutique hotel may optimize for a special experience. Depending on your property type and how you operate, the way you can manage front office operations will differ, and that’s important to keep in mind. Varying levels of service and different types of travelers will have different expectations for your property. Business travelers likely value speed, while leisure travelers expect more attention.
2. Create a Daily Checklist
Any smooth-running operation will have a daily checklist to coordinate daily activities. A list helps create a routine and keeps your staff organized. Depending on how many team members you have, it may or may not be helpful to have your employees check off and submit their checklists every day.
For example, if you run a hostel that employs volunteers and there’s high turnover, daily checklists may be essential. But, if you have experienced employees who have been trained extensively over time, a checklist may just serve as a helpful reminder.
- Compile a list of daily reports
There are over 10 different reports that we believe each property show complete on a daily basis. They include the room and tax report, shift audit report, departures report, arrivals report, housekeeping report, and the continuous report.
- Prepare for your incoming guests
Using your arrival report, prepare for guests who will arrive that day. Obviously, new and returning guests all require different processes that take different amounts of employee effort and time. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it, will help create a more smooth experience for everyone. It also helps with staffing and placing employees in the right place during busy periods.
Your arrivals report should include a guest’s name, room assignment, notes, and hopefully their projected arrival time. If the guest has special requests or requirements, make sure to address each issue before they arrive. Preparation is everything!
- Prepare for outgoing guests
To ensure that your departing guests have a smooth exit, know who and when each customer will leave. Depending on your check-out processes, it may take no effort from your staff or it may be more hands-on. If you accept express checkouts and don’t require guests to talk to your team before they leave, then make sure all accounts are settled before the end of the day. The last thing you want is for guests to leave the property with account balances.
- Know who your continuous guests are
Your in-house guests will likely require less time from your front desk staff than incoming and outgoing guests. While many may have questions or requests, the time you know you’ll need to spend with them is more variable.
- Make a list of daily events, activities, and holidays
Make a list of everything that may affect your property that day. From local events to national holidays to conferences, it’s important to be prepared for and adapt the front desk activities accordingly.
- Prepare a list of daily tasks
Create a list of tasks your team needs to complete every day that are a part of their normal routine, as well as extra tasks that may need to be completed. From checking reservations to answering reviews, potential customer emails, and questions. Depending on the size of your property, your employees may have a wide range of daily tasks or fairly specific ones.
- Prepare for the next day
And then after you’ve done all this, it’s time to do it all again: i.e prepare for the next day. Remember to include carryover tasks that weren’t completed during the day but need to be completed during the next.
3. Train Your Front Desk Staff Continuously
The best way to empower your front desk department is by providing continuous training and support. A motivated team can make decisions on the fly and respond to situations in a professional way. Make sure you have a well-documented plan to train people on your processes, as well as additional skills, such as client communication, time management, organizational skills, and more. We also suggest having a go-to person responsible for troubleshooting problems and issues during different shifts.
4. Apply Changes Over Time
Another one of the most important parts of optimizing your front desk’s job is to talk to your staff and make changes over time. Not every process will remain efficient forever, and it’s important to analyze and improve. As you implement new plans and track progress, you’ll find new and better ways to run your front desk. Your front desk is probably one of the highest traffic areas at your property, so it’s important to continually work on the good processes that drive it.
5. Use Top Software
Running a property in this day and age requires more sophisticated products and software. Managing several distribution channels, incoming bookings, customer service, guest communication, reviews, and other tasks, take a lot of work. Without the right tools, property owners are overwhelmed and put themselves at risk for overbookings and unhappy guests.
To optimize your hotel front desk office, give your employees the skills and tools they need to handle reservations, arrivals, departures, guest requests, POS capabilities, etc. And of course, you can do all of this with a cloud-based property management system. Using excel spreadsheets or pen and paper, you not only put yourself at risk but dramatically slow down your daily activities. Many experts agree that the hotel front office software of the future will combine functionalities for maximum efficiency.