How to Optimize Your Property’s Front Desk Operations

By Alex Gaggioli, November 11, 2016

The front desk is one of the busiest locations inside your hotel property. At some point, each guest will have to interact with your front desk staff throughout their visit. For some hotels, it’s extremely important and is a brand differentiator. Others want to make it as fast and efficient as possible. Often enough, however, it can become a bottleneck as it takes a set amount of time to check-in, check-out and help guests. Different types of hospitality properties use their front desks differently but there are a few things every business can do to optimize front desk operations no matter the property type or size.

Divide Front Desk Operations 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 special experiences. Depending on your property type and how you operate, the way you can make your front desk operations better 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.

So before you decide to optimize your front desk, it’s in your best interest to do an audit of what your customers want and what they expect of you and your property.

Create a Daily Checklist

Any smooth-running operation will have a daily checklist to manage their front desk. A list helps create a routine and keeps your staff accountable. Depending on how many staff 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 veteran employees who have been trained extensively over time, a checklist may just serve as a helpful reminder.

1. Compile a list of daily reports

There are six 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. 

2. Prepare for your incoming guests

Using your arrival report, prepare for guests who will arrive that day. Obviously arriving, departing, and continuous 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 operation throughout the day. It also helps with staffing and placing employees in the right place to ensure success.

Your arrivals report should include their 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!

3. 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 staff 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.

4. 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. 

5. 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 front desk operations accordingly.

6. Prepare list of daily tasks

Create a list of tasks your staff 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 ensuring online 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.

7. 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.

Train Your Staff

The best way to optimize your front desk staff is to properly train and support them. An empowered staff who can make decisions on the fly and respond to situations effectively will help keep your property running.

Each property has a unique way of checking in and out guests as well as dealing with common issues. Make sure you have a well-documented plan to train people on your operations. From the greeting information to the way rooms are assigned, each part of the process should be documented. We also suggest having a go-to person for problems and issues during different shifts, whether that’s the owner, manager, team lead, or senior employee.

Apply Changes Over Time

Another one of the most important parts of optimizing your front desk processes is to talk to your staff and make changes over time. Not every process will remain efficient over time, and it’s important to make necessary changes. As you implement new plans and track progress over time, 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 processes that drive it.

Top Tools for Front Desk Operations 

Managing a property in this day and age requires more sophisticated products and software. Managing several distribution channels, incoming bookings, your online reputation, customer questions, 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 front desk operations, give your employees the tools they need to handle reservations, check-ins, check-outs, guest requests, POS capabilities, etc. And of course, you can do all of this with a cloud-based property management system (Cloudbeds has one of those). Using excel spreadsheets or (worse) pen and paper, you not only put yourself at risk but dramatically slow down your daily activities. Many experts agree that the hotel of the future will rely on one software with combined functionalities. 

Conclusion

An efficient front desk will benefit your business in many ways. Both your staff’s day-to-day and your guests experience are dependant on it. From problem management to everyday tasks, it is important to take a dynamic look at how your property operates. Your people and the software that run your front desk operations are ultimately important to success.

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