They’re the first and last faces guests see during their stay. They’re the voice behind most service calls. They accommodate special requests and mitigate issues. They’re even there before travel begins, helping individuals navigate reservation sites and answer pre-booking questions. These are your front desk workers, or what many managers consider the lifeblood of the guest experience.
As of last year, around 250,000 individuals were employed as hotel front desk workers—each holding enormous power to positively influence and improve the guest experience. Even in today’s digitally-driven age, research shows that good old-fashioned customer service goes a long way in reshaping negative impressions and building positive relationships.
Consider that 79 percent of customers believe their travel hassles could be made up for by exceptional customer service. Overall, 80 percent of customers say they’d rather have their travel experiences dominated by “authentic and sincere interactions” verses streamlined, automated service. When it comes to getting advice and resolving issues, 76 percent of customers still prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels.
Human interaction is clearly important for building guest relationships. The quality of this interaction, however, largely depends on the state of your associates. In many ways, the guest relationship and the employee relationship go hand-in-hand. So, how can hospitality leaders work to develop stronger relationships with their front desk workers? Here are two vital ways to factor in these guest-facing employees:
Visit some of today’s most popular job review sites and you’ll see that scheduling remains a huge unresolved issue, especially for front desk workers. Consider this real review left by a front desk worker in Oklahoma. The individual, a college student, writes: “I gave [my employer] a three-week advance on the date of my finals, which they said wouldn’t be a problem, yet they let me work before telling me I’d be fired for [tardiness] … because they had never submitted [my request] to HR.” Scheduling can be a stressor for any manager, especially when it comes to coverage of guest-facing employees. Regardless, you must prioritize the schedules of your front desk workers to ensure a healthy, ongoing relationship.
Get in the trenches
Truly, there’s no better way to build a relationship than by putting in time and effort when its least convenient. A “Manage By Walking Around” (MBWA) approach may seem time-consuming or outdated to some, but the truth remains that a grassroots approach will always be the most effective approach. Perhaps the best thing about MBWA is that it enables managers to really understand front desk workers. It gives them insight not only into these workers’ pain points and recurring issues, but also moments of greatness and accomplishments that deserve to be celebrated. Getting in the trenches allows managers to see front desk workers for who they are as individuals; how they interact, react and transact.
Research shows that hotel occupancy rates in the U.S. are currently at an all-time high since 1984. This means more guests entering your doors and interacting with your front desk workers. Are you confident in their ability to drive the guest relationship based on the one you’ve built with them? If not, there’s no better time than now to reevaluate your strategy.