Duties of Front Office Staff
Why Front Office Nerve Center of Hotel Industry?
A hotel`s front office department is situated at the front of the hotel and is responsible for bookings and sales of hotel rooms through the systematic methods of reservation, registration, and assigning of rooms. The front office department can also be described as a hotel`s showcase window as it reflects a hotel`s image (Ahmad & Scott, 2014). A hotel`s front office holds primary importance in the view of a hotel`s essential nature of business i.e. selling of rooms. Thus, the front office department is designed to reserve, receive, allocate rooms, and register guests as well as act as a source of information to guests during their hotel stay. Other essential functions of the front office department include settling a guest account, preparation of guest history card, providing guest services, airport pick-up, luggage handling, etc.
The front office of a hotel is the "Nerve Center" where all the messages and information are communicated to different persons and agencies. This essay describes why the front office of a hotel is its nerve center and it begins by explaining the duties and importance of the front office staff that makes the department so crucial, followed by the skills needed by the team to make the department a success.
The staffs of the front office department are the organization`s primary contact with the public. The staff members handle a variety of tasks that include reservations, greeting guests on arrival, registering new guests, dispensing keys, managing incoming and outgoing emails, providing information, listening to complaints, taking messages for guests, and handling check-out procedures when guests depart. The front office department may employ the following personnel; front office manager, assistant front office manager, front desk representatives, cashiers, telephone operator, reservationists, night auditor, porter service, concierge, bell captain, and key clerk. The duties of these personnel give the department its importance.
As described by Andrews (2013), the front office manager has a broad range of responsibilities that include maintaining a high-efficiency level among the front office staff, making effective decisions regarding room assignments and reservation policies, and handling complaints and guest problems with tact and courtesy. Besides, the manager needs to maintain an open communication channel with all other hotel departments. The front office manager also prepares shift assignments and weekly work schedules, assigns duties to staff members, and holds periodic staff meetings to make sure that staff members adhere to and understand hotel operating procedures and policies. Moreover, the manager may also train and hire new employees, as well as periodically review the performance of all staff members (Prayag & Hosany, 2015; Reichel, Fuchs, Pizam, & Poria, 2014).
Furthermore, it is a front office manager`s duty to define and set reservation policies and quotas with the goal of ensuring there is maximum room occupancy. The manager needs to observe guest arrivals, departures, and cancellations as well as set policies regarding early arrivals, no-shows, and over bookings. The front office manager also deals with clients and takes corrective actions with the needs of special guests and when complaints or problems arise. Other guest communications duties for front office managers may include welcoming important guests, and providing information on hotel facilities, services, and policies (Rao & Sahu, 2013).
The Front Office Manager
Besides, the front office manager is required to regularly confer with the sales and marketing department for updates on potential peak periods, billing arrangements, and individual group reservations. Besides, the manager also needs to maintain contact with the accounting department in regards to special billing requirements and problems as well as the housekeeping staff on issues about room status. Lastly, the front office manager should regularly prepare written reports on the progress and activities of the front office for review by the directors.
The assistant front office manager is responsible for the coordination of front desk operations. The manager may monitor payments and guest accounts and authorize special procedures and checks in addition to training new front office personnel. Moreover, the assistant front office manager may also assist the front desk staff during peak periods. Other duties of an assistant manager include preparing daily room occupancy forecasts and reviewing reservations for the current day (Khairizam, Azmi, & Ahmat, 2013).
Bonfanti, Vigolo & Negri (2016) indicate that the front desk representatives communicate the hotel`s personality to guests more efficiently than any other staff member. Front desk representatives also make guests feel welcomed and immediately respond to problem or complaints. In addition to working directly with hotel guests, the desk agents have a significant role in assigning rooms as well as maintaining the occupancy to maximum levels.
Besides, the front desk representative checks credit identification and authorization, verifies reservation information, assigns rooms and dispenses room keys when hotel guests arrive. The front desk representative is also responsible for notifying the bell captain or summoning a bell attendant to transport the luggage of guests. Other duties consist of providing information about policies and facilities and handling requests of special guests, such as gift purchases, photocopies, and so forth. They may also be required to handle reservation requests or telephone calls, or to direct calls to the switchboard or reservations department. Guest communications duties include sorting guest mail, stamping, taking guests` messages and sending telex or fax documents. When a guest wishes to depart, the front desk representative calls a bell attendant to transport luggage to the lobby, and he/she prepares and arranges the check of the guest. Other duties of the front desk representatives include reviewing reservations, checking rooms, and communicating with the housekeeping department regarding room needs and occupancy forecasts.
Night auditors have dual roles which include performing the duties associated with front desk representatives at night as well as other bookkeeping functions such as preparing balance reports. The shift of a night auditor usually runs for 8hrs from 11 p.m to 7 a.m. When there is slack in the front desk activities, the night auditor is tasked with the responsibility of tracking or auditing the postings of previous transactions in an attempt to verify their accuracy. The night auditor also calculates the charges incurred by guests and owed to the hotel during the previous business day. The total payments received from guests during the day are subtracted from the hotel`s total charges to establish the daily balance which represents the amount still owed to the hotel for the transactions of the previous day (Batini?, 2014).
Assistant Front Office Manager
The primary duty of a front desk cashier is posting charges, checking out departing clients, verifying the checks of the guests and handling payments. In some circumstances, the management may also require cashiers to assist other front desk staff members in the performance of their duties. At some hotels, front desk representatives handle the functions of a cashier as well as guest registration. But at some other hotels, the front office staff is highly specialized. Front desk receptionists, for instance, may be responsible for greeting arriving guests, registering guests and checking reservations while cashiers are only responsible during check-outs to receive payments (Inkaew, 2016).
Furthermore, the cashier may also calculate the guests` charges and present the checks. The front office manager usually supervises the front desk receptionists. Despite the fact that cashiers work at the reception, they are considered to be part of the accounting department and therefore are managed by the accounting manager. Besides, the cashier is also responsible for the performance of other routine front office duties like coordinating room status reports, handling guest communications, and sorting emails (Inkaew, 2016; Kim, Knutson, & Han, 2015; Lee, Teng, & Chen, 2015).
A hotel reservationist is a fundamental part of operations in a hotel. The reservationist gives guests their first impression of the services and values of a hotel at the reservation. As a result, reservations agents must be well-informed, courteous, and educational. A reservationist`s primary duty is to rent hotel rooms to guests. The agent must also conquer any objections of the guests. Hotel managers are responsible for providing rules so that the reservationist agents will know specifically what to say if the guests accept or resist the deals. The instructions may come in a script form that must be uncertainly followed. A reservationist is also a person that reserves tickets, events or makes preparations regarding travel arrangements. Reservationists also use skills of customer service to help people. The reservationist agent books tickets, events or online arrangements in person or by phone. They also meet the customer`s needs and produces customer confirmations to the best of their ability. Besides, the reservationists are also responsible for contacting customers when a termination is submitted (Boz, Yilmaz, Arslan, & Koc, 2016; Boonpektrakul, 2014).
Boonpektrakul (2014) explains that a phone operator`s principal duty is transferring of external calls from the hotel to the guest rooms. Operators have to accomplish this without giving out a hotel`s room number. In spite of the fact that telephone operators may not meet face-to-face with hotel guests, they play an important role to the guest on behalf of the hotel. For this situation, a polite and friendly voice tone is critical. A telephone operator`s duties include answering incoming calls and straight calls to guest rooms.
A porter or hotel bellhop greets visitors once they check into a hotel. Porter`s are responsible for carrying the luggage of guests as they show them to their rooms (Lee & Ok, 2016). Moreover, they ensure that everything in the room is properly working and in order by checking room equipment, such as ventilation and lighting. Hotel bellhops also instruct visitors regarding the hotel systems operation, such telephones or the television remote control.
Front Desk Representatives
The concierge is a front office professional in charge of coordinating the entertainments, travel and other activities of guests. The concierge also finds answers any time guests have questions, such as directions to places of interest. Besides, they can order car services, make restaurant reservations and may also arrange guests` personal shopping. The concierge also provides guests with extensive information on tours, transportation, entertainment, church services, sports, and amusements in the area. The concierges must confidentially know the area and be able to meet the guests` individual needs. This person also makes restaurants reservations and obtains theater tickets. Usually, the concierge can be found at a desk in the hotel lobby (Boz, Yilmaz, Arslan, & Koc, 2016).
Together with door attendants and a staff of bellhops, the bell captain provides a foundation for any lodging establishment. The duties of a bell staff begin where the computerized hotel management system stops. They are the people who tote and lift the baggage, run errands, familiarize the guest with the new surroundings, deliver supplies, and provide the guest with information on local attractions and in-house marketing efforts. These people are the hospitality link between the guest and lodging establishment and are an asset to a well-run hotel establishment as they make the guests feel special (Lee & Ok, 2016).
Key clerks are usually found in large and full-service hotels that lack electronic key systems. The clerks are responsible for issuing keys to confirmed and registered guests and for other related security measures. The key clerks often sort incoming mail for the management staff and registered guests. This position is obsolete in most new and established hotels; however, in full-service hotels, they can be a welcome sight that reduces the confusion of check-ins and checkouts when they are on duty (Toh, Potapova, & Astrakhan, 2013).
To effectively perform their tasks, the above persons need to have sufficient skills required by the department, and the level of such skills will determine the performance of the hotel.
The hospitality industry is working assiduously to reduce or eliminate every stress from the faces of their esteemed guest as soon as they enter their hotels. The skills acquired by the front office hotel employees provide the guests a remarkable experience as it also helps them create a marvelous and magical experience as per the wills, needs, and desires of the guests. With a warm and hospitable smile accompanied by assuring words, the charm of the attitude of the front desk captivates the guests in a way that they can uplift the business through positive reviews which are an incredible marketing tool for any business (Bharwani, Bharwani, Talib, & Talib, 2017). The importance of the front office department is also as a result of effective customer care skills required by the front office staff. Such skills are as described below.
Listening is the primary instrument of effective communication in any organization. Without the ability to listen carefully to what a guest is saying, the message of a guest could be easily misinterpreted and misunderstood. Consequently, there is a breakdown in communication leading to a frustrated customer. The front office staffs are aware that listening is not only about hearing and a good listener will listen to what is being said as well as what is partially said or not said. Front office staffs that have poor listening skills are introduced to certain techniques that will help improve the skills (Shahril, Aziz, Othman, & Bojei, 2015).
The art of attentiveness should be observed through all customer service experiences during and after work interactions. Many times clients contact customer service and are subjected to scripted responses. Such responses need to be avoided by the front office department as they give customers the feeling that the hotel attendant did not pay attention to what was being said and was less concerned about the issue (Hauser, 2014). The staff can make use of canned responses that are personalized and used appropriately and wisely to the situation.
Customer service might be a challenging and stressful job when the staffs have to deal with frustrated, confused, and angry clients. Patience is a real virtue in such circumstances, and the way that the team responds to those customers will either calm or excite the guests. The front office staffs are taught how to always be patient with their clients by separating their feelings from the situation and understanding the fact that in most cases a customer gets upset with things that do not involve the staff (Ahmad & Scott, 2014).
Maintaining self-control is of most importance in the front office department of a hotel. Apart from the ability to deal with heated and rude customers and handling surprises, it also goes to treating every interaction of individual customer separately regardless of the situation of the previous circumstances. The front office staffs need always to note that every new client presents a new issue and that the previous guests bear no relation to the next prospective customers (Dinnen & Hassanien, 2013).
If a staff member is not a great communicator, most likely he/she will not go far in customer service. Ability to communicate efficiently and clearly with no mumbling as well as strong typing, good grammar and spelling skills is essential. Moreover, it involves avoiding miscommunications that might result in unwanted consequences and misunderstandings. Particularly in connection to critical points, the front office staffs need to communicate things clearly and leave nothing to doubt. The way a person expresses him/herself will affect the perception of their messages. When talking to guests, either face-to-face or over the phone, the front office staff also need to adhere to facial expressions, body language, and voice tone as they convey more than what is being said. The ability to use affirmative words and avoid negative words are more likely to satisfy customers (Hauser, 2014; Mensah & Dei Mensah, 2013).
Influential speakers improve customer interactions. The secret associated with persuasive speaking is putting the verbal focus on the persuasion target (the guest) and not on the speaker. It means that the hotel staff should call a customer by name, use action-oriented words, and the active tense in phrases or words as well as avoid prefacing statements (like ‘I believe’ or ‘I think’) that express personal opinions or thoughts (Kumar & Vetrivel, 2016). Putting guests at the center makes them feel more appreciated and respected.
The front office staff members should have the necessary skills to manage their working hours efficiently. Effective time management includes setting goals and priorities, smart planning, delegating responsibilities, handling procrastination, and minimizing interruptions. These time management tips help the front office staff to handle queries and demands of guests without upsetting them. Sometimes it is necessary for different staff to handle one client based on the needs of the customer and the policies of the hotel (Appaw-Agbola & Agbola, 2013).
When things go wrong in a hotel, customers expect the management to take responsibility for all the negative experiences or problems they are having with the services of the hotel. Before the issue reaches the upper-level management, the front office staffs need to take responsibility by offering a sincere apology to a customer on behalf of the hotel, even when the situation or problem that caused the client's frustration was not the fault of the staff (Wood, 2013). Taking responsibility also means that the official is ready to do whatever it takes to fix the problem quickly and professionally (Sharon, Goziker, & Shahrabani, 2014).
The mission of every hotel is to make the hotel successful by satisfying the needs of a customer. The different roles and duties of a hotel`s front office staff make the department the Nerve Center" of the establishment. Thus, the functions of the front office manager, assistant front office manager, front desk representatives, cashiers, telephone operator, reservationists, night auditor, porter service, concierge, bell captain, and key clerk determine the success or failure of a hotel. If a hotel`s front office department fails in their duties, it means the whole establishment has failed in everything. It is because the front office staffs give the first impression and are in charge of handling most of the queries and issues affecting the guests. Consequently, listening, attentiveness, patience, self –control, good communicator, persuasive, effective time management, and taking responsibility are essential skills needed by the front office staff for the benefit of the hotel. These dexterities are foundation skills and should be actively developed in the hotel business. In the hospitality and service industry, these skills are the lifeblood, and it is important that the communication style of the front office staff reflects nothing more than professionalism.
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