10 traits of a great hotel front-desk agent

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As the ambassadors of our hotels, here’s how agents can stand out to create review‑worthy guest experiences.

By Rupesh Patel

Working the front of house at a hotel is a tough job. I know, I’ve had my share of working desk shifts (I remember doing three shifts in a row – not fun!). Guest service agents are on their feet for most all of an eight‑hour shift and have to deal with demanding guests. And many times, how they react can make or break our hotel’s reputation.

How do we know if the front desk person we just hired is the right fit for the job? Do they have hotel experience? Did they come from another hotel? Are they bringing negative vibes or bad habits from their last job? In this article, I share the 10 things that can make your front-desk agents stand out.

When guests arrive at our hotels, we only have a few minutes to make a great first impression. That said, the majority of this responsibility falls in the hands of our front-desk agents.

These hotel professionals set the tone of the entire experience that our guests will get from their stay. While there’s no such thing as the “perfect” front-desk agent (let’s be honest, we all have our weaknesses and make mistakes), we can cultivate traits, and coach and train them to be awesome at what they do.

Empathetic and caring
When guests approach the front desk to check in, they may be tired from their travels. They may be hungry. Guests might be stressed and annoyed over traffic or airport delays. Here’s the perfect time to shine! Understanding how that guest is feeling and being empathetic can provide comfort to guests as an overall experience factor.

iStock_000089976943Example:
“Mr. Smith, I understand exactly how you feel. I am sorry that your flight was delayed. I am here to make sure that you have a pleasant stay with us. Is there anything I can do for you right now? Can I offer you a complimentary beverage?”

Willing to go above and beyond
As with all of our staff, guest service agents should be willing to go above and beyond his or her job description to make your guests happy. No team member should think that the job only entails answering the phone and processing check‑ins and check‑outs.

iStock_000089976943Tip:
If you ever hear a staff member say, “That’s not my job or duty,” they need to be trained and coached – heavily. If this attitude persists, they need to find another job… and not at your hotel. Don’t allow these negative people to ruin your hotel’s reputation and cause you to lose money.

Engaging and inquisitive
The ability to engage with guests and have meaningful conversations is very important to the success of any hotel professional. A good agent should be able to ask questions and probe how the hotel can deliver a great, personalized experience for guests. An outgoing team member can not only drive revenue, but they’re able capture positive online reviews.


iStock_00008997694312 engaging questions to ask at the front desk

  1. What brings you to the area?
  2. How was your trip in?
  3. Have you stayed with us before?
  4. Where are you from?
  5. How is the weather back home?
  6. Are you here on business or pleasure?
  7. Are you planning on doing any sightseeing?
  8. Do you have plans for dinner tonight?
  9. Did you know… (explain an interesting fact of your city or local area).
  10. Can I help recommend some of my favorite local hangouts/places?
  11. How often do you visit our area?
  12. Are you a member of our rewards program?

Resourceful
Anyone in the hotel industry should know that you must expect the unexpected. Guests have the most unusual request or circumstances (i.e., a superstitious guest who won’t stay in a room with a number that adds up to 13). We have to train our desk staff to be extremely resourceful, to think on their feet and think of creative solutions to different situations.

Ability to anticipate guests’ needs
When guests arrive at the hotel, our agents should be able to “read” guests and anticipate their needs. For example, if a particular guest has a baby or toddler, the agent should be able to offer additional services (i.e., bottle warmer, milk available 24/7, crib) to make the guest’s stay more comfortable.

Calm and composed
There are days when our hotels are extremely busy and often stressful, especially during peak seasons. Imagine a front-desk agent losing his or her bearings during these times. It’s not beneficial for our hotels, and it’s definitely not good for guests. We need to develop an inner Zen among our team members, so they remain calm and composed even when push comes to shove. Encourage regularly scheduled breaks so they can step away and decompress.

Knowledgeable about the local area
When guests have questions about your hotel’s vicinity, they will probably approach the desk. As such, every member of the front desk team should be knowledgeable enough to be able to answer these questions and make recommendations including where to eat, where to shop, local hot spots, what to do, etc.

iStock_000089976943Expert Tip: Instruct your team to never say “I don’t know.” Instead coach them to say, “Mrs. Smith, please allow me to find this information for you.”

Energetic
Sitting behind a desk and entertaining one guest after another can be exhausting. However, a front desk agent cannot show signs of fatigue. Share tips on how they can keep their energy levels up throughout the day, and encourage a healthy environment by keeping healthy snacks on hand for when your team needs a pick‑me‑up.

Always smiling
It’s true. The most genuine and warm smile can cure even the worst of days. A great front-desk agent should be smiling 100 percent of the time. Yes, I know there are days when we don’t feel like smiling, but an awesome agent should be ready to come to work with a smile.

iStock_000089976943

Did you know?
According to science, neurons in the brain have a synchronizing feature that keeps you in sync with who are you speaking to. If you smile, they’ll smile!

A great ambassador for the hotel
Again, our service agents will most probably be the first and last person with which our guests will interact. That said, these professionals may very well be the “face of your hotel” to most guests. As such, whoever takes on this role should be a great ambassador from the hotel who understands what it stands for and able to clearly communicate this to guests.

Not all service agents are created equal. At the same time, none of us were born to take on this task. We must groom our staff, instill these 10 traits and watch them bloom into the best they can be.        ■

Rupesh Patel is a hotelier, entrepreneur and CEO at SmartGuests.com. Rupesh helps businesses like yours think differently with innovative ideas and strategies. He also shares his passion for entrepreneurship, customer service and marketing on numerous industry sites, social media and blogs. Connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/rupeshpatel1.

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