How long is the queue at your hotel reception?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about first and last impressions. Now that so much of the booking and travel plans are made on line the reception is often going to be the first and last direct contact your guests will have with a real person.

Any hotel guest will know that the busy times on reception are early evening for check in, and after breakfast for check out. And what impression do guests get left with? The queue, and waiting to get your room key; or even worse, waiting to part with your money. I have yet to work out why this happens in so many of the hotels I visit.

What can hotels do to reduce this?

Staffing

Firstly in both instances, the rush should not come as a surprise! So why are there never more staff on to deal with these peak times. I frequently see more people behind the front desk late morning when there is little guest facing activity, than there is during these busy periods. Receptionists’ hours should be based on accommodating these times, and if that means more staff then, and fewer at other times, so be it.

This does not mean that they can only work on reception; there are plenty of opportunities to combine roles so people work on reception for an hour before moving on to other areas of the hotel. Administration, staff meetings, accounts, or whatever else is happening back of house should come second to dealing with a guest who is ready to check in or out.

And then let the reception staff focus on checking in and checking out, and have others on hand to deal with non check in/out matters – answering the phone, giving guests directions, dealing with keys that don’t work, welcoming meeting and conference hosts and delegates.

Systems

99% of guests will already have made a reservation. So is there a system in place to ensure all the necessary paperwork is ready for their arrival? All that should be needed is a signature on the form and confirming payment details. Maybe guests would be more receptive to upsells if everything else is in order.

The same goes for check out. A guest’s bill should be ready at the point they arrival at reception. I know that express checkout has gone some way to alleviate some of the pressure during the morning rush. The problem with express checkout is that in most cases the guest has to wait for the receipt to be mailed on to them. This is no good if they need the receipt to claim their expenses, and the receipt is lying at home, whilst they are still away travelling, or the receipt takes 3 -4 days to reach them, and they have deadlines for expenses claims.

Your systems should also include preparing for the rush – is the printer well stocked with paper, someone else answering the phone, complicated invoices checked and dealt with by the person who knows the detail, for example.

Training

However good your systems they won’t work unless everyone is trained in how to use them, and everyone works as a team. This requires training, not only in the systems, but what to do when things go wrong – when the printer jams, when there is a query over the bill, when their credit card won’t go through. The more smoothly and confidently these can be dealt with the better for everyone.

Reception staff need daily briefings so they know what’s happening in the hotel that evening or that day. This gives a smoother operation, without having to waste time asking others, and if they know what’s happening, there may be a greater opportunity for upselling too.

Remember the check in and check out will leave a lasting impression for your guests. Make sure it is a good one.

Caroline Cooper

Staffing and training is one of the topics covered on the forthcoming Hoteliers Leadership Coachig Programme commencing in September. Register here for more information or to attend the launch tele seminar

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