Front Desk: Ground Zero for Hotel Profitability

Front Desk: Ground Zero for Hotel Profitability

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Want to increase your profitability, while improving your online reviews at the same time? Then start paying more attention to an area that’s too often overlooked when discussing revenue: your front desk. You need to make the front of the house a solid outpost for your operations, revenue and profitability.

There is often a staggering amount of focus placed on online hotel marketing and reputation management. But these efforts are only effective if your operations – and your guests’ experiences – back them up. As one of the departments that operates 24/7, your front desk deserves a lot more attention and training than many seasoned asset managers and GM’s realize. That saying about making a good first impression? It’s not just a myth. It’s very relevant no matter what hipster, business, or Millennial (shrug) traveler is checking into the hotel.

So, how can you start running a more effective front desk department? Here are some strategies that can help you achieve the trifecta of streamlining profitability, increasing direct revenue, and improving your online reputation.

Hire for Personality

It all starts with hiring the right front desk staff. There are two types of people: those who should be standing at your front desk, and those who should not be anywhere near it. A pleasant personality, positive attitude, and ability to face challenges calmly go a very long way in this role. Cynicism, nonchalance and a negative attitude, on the other hand, are traits that are can drive your overall revenue to the ground.

There is a place for hipness, sassiness and aloofness (The Deuce Hotel perhaps?), but it’s not your hotel front desk. Having unhappy or unpleasant team members at the front of your house is a silent killer, like diabetes. Just because you can’t feel it (or see it on a spreadsheet) doesn’t mean it is not continuously eroding your brand and revenue.

Leave No Agent Behind

Here is a typical scene: A guest is trying to check in at the front desk with a package or promotion – but the front desk employees have never heard of it. This is a source of frustration for guests and employees.

Very early in my career when I was managing the operations at a well-known San Francisco hotel. One afternoon the sales and marketing people were high-fiving each other about an amazing “SF Jazz Festival Package”; but they neglected to tell anyone on the front lines. It was only after several frustrating and disastrous check-ins that the staff realized that there must be a special package in circulation. This kind of experience not only makes the front desk agent look clueless (which is not fair), but also gives your guest the impression that the hotel is disorganized or poorly run. Why make your guest angry at the first point of contact with you hotel?  It’s a terrible feeling on both sides that can be easily avoided by keeping all team members updated.

The same advice applies to revenue management strategies you have in place. If you are not training the front desk, then you are leaving revenue on the table… or shall I say, the front desk.

Empower Your Team

You have to give your front desk team the power to make decisions and solve problems. This is especially relevant when things go wrong for a guest. There will always be unhappy guests. But how you handle them can make an enormous difference to your bottom line.

Unhappy guests can be classified into the following categories:

  • Generally Unhappy People: Nobody can really help them, but your front desk can definitely try to provide some empathy and relief. The goal here is basically not to aggravate them further. Complete satisfaction for this particular group is never going to happen (therapy perhaps?) and should not be a goal for your front desk. However, reducing their pain by offering some incentives is a good way to earn their gratitude, or at least calm them down a little.
  • Good People Having a Bad Experience: These guests need to be the key focus of your (if I may borrow from Amazon) “delivering happiness” efforts. When bad things happen to good people, that’s when your front desk agents can step up their game to try and help out. This group of guests is most likely to appreciate their efforts and then recommend your hotel to their F&F. Front desk agent feels good, guest feels good, you get more business. Win-win-win.

If you just want your front desk staff to be key card slingers, then you might as well get a McDonald’s franchise. (Would you like fries with that?) But if you want issues to get resolved before they hit your hotel’s TripAdvisor page: give the your hotel front desk the power to make decisions without the paperwork and approvals that a Vogon would require.

Upgrade Your Upselling Plan

Every hospitality business needs to have an upselling plan in place. Rewarding your front desk for upselling is a great way to boost your ADR. The catch is that it needs to be done the right way. Identifying the right prospects for upselling is a big part of the game, which means that you have to hire well. Smart, well-trained people will generally pick the right targets for no-pressure upselling.

Not only you should be rewarding for upsells (at least 5% to 8% of the upsell), but also you need to reward agents for walk-in conversions. Sales and marketing should not end once the meeting over coffee and muffins is completed. The sales process should continue 24/7 for 365 days a year at your front desk.

Conclusion

With every asset takeover, I always make it a point to personally meet and train the front desk team. I need them to be my partners in reaching the common goal of increasing revenue and profitability. Marketing and revenue plans set by management are important, but they can never reach their potential without proper support for and from your front desk team. Implement a fresh approach to improving your revenue and reputation: commit to the proper hiring, training, and empowerment of your front desk staff.