10 tips to make sure your front desk staff are always prepared for the next guest

It is not magic that creates the customer experience – it is the way excellent hotel performers work that creates the magic.

Working in hotels, we know that customers aren’t specifically conscious of it, but they do have very definitive expectations about tangible experiences like a comfortable bed, sleeping, eating and good food. Today, we’re also seeing a rise in the expectations of intangible experiences; like how they are greeted, how their questions are answered, and how their concerns are handled.

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And with new technology, digital media, social media and artificial intelligence knocking on the door, there are now more opportunities available than ever to make the customer feel good. But this also carries with it much higher expectations that hotels need to meet.

This growing trend has broadened the aspect of intangible experiences customers expect from their service providers. Traditional amenities and loyalty rewards will no longer do it. Hotels need to be prepared and understand the real scope of value innovation in today’s markets.

Hotel performers today have to be able to respond in a new setting in ways that positively influence the values of customer satisfaction.

Are your hotel front desk performers prepared for the next guest? Here are 10 actionable tips to get ready for tapping into new uncontested markets.

1. Be proactive – know your guest before they know you

You can either love or hate call centers. I got my start in hospitality working as a reservation agent for Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). I got a unique experience and knowledge of taking people places I’d never set my foot at myself. Creating a vivid customer experience based on the data we had became my secret sauce.

Being born in Norway and having a unique name for many of the callers, I discovered that this was something I could use to my advantage. (Though I have been Bill, Bob, Jim, and John at a few occasions, too.)

It is important for hotel front desk performers today to understand that the nature of a customer relationship started long before they show up at the front desk. The important aspects of a front desk performer are to listen, care and connect in ways that add new value to the customer relationship.

Expert tip: A genuine smile is the first step in being proactive. It helps guests recognize that you care and wish to connect with them. Ask How can I help you today?”, and then listen to the customer.

2. Begin with the end

One of the most common mistakes we see today is that many hotels confuse the services they sell with customer service.

I learned one very important lesson working in the call center; upselling is the fastest way to create a disconnect with the customer. A true performer’s purpose is to make customers see what you see, feel what you feel, all presented in a vivid colourful inspiring story.

Make the story your own and help the customer live the story. Ideally, they will take new ideas to their hearts that will shape their story.

Focusing on the end customer experience is built upon two important processes. The first process is to help the customer visualize the experience in their mind. The second process represents physical reality. Great coaches will teach performers to visualize a successful outcome of an event before it even started.

Expert tip: Be authentic and transparent with every customer. Start with asking “What brings you to our hotel today?”, and then listen.

3. Execute on the most important priorities

Don’t put yourself in the role of a performer, but put on an epic performance.

Creating a customer experience that surprises and delights need front desk performers to understand the micro-moment that matters.

To me, hospitality is art. It is like the painter that uses a combination of colours to create a picture. And we will all have a different perspective of how we view the finished product.

The key is to bring out the commonalities that tell us that this is an experience we want to share with others.

Expert tip: Don’t overlook the basics before trying to be fancy.

4. Making every micro-moment an opportunity

Sometimes those pesky perceptions get us in trouble. We get all uptight and our emotions take us away from the servant role. And this leaves little room left to create an important first impression.

What if the customers arrive with some built-up emotions and perceptions that are out of your control?

Every mishap or misstep can be turned into a positive experience.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” ~ Zig Ziglar

As a successful performer focus on the win-win micro-moments. This is the best way to uncover important details that allows you to shine.

Expert tip: Choose a positive attitude and make it part of your performance

5. Listen with the intent to understand

As humans, we tend to listen more to ourselves, and the things going through our mind, the questions we want to ask, and we filter it all through our frame of reference.

Most humans listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.

The word hotel was defined as providing care for others. Over the years the role has shifted towards a servant role – one that performs duties for the person.

Today front desk performers have become experience providers. They deliver an experience based on observation of, or participation in, events as a basis of skills, talent, and knowledge.

The most important aspect of the customer to understand today is the intent. Once a front desk performer understands customer intent, they have a unique opportunity to connect with them in that exact micro-moment.

Understanding customer intent and meeting their needs in the micro-moment are the keys to winning more hearts, minds, and dollars.

Expert tip: Pay attention. Keep focus and listen with your body. Don’t interrupt. Repeat to verify that you listened, and then respond showing you care and understand. You have now initiated a connection towards a potentially valuable, lifelong customer.

6. Take a holistic approach to customer service

Synergy is the holy grail of value innovation, happiness, and effective teamwork.

High front desk performers have a unique desire to serve and benefit others. They will always seek new ways to improve their performance. Empowerment, synergy and team effort is the foundation for happiness.

What if you as an employee could feel fulfilled and happy every day? With a holistic approach, performers enable themselves to go above and beyond. A compelling story is infused into all aspects of the customer’s experience. With a holistic approach, you think about the big picture of serving your customers.

Expert tip: Collaborate with your hotel team members for value innovation and start to give a more unique insight into the hotel product.

7. Make every day a good day to sharpen your talent and skills

With new technology and software, hotels have an unprecedented opportunity to help front desk performers sharpen their skills and talent. Effective high-value front desk performers apply value innovation and become unique hotel experience ambassadors.

Today their hotels can install cost-effective front-end mobile applications that give employees access to valuable instant hotel operational data.

Mobile applications can:

  • Offer PMS Integration
  • Coordinate hotel operations
  • Ensure seamless accountability
  • Foster better communication
  • Deliver staff training
  • Ensure GDPR compliance

There is no excuse for hotels not to invest in front line tools that will help front desk performers sharpen their skills.

Expert tip: Use every opportunity to sharpen your skills and talent. Don’t be afraid to suggest to your hotel management team new innovative ways improve the customer experience. Ask if you can shadow management or team members in other departments. Hotel experience ambassadors are not afraid to showcase their passion. Be authentic and transparent. And always be prepared to coach and help others improve their skills and talent.

8. Be accountable – own your mistakes

When you make a mistake, be prepared to take responsibility for it.

Be reasonable and understand when a mistake has been made; it is critical to own up to it. This is often a critical first step in resolving concerns.

High performers are honest and often seen as people with high integrity.

“I think every single imperfection adds to your beauty, I’d rather be imperfect than perfect.” ~ Sonam Kapoor

Never hide a mistake. Be open it, try to fix it, do your best to prevent it from happening again, and always inform management about the incident and actions taken.

If you don’t own mistakes, and you skip identifying ways to fix it yourself and would rather go to management with the problem, you might have to take a look in the mirror and ask; “Is this the right line of work for me?”

Expert tip:Always take control of your journey. Mistakes, missteps, and setbacks happen. Don’t make excuses to blame other people. A growth mindset focuses on asking yourself the hard questions, and tackles any challenge.

9. Fulfill your potential

Every high performer possesses a growth mindset, taking charge of the process that brings success and maintains it.

They take full charge of the process. Every unique performance is only relatively repeatable. They never stop working on the process.

Take charge of your motivation and install fun into the small processes you can control.

Performers that take this approach through proactive actions are better prepared to take on processes out of their control.

Today I am looking for new ways to push myself out of my comfort zone.

I shifted towards a growth-mindset to fulfill my potential. Every mistake, misstep or setback I treat as a setup for new opportunities. You will find more success in learning and improving than excuses.

Expert tip: Apply a growth-mindset to your process. What made you think hard today? How will you challenge yourself today? What can you learn from your experience or mistakes? What would you do next time to make things work better? What else do you want to learn? Who can you ask for honest feedback? Did you ask for help if you needed it? Are you proud of the results? What’s the next challenge to tackle?

10. Make every experience count

At one point in my process, I looked at other entrepreneurs that I defined as ‘they made it”. And I followed every piece of advice and tips I was given to achieve similar results, but things did not go as expected. This was both frustrating and discouraging, and I started to see them as lucky or privileged.

This was until I understood the principles of making every experience count. I learned that everything you can control follows certain patterns. When you put this in a relevant context, you will discover the hidden roads of your journey.

If you told me in my 20s that I would write articles containing 1000-2000 words with ease I would for sure thought you were insane. The real key to make every experience count was not to compare or look at others. Instead, create a new unique personalized experience fit for your next customer. Things may be difficult, but it’s possible.

I follow the same processes today as I work on with hotels. I create experience funnels that help me identify and understand every micro-moment of the customer journey.

Take charge and start by:

  • Embracing challenges
  • Persisting in the face of setbacks
  • Seeing efforts as a path to success
  • Learn from criticism
  • Find lessons and inspirations in the success of others

Listen, care and connection starts the relationship. End with assurances that the customer understands the benefits of your actions or that their concerns have been resolved.

Embrace the customer relationship by optimizing meaningful discussions and cut potential tensions.

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