Front office hotel staff are among the most important employees in any modern property, as they are a regular point of contact for guests. In this article, you will be able to learn about what the front office department is, how it can be defined, what the key tasks and responsibilities are, and how technology can help the department.
- What is the Front Office Department in a Hotel?
- The Importance of the Front Office in a Hotel
- What Are the Duties of a Front Office Employee?
- 8 Operational Roles of Hotel Front Office Employees
- 3 Strategies to Ensure Your Front Office Department Functions to Its Full Capability
- Hotel Front Office Technology
- The Front Office Hotel Software Solutions You Need
- Tips for Managing Your Front Office Hotel Career
- Using Booking.com to Maximise Hotel Front Office Performance
What is the Front Office Department in a Hotel?
A front office hotel department can be thought of as the face of the hotel. It is the department that interacts with hotel guests when they arrive and handles reservations, check-ins, room assignments, room rates, revenue management, the creation and management of a database containing guest information, and the provision of concierge services.
As it will usually be the first point of contact for guests arriving at a hotel, there is a major customer service component to the front office. In fact, it is the department that is primarily responsible for optimising the guest experience and ensuring that customer expectations are met and, if possible, exceeded.
Guests are likely to interact with the front office hotel department multiple times, across both online and offline channels. The front office staff are responsible for carrying out an array of essential tasks within properties and the front office must also coordinate staff efforts, in order to ensure all tasks are completed.
The front office hotel department is one of the most valuable and essential components of the business because it is the single most visible department, as well as the department that guests are likely to interact with most.
As it is the first point of contact for most guests, the quality of the front office staff in a hotel can go a long way toward shaping first impressions. Beyond this, front office staff are responsible for many of the strategic decisions made within hotels, meaning they can significantly influence the success or failure of the business itself.
What Are the Duties of a Front Office Employee?
The duties of a front office hotel employee are varied and difficult to summarise. With that being said, those who are working at the front desk of a hotel are likely to have the following responsibilities:
A major part of the role of a front office hotel employee involves coordinating the guest experience. This means ensuring that rooms have been reserved properly, checking guests in as seamlessly as possible, and ensuring that concierge services are available to them upon check-in. Yet, responsibilities do also go much further than this.
Guests will often ask the front desk for advice on where to go in the local area, how to find specific locations, and for assistance in accessing transportation, including taxis, trains, and bus services. Therefore, employees need to have knowledge of the area and be willing to work with guests to optimise their stay.
Another major responsibility for front office staff involves making sure guests are fully satisfied during their stay. This requires excellent communication skills, customer service skills, and a willingness to go above and beyond for guests.
In the event that a guest has a question or a problem, they should be able to approach the front desk and receive assistance. Front office hotel staff should take responsibility, ask questions, find out if guests need help, and provide that help, even if it means communicating with other departments or delegating tasks to other front desk employees.
There is also a wide range of administrative tasks associated with front office hotel jobs and staying on top of this clerical work is fundamental to the role. This can include maintaining a customer database, making phone calls, receiving and responding to emails and faxes, and making arrangements for other employees.
In some cases, these clerical tasks may extend to accounting and finance duties. It is also common for other departments within the hotel to delegate tasks like printing and photocopying to employees in the front office.
8 Operational Roles of Hotel Front Office Employees
Within the hotel industry, front office staff are often divided into different operational roles, as outlined below. With that being said, it is also important to understand that smaller hotels may not be able to employ different staff members for each position, and this can mean front office staff must take on multiple operational roles.
1. Front Office Management
The job of a front office manager is to oversee front desk operations and manage other front-office employees. This can involve managing schedules, delegating specific tasks to different members of the team and taking overall responsibility for the customer experience. Training, coaching and hiring activities are also common.
2. Guest Service Management
Hotels may have a separate guest service manager, who takes responsibility for the various guest services provided by the front office. In addition to overseeing core tasks, a guest service manager is likely to be responsible for hiring, training, and otherwise managing reception staff, concierge staff, and others in similar roles.
3. Reservation Management
A reservations manager takes control of activities and operations related to room reservations. This includes managing bookings, cancellations and special requests from customers. It also requires coordination with the sales and marketing department, and an ability to deal with guests who arrive and want a room without pre-booking.
4. Reception Management
A reception manager within a hotel front office team takes charge of activities related to greeting guests upon arrival and making them feel welcome. However, reception managers also need to manage reception staff, ensure they are trained and knowledgeable enough to answer customer questions, and provide customer service themselves.
5. Revenue Management
Within the front office hotel department, a revenue manager is tasked with optimising revenue generation and overall financial performance. This primarily means charging the right rate, for the right room, at the right time, in order to maximise income and ensure the hotel can compete with other properties in the area.
6. Night Audit
Night auditing involves a variety of tasks, like ensuring that all administrative work has been handled over the course of the day, cash handling, and looking over billing information, in order to identify any potential issues. A night audit manager oversees all of this and helps to keep the hotel running smoothly.
The head concierge is essentially responsible for ensuring the immediate needs of guests are met. This can include transporting luggage, making bookings on behalf of guests, and handling mail and other communications. Often, the most senior concierge employee will be multilingual, and they must also manage the availability of other concierge staff.
8. Housekeeping Management
Finally, a housekeeping manager takes control of all activities related to cleaning rooms and providing a safe, clean and pleasant environment for guests. They coordinate housekeeping staff, ensure all rooms are turned over on time and are also in charge of cleaning public areas of the hotel, such as restrooms and hallways.
3 Strategies to Ensure Your Front Office Department Functions to Its Full Capability
In the sections below, you can learn about three of the most important strategies for hotel front office managers and other staff members, so that the department functions to its full potential.
Front office hotel employees and anyone working in relevant hotel management positions should take the time to learn about the local area. Guests turn to the front office on a regular basis, asking for advice on where to go, what to see, and how to get to specific places, and knowing this information will greatly improve efficiency.
Ultimately, front office employees should be able to provide basic tourist information. In particular, staff in the department should be able to recommend specific restaurants, activities and local attractions. It can also be important to know about local shops and public transport and be able to direct guests to where medicine can be obtained.
One of the biggest challenges facing any front office hotel team is trying to prepare for all eventualities. In truth, it is impossible to cover all bases, but teams can be equipped with the skills, knowledge and processes required to be able to think on their feet and handle the vast majority of questions, requests, and situations.
The best way to achieve this is to provide continuous training, so that front office operations are always being improved. Roleplaying can help to equip employees with the right skills to handle the unexpected, and training sessions can teach staff about the latest hotel trends, emerging technology, and any local developments.
In the end, the hotel front office is all about delivering what guests need, and this means giving them the appropriate level of priority. Front office staff should be attentive and try to learn about guests as much as they can. Identifying specific preferences can help to provide a more tailored experience.
Some of this information can be obtained before guests arrive, while more can be learned during initial in-person interactions. Employees in the department should try to make their guests feel special and should try to go above and beyond to provide the very best experience possible during their stay.
The front office of the property must also be up-to-date with the latest hotel technology. For instance, modern hotels use multiple online distribution channels to obtain reservations and this means the front office needs to have high-quality channel manager software. Revenue management software can also be the difference between a front office that maximises financial results and a front office that falls short in this area.
Of course, technology goes beyond software. Housekeeping teams may benefit from the use of robotic vacuum cleaners and other equipment, and smartphones or tablets can allow for payment processing at any location within the hotel.
Software has a vital role to play within the modern hotel industry, greatly improving efficiency and accuracy, providing valuable insights, and facilitating automation. There are a number of solutions that are essential for front office hotel staff, including revenue management systems and distribution channel managers.
Read the “5 Hotel Management Software Solutions Every Hotel Needs” article for a much more detailed explanation of the most important software packages on the market, how they work, what they actually have to offer, what you should look for, and why they are so valuable for those in senior positions within a hotel.
Front office hotel careers are some of the best career opportunities available within the industry. However, you need to take the right steps to manage your career and find the best opportunities. This can include obtaining the right qualifications, giving your CV adequate attention, and preparing properly for job interviews.
Take a look at “10 Valuable Tips to Manage Your Hotel Career” to learn more about how to manage your career, including some of the initial steps you need to take, and the best avenues to explore during your job search.
Using Booking.com to Maximise Hotel Front Office Performance
One of the biggest distribution channels used by hotels today is Booking.com, and the Booking extranet is the OTA’s built-in management platform. This can be used by front office hotel staff and other employees to maximise performance, increase bookings, and handle information related to reservations.
Check out the “Booking Extranet: Strategies to Increase Your Revenue on Booking.com” article for an in-depth overview of Booking.com, the Booking extranet, and the ways it can be used to optimise business outcomes.
The hotel front office has a crucial role to play because it is usually the first point of contact for guests. Front office staff are primarily concerned with meeting customer expectations, delivering on the specific individual needs of guests, handling communication, and ensuring that the hotel itself is functioning properly.