The front office is the most visible department in a hotel. From the time a guest makes a reservation and arrives at a hotel through to the time he or she departs, the front office personnel play a central role in meeting the guest’s needs. Front office personnel have more contact with guests than do staff in most other departments. Guests come to the front desk to register, to receive room assignments, to inquire about available services, complaints, facilities and about the city or surrounding areas. Front Hotel Desk Clerks are usually the first people to greet and welcome hotel guests. They tell the manager when important guests arrive. In addition, front office may also be a base of operations during an emergency situation such as a fire, bomb threat, medical emergencies etc. The work of Hotel Desk Clerks is different depending on the size of the hotel. In small hotels they may process mail, collect payments, record accounts, handle reservations, operate the telephone switchboard and do simple bookkeeping. A capable, courteous and professional front office staff can make each guest’s stay a pleasant experience and ensure the guests’ willingness to return. In doing so, the front office meets the needs of guests, while also ensuring the smooth and profitable operation of the hotel. Front office functions include reservation, registration, accounting, telephones, bell desk/ concierge, guest relations, credit control, budgeting, statistics, yield management and crisis management.
Front office work hours
Hotels are usually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Work shifts in hotels are usually from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Employees may be asked to work any of these three shifts or to work on a rotating shift plan. Sunday and holiday work may also be rotated. A 40-hour work week is common. Overtime maybe required during busy periods. Conventions and large groups of tourists may present unusual problems or require extended work hours. Dealing with irate guests can be stressful and the job can be particularly hectic for front office managers during check-in and check-out times. Computer failures can complicate matters.
Growth at work
Salaries of front hotel desk clerks vary greatly according to their responsibilities and the segment of the hotel industry in which they are employed, as well as where the hotel is located. Some hotels also provide meals, accommodation, laundry and other services. In addition to providing typical benefits, some hotels offer profit-sharing plans and educational assistance to their employees. A Hotel Desk Clerk may advance to chief room clerk, assistant front office manager, front office manager, sales and promotion manager or hotel manager. Experience is important for upward mobility.
Front desk office clerk must be able to get along with many different types of people, even in stressful situations. They must be able to solve problems and concentrate on details. Initiative, self-discipline, effective communication skills and the ability to organize and direct the work of others also are essential for managers at all levels. Teamwork is a must for good front office work.
At the workplace
Most hotels are very comfortable to work in. Desk Clerks work at a counter in the lobby. While the work is not physically hard, there’s a lot of standing involved. Desk Clerks work under a head clerk, assistant manager or hotel manager.