As actor, humorist and cowboy Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In the hotel business, that first impression is made at the front desk – and you don’t want to blow it. In fact, Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality found that just a five-minute wait at check-in causes guest satisfaction to drop by 50%.
In an effort to reduce traffic and wait times at the front desk, today’s hotels are turning to modern technology, as well as some tried-and-true traditional solutions. Both can lead to a more efficient front desk, increased staff and guest satisfaction and a number of other valuable benefits. With fewer people waiting in line to check in or get key replacements:
- Front desk employees spend less time dealing with guest complaints – improving staff job satisfaction and staff demeanor for other guest interactions
- Front desk staff can spend more quality time with each guest – significantly improving guest satisfaction rating scores
- Front desk staffing costs may go down as a result of fewer staff needed
1. TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
Most of your customers already have incredible technology in their pockets and purses – smartphones. As a hotel owner, you only need the processes and tools to take advantage of it. Something as simple as enabling mobile check-in can reduce hotel lobby traffic dramatically. As stated in our ebook, Guide to Delivering Exceptional Hotel Guest Experience, notifying guests via their smartphone that their room is ready and enabling them to skip the front desk can decrease lobby traffic by 20%.
Mobile and online check-in solutions such as OpenKey, also allow guests to use their mobile phone as their room key. If you think today’s guests aren’t ready to adopt this kind of technology, the research says otherwise. A study by MCD Partners found that 73% of travelers would be open to using their smartphones for automated check-in, if available.
With Priority Check-In from OpenKey, hotel guests are able to get the busy work done before they arrive by scanning their photo ID of choice and sending the property their estimated time of arrival. OpenKey’s Priority Check-In solution is a safe, protected way to validate identity and confirm arrival time through a two-step validation process. Partnered with ID verification company (IDscanGo powered by Acuant), Priority Check-In validates and processes a guest’s ID and securely transmits the information to the front desk.
Many hotels offer VIP lines for guests who have completed the Priority Check-In process but prefer to go to the front desk to receive a mobile key. Others allow guests to skip the desk completely (for repeat customers with a credit card on file). The OpenKey app allows hotels to handle Priority Check-Ins however they prefer.
For most hotels with normal traffic patterns, having an automated check-in kiosk in the lobby is more an amenity than a necessity. However, in large resort hotels where heavy check-in periods and lengthy lines are common, kiosks can provide great benefits. Here’s why:
- Hotels and resorts served by airlines – particularly destination properties like Las Vegas casinos – will frequently have a sudden influx of 100 or more guests arriving at the same time.
- Where daily room turnover is often more than 80%, many guests arrive long before rooms are ready. Lengthy lines coupled with being told a room is not yet available can lead to a bad first impression.
- Although the kiosk system is not capable of handling special or unusual issues, the vast majority of check-ins are straightforward.
A mobile key solution – like OpenKey, for example – uses the guest’s smartphone and compatible room door locks to replace the key card. Besides guest convenience, there are a number of benefits for your hotels. It’s easy to misplace or deactivate a key card, but it’s far less likely that someone will misplace their phone. When guests are losing their room keys less often, there are fewer people stopping by the front desk asking for replacements. While this is another great way to decrease traffic and physical keycard costs, it’s also better for the environment. Contemporary key cards are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride)-based plastic which is part of a highly toxic manufacturing process. Using fewer keycards can cut down on environmental waste and support your hotels’ sustainability strategy.
2. TRADITIONAL SOLUTIONS
Traffic Flow Management
These operational tips can help you solve the bottleneck of guests that can happen at any hotel, at any time – usually when it’s most inconvenient for your staff.
- Similar to a hospital emergency room, conduct a “triage” of your front desk line to determine exactly what each guest needs. For example, you can quickly make sure they’re waiting in the correct line or have any necessary forms filled out.
- Thin out the line by handling the simple requests first – pass out matches, accept outgoing mail, etc. – while other front desk agents handle the more time-consuming tasks.
- After the triage is completed, train your front desk employees to focus their full attention on the guest in front of them. This distraction-free service typically makes the guest feel special, boosting overall guest satisfaction.
Arrivals, departures and ongoing guest service all require different processes that take different amounts of agent time and effort. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it will help smooth out the entire operation.
- Arrivals – Prepare a thorough arrivals report including names, room assignments, notes and projected arrival times. If any guests have special requests or requirements, make sure to address each issue before they arrive.
- Departures – To ensure departing guests have a smooth, quick exit, know who is leaving each day, and when. If you accept express checkouts and don’t require guests to stop by the front desk before they leave, make sure all accounts are settled before the check-out time.
Say “Thank You”
Often, guest satisfaction is a direct reflection of guest appreciation. That’s why it’s crucial you show your guests you appreciate their patience. We suggest, as each guest interaction is completed, to extend a genuine, authentic thank you for their patience, showing appreciation not only to them, but to the rest of those who may have just joined the wait.
We appreciate your patience, as well, and hope these tips help you and your front desk make a better first impression.