A hotel front desk staff’s friendliness, competency, and efficiency are proven factors in the effectiveness of their first impression on guests. It's all about the customer experience. But even if you hire well, it's still suggested to conduct hotel front desk training in order to bring out those characteristics in your staff and establish consistent experiences across the board. Here’s everything you need to know about creating your own training program, choosing the right tools, and running it in-person or online.
Explore 8 tips to create and run a hotel front desk training:
1. Start with empathy.
Have empathy for your hotel front desk staff and your guests, and the same will likely follow. “Looking back on the earlier years of my career,” said Nicholas Farina, General Manager of 1 Hotel Central Park, “I wish I had made more of an effort to listen more than I spoke. It’s something I continue to keep in mind each day.”
Remember that emotions run high when travelling and that can affect people on both sides of the counter. But it’s not enough to simply tell them to do so in training.
“Nearly all (hotel front desk training) programs cover the concepts of showing empathy, and especially at Forbes rated hotels, to establish authentic, emotional connections,” wrote Doug Kennedy, professional front desk training program creator.
If you want to do the same, provide actionable, step-by-step solutions to ambiguous and often confusing emotional situations. For example, if a guest has lost their luggage in the lobby and blames the front desk staff for it, train employees to first consider what this person’s day was like. Then, reflect on the fact that the guest’s reaction probably has nothing to do with them as a person or employee — they most likely just want their luggage back. After, establish how front desk staff can help guests with lost items by telling them what to say. A simple “I’m so sorry that happened, I’m going to do everything I can to help you resolve this issue” goes a long way.
2. Promote authenticity.
Kennedy also believes hotels can do a lot more when it comes to teaching employees how to establish a genuine connection with a guest in a short amount of time. “ ... when I look at how colleagues are trained on how to deliver on these standards, I find that most managers are simply going over scripted welcome messages and reviewing interpersonal communications techniques at their meetings.”
Here are some practical ways to promote authenticity among your hotel front desk staff:
- Remind staff to put themselves in the guest's shoes by reflecting on positive and negative interactions they've personally had at hotels. Note what stands out then add it to your training program. Mannerisms, attitudes, and even personality traits are all things your staff can mimic through training.
- Create a code of conduct that acts as a cheat sheet for making decisions in high-pressure situations. Empathy is one of the most important soft skills a hotel front desk staff member can have, so put it at the top.
- Give your staff permission to vent to you about guests. As Kennedy wrote, “This does not mean we want to encourage ‘guest bashing.’ Rather, just letting them vent on occasion provides a sense of validation.” Give them instructions for how and when to vent to you. For example, have a separate email box for venting they can send messages to 24/7. Or hold open office hours for 30 to 60 minutes once a day and encourage them to stop by after having a difficult guest.
- Teach them how to read someone else’s emotions. The three main ways are body language, listening to your own intuition, and sensing emotional energy.
- Shrugging off insults and poor guest behaviour is a learned skill referred to as emotional desensitisation, so make it a core concept of your training. Role-play as an unsatisfied guest using scenarios based on real-life experiences that have upset staff in the past such as yelling, threatening to get them fired, and any other negative experience you’d like them to cope with in a healthy way. Talk through each step out of character, encourage them to be authentic in their response, and ask the rest of the staff for their feedback on the interaction so they can all learn together.
3. Choose your hotel front desk training method and tools.
Decide if in-person or virtual training is better for your staff. In-person training offers opportunities to connect with other staff members for exercises and breakout discussions. You can teach this through virtual training too, however, in-person meetings provide a better opportunity for employees to bond.
In addition to soft skills training, take this opportunity to set front desk employees up with the right equipment. Imran Javani, the General Manager of Hotel Chicago West Loop, said a property management system is one of the most versatile and helpful tools you can give your staff.
“Today’s average hotel check-in experience has gone from 3 to 5 minutes and rather than getting simpler, it seems to be getting even more complicated," he said. "We had to find a solution for that issue as well. After much research, we determined that a cloud-based PMS system with mobility was the best fit.”
For example, consider Cvent Passkey to manage room blocks for streamlined group bookings. Faster service is achieved through training both soft skills and these tools, so make sure your employees walk away with a thorough understanding of both and make each of those interactions really count.
4. Structure your hotel front desk training sessions.
Structure your training method based on how you want to present the information and how much time you believe it will take to complete. Choose a combination of live presentations, videos, worksheets, checklists, templates, and manuals.
- Live presentations with experts from HR, housekeeping, and catering give the front desk staff insight into what their day-to-day is and how they can provide support as needed.
- Videos offer replay value so employees can watch portions they need a refresher on at any time. They also make it easy to standardise training since the same video link can be shared with every employee.
- Worksheets on customer service scenarios help front desk staff put what they learned into theoretical practice. Have participants share their responses with the moderator or their peers to get feedback.
- Checklists for opening procedures, daily to-dos, closing procedures, and common paperwork items help get everyone on the same page so things are done consistently.
- Templates help with responding to customer communications both in person and online. Create one for check in, check out, service requests, refund requests, and special occasion notices.
- Manuals offer a reference guide for how to handle every customer scenario, no matter how strange or stressful. Combine all of your supporting documents, plus your guests’ most common FAQs, from your main training sections into a hard copy and a digital copy to serve as a reference point. Review it quarterly and get feedback from the team. But remember that procedures don’t work if no one follows them — it’s better to tweak the system than to force it.
5. Discuss greetings.
Keep in mind that your hotel front desk staff is responsible for the brand’s first on-site impression. Review what should be said to guests when they check in. Have a script for how calls are answered. Decide what tone of voice works best and have employees take turns practicing it.
For example, try any of the following scripts for your own hotel front desk training:
- When a new guest walks into the lobby: “Hello, it’s lovely to meet you, my name is (first name), how are you?” After they respond, react to what they said about their day then ask, “Can I help you book or check into a room?”
- When a current guest asks for help: “Absolutely, I’ll take a look and see what I can do to help you with (repeat a summary of the request to ensure everyone's on the same page)."
- When anyone calls the front desk phone: “Hi, thank you for calling (hotel name), it’s a beautiful day here in sunny Southern California, my name is (first name), how can I help you today?”
But remember, these are only starting points. While using templates and scripts is a great place to start, they only go so far when it comes to authentic interactions.
6. Align on safety.
Talk about what expectations you have for customer interactions, especially when important or tense issues may come up. Clear up any confusion about when front desk staff is expected to prioritise the standard code of conduct and when they should prioritise themselves or their coworkers. This includes situations such as physical or emotional danger.
Remember, standardised greetings and procedures are a must-have, but they don’t work in every situation. Set your staff up for success by teaching them what to do and giving them permission to be safe when faced with certain situations.
7. Design workflows.
Create a workflow for all major hotel front desk responsibilities, including the following example sequences:
- Guest check-in: Greet the guest, ask if they have a reservation, bring up their reservation and offer a promotion that applies to them. Ask them what they’d like to book tonight and for how long. Proceed to key card assignment if no further alterations/questions.
- Key card assignment: Offer to upgrade the guest to a better room, highlight a standout feature of the room they're assigned, set up the keycard, give them directions to their room, ask if they need help with anything else before they head to their room.
- Room selection: Search for available rooms that fit specific needs, reflect on what you know about the guests’ needs and other occupants that surround them (for example, take the initiative to reassign a couple with a baby if their current next-door neighbour had sound complaints the night before), enter their latest room information and read back the details of their reservation to make sure it’s what they wanted.
- Communication with the next shift team: Keep a binder filled with blank paper for announcements made between team members, write the time and date of each note followed by who it’s for and who it’s from, then add the message including important details such as booking number, and suggest a follow-up action with a clear time/date for when the task should be completed. This can also be done through internal programs, software, or cloud-based collaboration platforms.
Additionally, talk to veteran staff members and see if they can write down anything that may be useful to newer employees or anyone going through the training. Use that as your foundation for the instructions. Document all the workflows in one accessible place. Ask employees to refer back to it when needed and to follow the steps. Keep in mind that you might need to make several versions along the way to make procedures more efficient or stay aligned with changes throughout the hotel.
8. Lean into goals and awards.
Have a concrete goal for your training. For example, if your hotel front desk staff is also responsible for upselling gift items, aim to teach them all the upsell script and make sure they pass quizzes on product knowledge. You can also strive for sales goals, but when creating a training goal it’s best to aim for objectives that are measurable and within your control.
Set up an awards system for your front desk staff. Here are some examples:
- Add a test at the end of training seminars and celebrate high scorers publicly in your hotel newsletter or breakroom.
- Hold a compliment contest. Whoever gets the most compliments from guests about their service every month wins a small gift.
- Do a post-training pop quiz two weeks and four weeks after it ends then give those who answered everything right a pizza lunch.
Whatever you choose, make sure it ties back into the knowledge they learned in training and provide tangible incentives for their success.
Excel at hotel front desk training!
Maximise your virtual training sessions by keeping attendees engaged through breakout sessions, live polling, and Q&As at the end. Or review the importance of professionalism in hospitality to inspire your hotel front desk training program. And remember, training isn’t a one time event, it’s a method that should be reviewed regularly with every new hire, season, and procedure update.