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Bardi (2010) asserts that the front desk serves as the face of a hotel and has the primary responsibility of ensuring guests’ satisfaction through meeting the customer requirements and requests. It is apparent that the front desk is the hub of a hotel and plays a significant role in coordinating and ensuring the efficiency of hotel operations with the fundamental objective of fully satisfying the guest. In the hotel industry, most guests have a direct contact with the front office staff, implying that the front office operations are essential in portraying the business image of a hotel (Baker, Huyton & Bradley, 2001). Guests usually contact the reception for numerous reasons such as collecting messages, leaving and picking keys, inquiries and complaints; usually, the front desk has the role of attending to the demands, raised by guests, and offering any additional services in a hotel such as currency exchange. The first impression is usually the lasting impression, implying that it is the responsibility of the front desk to ensure that the guest is satisfied (O'Fallon & Rutherford, 2010). The various front desk operations which are vital to ensuring the efficiency of the entire hotel operations include check in, communication, administrative duties, customer service, and billing and check out. In most hotels, the front desk is the liaison between guests and other hotel departments through relay of communication requests. Administrative duties incorporated in front desk operations include answering telephones, scheduling reservations and transferring guests to their respective rooms or facilities. Customer service operations undertaken by the front desk in a hotel include answering guests’ inquiries about hotel facilities and the surrounding places. In addition, the front desk offers assistance in addressing complaints, raised by customers (Baker, Huyton & Bradley, 2001). Billing and check out operations include compilation of bills and handling checkout, wherein guests make their final payments and return any items belonging to the hotel. In the light of this view, this paper highlights the importance of front office operations in a hotel. The paper evaluates the impacts of the front office on a hotel.
The first importance of front office operations is that it is the first point of contact that a guest or a potential guest makes with a hotel, either by telephone, writing or in person. Bardi (2010) points out that the front desk helps people in making their preference towards a hotel, which means that the front desk operations play an integral role in losing or winning a potential customer. Front desk clerks represent the image of the hotel and influence the customers’ perception towards the hotel. From a psychological point of view, the halo effect, an outstanding initial impression may influence guests to think well of the hotel and its associated facilities, and services they use in the course of their stay (O'Fallon & Rutherford, 2010). Similarly, a poor initial impression sends a “bad signal” among the customers, which may increase their doubt, concerning the use of services and facilities in a hotel. The fundamental inference from this observation is that the front desk serves as the public image of the hotel, mainly through greeting and checking in patrons. The direct contact between guests and the front desk implies that the front desk operations are vital in guaranteeing returning customers. Effective front desk operations guarantee customer satisfaction, which is central towards ensuring the business success of the hotel (Bardi, 2010). This is primarily because the front desk staff provides patrons’ with the first impression concerning the establishment. In essence, the front desk of a hotel serves as its introduction. The success of the front desk in a hotel reflects the organizational skills of the hotel as a whole. Therefore, well-planned front desk operations provide a superb first impression to patrons, whereas an unorganized front desk instills uneasiness and negative impression about the hotel.
The second importance of the front desk operations is that the front office serves as the service hub of a hotel; this is because the front desk is the area, where most transactions and guest contacts take place in the course of their stay. According to Bardi (2010), the patron’s experience, regarding the hotel service, is primarily determined by the front desk operations and personnel. This is ultimately essential because the quality and style of service is a primary determinant in offering an enjoyable and relaxing experience that leads to guest satisfaction, which is the primary goal of the hotel industry. The style and quality of service offered by the front desk also plays a vital role in establishing a competitive advantage for the hotel because it makes a hotel unique from its competitors, offering similar services and facilities. Further, the quality and style of hotel service helps in ensuring that the patrons continue visiting the hotel and simultaneously facilitate word-of-mouth marketing because satisfied guests are likely to offer a positive report of the hotel and recommend the hotel to other potential patrons (O'Fallon & Rutherford, 2010). The profitability and competitiveness of hotels significantly depend on positive word-of-mouth marketing, which can be effectively achieved by establishing well-planned front desk operations. Therefore, the front desk can either make or break the hotel establishment because it serves as the first contact point for the patrons (Bardi, 2010). For instance, the front desk ensures that guests are happily served, and patrons are greeted in a manner that it reflects the outstanding service, offered at the hotel, which is an essential element of an outstanding business. Therefore, it is apparent that the front desk is a vital component of customer service within the hotel, which plays a vital role in guaranteeing quality and style of hotel service. Another importance of the front desk operations is that the front desk has a fundamental responsibility of addressing the problems and complaints raised by guests, which are critical incidents that differentiate guests’ satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
The third importance of the front desk operations is that the front desk serves as the communications hub for a hotel, wherein information exchange between other departments, guests and employees take place. For instance, the entire hotel system can fail if the reception does not inform the housekeeping department to make adequate preparations for arriving guests. Operational failures can also be observed, when the reception does not pass on a customer complaint to the maintenance department, or the reception does not make a booking for the guest; the outcome is that the guest may not be served. Similarly, the system can fail if the reception does not take into account the housekeeping’s warning of the need to repair or redecorate the room (Bardi, 2010). It is apparent that the efficiency and effectiveness of hotel operations depend on communications, initiated by the front desk. Further, the front desk is the mediator between the hotel’s departments and guests, which is central towards ensuring that hotel operations run smoothly to guarantee customer satisfaction. The front desk also plays a fundamental role in coordinating guest services, offering information, maintaining precise room statistics, inventories, and maintaining and completing guest account statements. In fact, most communications in a hotel take place via the front desk. For instance, guests relay their complaints to the front desk, which are then forwarded to the respective departments. In addition, most departments relay information via the front desk to be forwarded to the respective departments. An effective information flow among guests, various departments and the front desk helps in boosting the hotel’s revenue (O'Fallon & Rutherford, 2010). Fundamentally, the front desk helps in handling complaints by determining the need, solving the problem and follow up measures to ensure guest satisfaction with the solution. Well-established front desk communications with other departments and guests help in ensuring effective hotel operations and satisfying experience by the patrons, which are central towards ensuring that the hotel achieves profitability and competitive advantage (Baker, Huyton & Bradley, 2001).
Another importance of the front desk is that it serves as the administrative hub of a hotel facility. Front desk operations include logging reservations, planning of room allocations, monitoring room status, preparation of guest bills, processing payments, keeping and updating records and maintenance of information displays. Failure to execute these tasks efficiently implies that the hotel would stop functioning (Bardi, 2010). The inference from this observation is that the front desk operations are central towards the entire functioning of the hotel. Reservations entail handling inquiries from potential guests and other interest parties wishing to reserve accommodation or use the hotel’s facilities. The primary objective of reservation is to gather the information needed to initiate a booking. Reception operations involve taking enquiries and addressing reservation requests, which involve preparation of guests’ arrival, greeting patrons during their arrival, checking guests in by registering them, assigning appropriate rooms and facilities and validating the payment methods. Reception operations also entail addressing problems and queries, raised by guests, selling hotel facilities and services, and offering information relating to patrons to other departments. Guest relations are also an essential element of the front desk activities, which has the primary objective of establishing a more personal relationship with guests (O'Fallon & Rutherford, 2010). Guest relations ensure that patrons feel welcome and access personalized service. It is apparent that the front desk operations are involved in every phase of the guest cycle from pre-arrival, arrival, occupancy and departure. The front desk facilitates pre-arrival of guests by ensuring effective reservation procedures. The arrival phase is facilitated through registration, room allocation, issuance of keys and baggage handling. The front desk facilitates the occupancy phase through updating and maintaining guest accounts, mail and information, currency exchange and transportation. Finally, the front desk facilitates the departure phase by checking guests out, bill settlement, transportation and baggage handling (Baker, Huyton & Bradley, 2001). It is evident that the administrative function of the front desk ensures the effectiveness of hotel operations by facilitating information flow and liaising with other departments in the hotel such as housekeeping, accounts, security, food and beverage, sales and marketing, and human resource department.
Overall, it is evident that the front desk has a significant impact on the hotel in terms of profitability, competitive advantage, revenue levels, efficiency of operations, and competitive advantages. All these variables influence guests’ satisfaction, which is the primary reason for establishing a hotel. Combining all the impacts imply that the front desk is critical in ensuring that the hotel is functional and profitable. The paper has discussed the importance and impacts of the front desk in a hotel, which include representing the image of the hotel and influence the customers’ perception towards the hotel, as the service hub of a hotel, communications hub for a hotel, and the administrative hub of the hotel. Effective front desk activities enhance customer satisfaction, which is central towards ensuring the business success of the hotel. The style and quality of service, offered by the front desk, also plays an imperative role in creating a competitive advantage for the hotel because it makes a hotel distinctive from its competitors, offering related services and facilities. In addition, the front desk operations are central towards the entire functioning of the hotel.