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Front office is the nerve centre of a hotel. This is because the front office employees are the first person who will interact with guests and therefore they are the person who create whether good impression or bad impression to the guests. Success or failure to representing a hotel''s image is mainly depends on them. For example, if front office staff is impatient and talk rudely to the guest, the guest probably will not check in and will had bad sense to that hotel. If employee''s attitude is good and delivered information well the guest, he/she might attract walk-in guest to check-in at the meantime. Besides, front office department is very crucial as it needs to interact and cooperates with other departments to effectively running the daily route. For example, front office department needs to take guest''s bill from F&B department to total the guest''s bill. Basically, there are many staffs involve in front office department such as front office manager and assistant manager, representative, night audit, cashier, reservationist and telephone operator to carry out their duties and to ensure smooth running of the department.
1.2 TASK AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF:
- Front office manager
The highest position in front office department is front office manager. He is the one who generally in charge of everything that goes on in the front desk. Usually, manager needs to know how to perform his employee''s task. For example, he must know how to answer phone in correct way, record data and take a guest''s bill. Besides, manager also involves in hire and provides training to his employees. He must hire qualification staffs and always provide training to upgrade his staff''s skill. If receiving complaints from guest, the front office manager needs to handle and settle down it immediately and follows them to reduce future complaints. This is very important task, and he need to solve every problem calmly. In addition, manager also assists the room division manager in forecasting room availability to ensure that the maximum occupancy is achieves. They both must know which rooms are available for sell; how many occupancy on that particular day. Lastly, front office manager also processing monthly reports to record and evaluate all the data and information of his department.
- Assistant front office manager
The main duty of assistant front office manager is helping manager carry out duties in all operation fields. He should have strong leadership and communication skills as well as manager. His working range includes assists manager in overview performance of employees, staff training, staffs scheduling and inter-department communication and assists front desk staffs during peak period. When manager is unavailable or on leave, assistant manager should lead the front office team and in charge of conducts the meeting. He must ensure that everything is going well even though there is no supervision from manager.
- Front desk representative
Certainly, front desk representative has the first initial contact with guest when guest arrived to a hotel. Their attire, body language and communication skill will leave impression and assumption to the guest. Usually, the basic functions performed by them are handles guest check-in and check-out procedure. Besides, they attempt to sells the guest on all hotel service and facilities such as spa, gym and restaurant. In addition, they need to answer any request made by the guests. For example, they need to alert with all daily events in the hotel and local area, so that they will able to answer if ask by tourist. Another important task of front desk representative is they must coordinate the room status with housekeeping department to know whether which room is able to sell. It is very important to know rooms that are vacant clean, vacant dirty, occupied clean, out of order and etc. Besides, they must coordinate maintenance work with the engineering and maintenance division. Lastly, front desk is the department who keeps guestroom key storage.
- Night auditor
Normally, night auditor has two functions. First, he/she is responsible for the front desk operation during overnight shift. For example, he need to registering guests, making reservation, solves any emergency issue, conducting security walks and etc during the night. Second, the night audit has to perform accounting function and balance all the transaction for the previous day. Their duties include posting room charges and tax to guests account, balancing guests payments, calculate total sales for that day, produce statistics of revenue, review room status for following days and perform bookkeeping for other departments.
The main duty of a cashier is prepares and settles guest''s accounts. For example, she needs to get ready the total bill of guest if that guest uses hotel laundry services, consumed at hotel''s restaurant and so on. We can say that it is a very crucial task because at that time, guest is rushing to check out, if not handle properly during this phase, we will leave overall bad impression to the guest in the end. In addition, she cashier is in charge of administering the safe deposit boxes. Lastly, nowadays many hotels do provide a foreign currency exchange service at cashier counter. Some examples are Piccolo Hotel at KL, Mahkota Hotel at Melaka, E&0 Hotel at Penang. As a cashier, they need to alert with latest currency exchange rate.
The reservationist is responsible for taking walk-in reservation, answering reservation phone call, and dealing with reservations mail. Besides, she also needs to handle tour bookings, group reservation, banquets and meeting made by travel agent or a company. Reservationist needs to continuing follows the guest''s progress to handle any advance deposit, changes or cancellation. For small hotel, usually front desk representative will handles reservations. In large hotel, there will be a reservation department supervise by reservation manager, and assist by assistant manager.
- Telephone operator
The role of telephone operator is answers incoming calls, provides information on guest service, and answer inquiries about hotel facilities and events. He/she must post a good communication skill when dealing with customers. For example, be courtesy and answer phone in polite manner. One of the greatest duties of an operator is transferring calls from outside of the hotel to the appropriate guest room. For example, someone dials to hotel asking for Mr. John, the telephone operator will connect the line to Mr. John''s room. But for security measurement, operators must not give the guest''s room number to the outsider. Besides, most of the hotel has room-to-room dialing by which guest in one room can dial directly to another room. This PABX (Private automatic branch exchange) system is staffed by telephone operators. For example, operators make morning calls to guests through this system.
To put it briefly, front office is the first and the last department that guests will interact with when they stay at a hotel. Guests mainly will have impression about the hotel regarding to this department. Hence, each of the front office staffs are playing main role to represent the hotel image. They have their own duties and responsibilities to ensure that all works are done in a correct track. Besides, they must understand each other tasks and cooperate together to present an effective and efficiency atmosphere to the guests. For instance, they have to work independently without so much attention from the front office manager and can settle or solve any complaints and problems calmly and wisely.
We may don''t know who is kitchen chef or housekeeper during we stay at hotel for few days. But, we sure will know who the front office staffs are. Front office employees are the 1st line staffs who will contact with guests. When we step into a hotel, the first place we go is front office, for any inquiry. The image of front office staffs present to the guest direct reflects standard and quality of that hotel in training their staffs. Of course, front office staffs need to have certain skills to attract guests to buy the hotel product and services and solves any issues. For example, there are five major skills they need to master: communication skill, customer service skill, organizational skill, interpersonal skill and technology skill.
2.2 FRONT OFFICE STAFF SKILLS IN GUEST RELATIONS
- Communication and presentation skill
First of all, front desk representatives need to have good communication and presentation skill because they spend a lot of time communicate with guest. They must be high understanding and able to communicate fluently with guests. For example, when guest arrived at front desk, they must able to make the guests trust them and their organization, and hence buy their hotel products and services. If a person that poor in English work at Europe country, how can he/she understand and chat well with guests? He/she sure will ask the guest: ''Excuse me, can you repeat? I do not understand what you are talking.'' In contrast, good communication skill does not only means that we master certain language is enough already. For example, if a front desk representative master English, but he/she do not have initiative to chat with guest and provides further information, how can he/she sell other hotel services such as F&B or spa service to the guest? He/she will only answer what the guest asked instead of actively provides further information. Besides, having a good communication skill is also important for reservationists. This is because they spend most of the time on communication with customers and vendors. They must be a good listener and able to pass the information without any mistakes. When they talk through the telephone, they must greet the caller in polite manner, friendly and professional voice and listen to the caller carefully. This is very important because the caller do not know who we are, and we were leave impression to them.
- Customer service skill
In addition, front office staffs need to have excellent customer service skill when they carry out their duties. They need to be polite, emphatic, patient and good negotiation when talking with others. Their typical duties include always smile when greeting customers, answer question correctly and politely, show the guest on their room number, restaurant or swimming pool, have spontaneous enthusiasm to help guest and etc. Every day, front office staffs have to face with different kind of customers, and each of them has different inquiry or problems. For example, X guest need to check-in to a twin room, Y guest request front office for an extra bed, and Z guest ask how to reach to tourist destination from hotel. So, as front office staffs, they need to be patient enough to solve every single problem and can''t lose their temper to the customers. Besides, they must emphasize on customer orientated service and always put customer''s need in the 1st place.
- Organizational skill
On top of that, front office staffs spend a lot of time on filling documents, maintaining and keeping records. They need to have good organizational skill in order to make their work easier and save time. When receptionist organized everything well, other staffs are easier to find out what they want. For instance, manager can easily finds out total revenue in the past year, reservationist knows how many rooms are available in coming Sunday and etc. Besides, organization skill also includes well time management. It is always important for front office staffs to organize their job and make use of their time effectively. For example, they can list down things they need to do on that day, and arrange nicely which to be done first. A good organization skill will definitely make the front office running smoothly because other staffs can easily find out documents that they need to complete a task.
-Interpersonal and social skill
Moreover, front desk staffs need to poses good interpersonal and social skills because they are always interact with public and other staffs. Social skill includes self-presentation, posture, gesture, expression and eye contact. As hotel staffs especially staff of front office department, when they wear their uniform, they will direct give a ''signal'' to the guests that they are standby to help the guests. Besides, their attire and personal image must be neat and clean to provide good perception to guests because dirty and unclean attire always reflect lazy attitude. Posture covers the ways we sit and stand. For example, as front office staff, they can lean forward their body to show that they are listening and interest in conversation with the guests. They definitely can''t fold their arm defensively because it will form a ''barrier'' that keep people away from them. In addition, hotel staffs especially front office staff must always smile to the guests. This is why they are always encouraged to bring a positive and enthusiastic attitude to the work environment. On the other hand, eyes contact is very important not only to show that we respect others but also show we are interested in the conversation. If the receptionist keep typing her documents when guest ask her something, the guest must feels disrespected and may get angry. Besides, all the staffs must not see their customers over from head to foot because this behavior is very impolite and it will cause uncomfortable to others.
- Technology skill
Nowadays, almost every company use computerizes system to records, modified and save their organization or clients'' data. As many company practice paperless work, this is very important for all front office staffs to master technology skills especially the receptionist, reservationist and cashier. For example, the receptionists always need to use multi-line phones, photocopier, fax machine and printing machine when carry out their duty. Besides, receptionists also need to know other computer programs such as databases and spreadsheet to enable them to filling the information and data. For reservationist, he/she needs to familiar with the computer software such as word processing program that enable he/she sending confirming mail to the guests. Besides, some company do have scheduling software, it provides convenient for reservationist to arrange the appointments. In addition, the hotel cashier system is very important because it will automatically total up the guest''s bill during they stay at hotel. Cashier must familiar and knows how to use it. Lastly, front office staffs always need to maximize the use of Internet in order to make promotion, publicity or research topics regarding to people and places. Hence, it can be said that master technology skill is a need especially in this 21century.
In summary, master all the required skills such as communication skill, customer service skill, organizational skill, interpersonal skill, and technology skill brings a lot of benefits to the front office staff. He/she can carry out duties more easily, effectively and smoothly. For example, if she mastered communication skill, she is more understanding on what the guest needs, and reduces the risk of misunderstanding. Besides, many hotels demands employee who practices customer service skill because hotel is the organization that provides services to their customers. For front office staffs, excellent organization skill is important in order to saving the time on finding any data or documents. Moreover, good personal and social skills are very important in creating good relationship between two bodies. Lastly, a front office staff has to master technological skill as she needs to record all the data in computer. All these skills can be improved by accumulating working experience or attending specific courses. The most important is we have initiative and enthusiasm to learn, practice and apply it on our work.