Front desk, as the name suggests, may refer to the counter in hotel lobby where front desk agents (receptionists) work. Here it’s about, in small hotel, the whole front office department; in medium-large hotel, the department under front office, alongside concierge, reservation, business center etc.
The following chart pictures the front office organization of a large hotel. It needs to point out that there are no standard hierarchies for any types of hotels—even the positions can be titled differently according to the mind of the management, in some hotels, guest service office (GRO) is receptionist, in others, she or he works as assistant manager—it should be designed based on the actual business situation and mission of a hotel.
Front desk running 7-24 operation is one of the most important departments in a hotel, which traditionally plays a role of face and brain in hotel operation: front desk holds the most significant place in the lobby, it’s intended designed that guests will notice the Front desk immediately as long as they enter a hotel. For most guests, the first thing they do in a hotel is to check-in, the last thing is to check-out—both of which are conducted at front desk; other operational departments such as housekeeping, food and beverage, health center provides many services that heavily depend on the information, communication, instruction from Front desk; even today, front desk is still one of the most important sales distributions and communication center.
The front desk used to be the absolute heart of a hotel lobby. Today however, the concept of a front desk is at the risk of being ditched completely. In such cases, front desk staff approach guests as they enter the hotel, establishing immediate personal contact. The peripatetic guest service agents then use portable tablets to quickly check guests in.
Will front desk disappear eventually in the future? Before we answer this question, let's take a look at what is happening to similar desks in other industries.
In banks, the bank industry has a reputation of embracing new tech, new trends to gain competition advantages; even though most of them are promoting their mobile phone payment solutions—a bank inside your mobile, the counters in banks are much like the front desk of 1980. People may argue that banks need to protect their money and valuable documents. That hurdle, more or less, some hotels face too.
In entertainment, people don’t have to buy sports tickets or movie tickets at any windows or desks anymore, still those counters are kept for selling snacks or souvenirs. The extra selling opportunities many hotels cannot afford to lose either.
In transportation, like airlines, airports are working toward completely eliminating all physical check-in desks. Here one thing should be emphasized: check-in desks. How about other desks such as inquiry, security check? No one would think airports can remove security checks in the foreseeable future. Hotel front desk is a multifunctional desk where people come and go for information and services, where hotel staff observe guests 7-24. The place where some guests may feel they will be treated more seriously when asking for a favor.
So, the answer should be, even the appeal of reducing costs is always very strong and tech can make front desk staff be more productive, the front desk won’t disappear in visible future. But front desks will evolve, like any other survival things on the planet.
Many hotels bring in mobile apps to help them stop lines forming in their lobbies, they have no plans to remove the desks. The mobile apps let guests select rooms on maps, check in from 3 p.m., access elevators, open room doors, and send requests via chats.
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