Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your Front Desk Agent at the Hotel

Front Desk Agents have a hard job.

I dedicate this post to all those who currently work at a hotel's front desk or have worked at one in the past. I've done it, holding different positions and seeing it all come together from different angles, and I know it's not an easy job.
In my opinion, front desk agents are tremendously underpaid, given the amount of work, knowledge, decision making abilities, emotional and physical toll and offensive guest behavior they have to face.

As a guest, keep in mind what front desk agents "need to have, be and do" on a daily basis, for HOURS. Some may love their job, yet, we all know that too much of a thing is not ideal anyway.

  • They need to smile for 8 hours (if not longer), even if they have a headache, cramps, nausea or have already been working for 9 days straight
  • They need to be positive for 8 hours (if not longer), even though they know the hotel is fully booked, no rooms are available and they'll have to send you to the hotel across the street for the night
  • They should try to get along with all other agents, because management tries to cultivate team spirit and the ones who don't practice it won't get brownie points
  • They need to be able to anticipate your needs real fast when you're about 40 feet away from them walking towards the desk
  • They need to act as if you're right no matter what nonsense you're telling them
  • They need to magically make pool/garden view rooms appear to cater to your persistent wish even if there really are none available
  • They need to know about EVERYTHING that goes on in the hotel (restaurant hours, shuttle services, how the business center printer works (!), why the movies on demand are not working, what time the cute bartender starts his shift or why the airline lost your luggage)
  • They need to politely deal with guests who yell at them, who think they are stupid, incompetent and incapable of solving their "simple" problem
  • They need to endure the fact that, in the guest's view, it's their fault when the AC in the room is not working, because, of course, that agent chose that room for him! (not always the case!)
  • They are cursed at by upset, loud, inconvenienced guests, they are hit on by drunk, obnoxious people, they may witness naked people walk across the lobby at night and may have to help escort an almost comatose guest (drunk or drugged) to their room
  • They are not a bank (they may cash checks, but this service is limited)
  • They may have a lot of power, but when it comes to restaurant bills, please remember to deal with any discrepancies directly with the restaurant manager
  • They are most of the time really, really not at any fault if your 2 months pre-blocked room with a King connector facing the lake is taken by another guest
  • They are trained to do their job, but remember that not all establishments provide the same type of training for the same time duration
  • They have managers who not always stand by them. Remember, this is one of the worst things that can happen to you at work.

I know there are people who really are "natural" customer service agents. They love it and are great at it. They don't mind the often harsh environment and can actually, consistently have a positive attitude. They love their job and the guest interaction. I wish all agents had this in them. The real picture is painted differently, though. Remember that many agents are transitory in their position, aiming to spend "just some time" at the desk and hopefully move up to a higher position or a different department soon. Some others, are doing this as part of an internship and will be off the front desk in a few months. Some, need a job, and they really see it as just a job that has good extra benefits (hopefully, at least). Others, are starting out in the workplace and are trying out different things that may initially appeal to them, just to realize after a few months, they don't love the front desk so much as they thought.

Next time you stay at a hotel, remember that front desk agents don't have an easy job. You might be a great guest, but the guest just before you, might have made that agent who's serving you, cry.

I learned that empathy goes a long way. Have it. Use it.

Another thing to remember: NEVER think a front desk agent is less knowledgeable, less smart or less important than you are!

Have a wonderful stay!

...and thank you very much!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Be the perfect Hotel Guest!

Knowing how to behave and communicate well while staying at a hotel will help YOU have a better stay! The most important thing to keep in mind is to treat the hotel staff with respect, courtesy and understanding!


  • When checking in, always be polite, friendly and communicative. Never be snobby and, please, don't wear your sunglasses unless you actually have eye problems at that time. Eye contact is one of the most important things for a successful interpersonal exchange.
  • When checking in, don't ask "I'm a frequent guest here...can I have a Suite?", without familiarizing yourself FIRST with the current and upcoming occupancy of the hotel. You may ask the agent checking you in "Has the hotel been very busy these days?" and get a feel for the situation from there. If you are indeed a frequent guest on a reward system offered by the hotel chain and you have used your reward # for your reservation, stay assured that the best hotels will automatically upgrade you to a suite if it is available.
  • Don't flirt with the front desk agent. It is offensive and distracting, and creates a very uncomfortable interaction. It is possible that, depending on how the agent feels about your "flirty jokes", she will leave not so friendly comments about you in your account. Whoever pulls up your account will be able to read her notations about how you behaved at check-in.

  • IF your choice of room is NOT available, don't lose your temper and curse out the front desk agent. It is probably not her/his fault at all. Rooms are, most of the time, allocated to reservations long before your check-in time, and there are certain supervisors or controllers who are in charge of this. Losing your temper will NOT get you brownie points with anybody at the Front Desk, and you might end up NOT receiving any of your desired compensation (may this be free tickets to the shuttle to downtown, complimentary room service, a discounted rate, extra points on your rewards card etc)
  • Continuing, if your choice of room is not available, politely express your disappointment, and ask calmly "So, what do you think we can do about it?". Right there, the agent will understand your request for "something to be done", and will most likely give you options. Remember, however, for your future stays, call the hotel the day prior to your arrival, and confirm the room type you had requested. Explain to the agent on the line how important it is for you to have this type of room, and ask, always politely and very friendly, continuously repeating the agent's name on the phone while talking to her/him, if she/he could leave a note on your account for other agents to honour your room request (that means, not to move you/your reservation to another type of room).
  • IF the above mentioned step did not work out for you, know that there are situations beyond control of the Front Desk staff that could sometimes negatively affect other guests coming in (a group postponing their check-out, for example, will inevitably affect the room inventory somehow).

  • Remember your front desk agent's name and if you had a bellman escort you and your luggage to the room, remember his name as well. Try to establish a relationship with them, so that you become their guest. Throughout your stay, talk to them, ask them questions, and ask them for help if you need it. They will appreciate you trusting them and coming to them for help, and will be glad to offer you the best service. Tips are greatly appreciated (and, may I share my opinion, you should always tip good service), especially by valet-parking and bell stand staff. Front desk agents are not used to being tipped, but a "monetary gift" as a thank you on your day of checking out will never be forgotten.
  • Recognition goes a long way, and if you have 2 minutes (just 2 minutes!), fill out a guest comment card, acknowledging the people who gave you good service. Write down your name, contact information, and KNOW that these positive comments have a tremendous positive impact on hotel staff. They are read by management, and they are shared with other employees. It definitely helps ensure good service for other guests too!

Friday, June 12, 2009

InternEtiquette - Part III

Oh, online communication is a special thing. A previous post of mine mentioned how important it is to make your words more "visual", so that people cannot only truly understand what you want to tell them, but can also understand HOW you are saying/writing it.

"I cannot believe he would do that!" has a different meaning than "I cannot believe HE would do that!" You see what I mean, right?

Sometimes people believe the Internet is a silent war-zone.
There is no visualization even needed, because the madness in their words says it all.
I am all for kindness and being good, but unfortunately there are people who use the online world for putting others down.
There are curse words, there is anger, there is misery and there are accusations. I have seen it mostly on social media engines, like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. Envy and jealousy reign in their minds at that moment of "updating a status", "tweeting" or "commenting on someones post", and people take off on a voyage of deliberate insults and profanity.

It only ends up hurting themselves.
Remember what I mentioned about others' perceptions of you. Enough said.

Why? Why would you do that to yourself? Do you really want to show the world how you place so much negative energy on abusing and offending someone "publicly", instead of trying to find a solution?
Keep in mind that the Internet is an open book, and your employer, future employer, potential employer, friends, family, children can all have access to the information you input online on social media engines.

My advice is: Leave the ugly words for very personal encounters only, and only if very, very necessary. I am not in favor of confrontations that create a scene, that have hair-pulling and curse words involved. You can keep all confrontations diplomatic and less painful, always.

  • Online, if you are the victim of a social media insult, ignore it. Don't "start a scene" and comment on that certain comment. Don't update your status by confronting back. You'll be the better, bigger person sending the silent message that it didn't affect you. That is all you need to do.

  • Online, don't waste your time leaving ugly comments for people. WHY are you not focusing on doing something more productive with your life? Live a better, positive life. You don't need to share with everybody how much you "hate him" or "wish she would quit work and disappear". Do yourself a favor.

  • Online, share your worries, concerns and comments with a friend, via e-mail. Keep it as private as possible, and don't post it on social media engines. Sharing and talking is OK, but don't opt for the "open insults" that will actually bring you down instead.

Be Kind.

Feel Good.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When your disorganization trumps your good intentions

Let's be honest: We all have a messy closet, a junk drawer, hidden stashes of "something" or a desk/table where you carry out most of your daily activities. I am right, aren't I? Your office appears neat and clean, but, wait! ...Don't you dare open those upper cabinets! Your bedroom is a model room...if you only looked under the bed! Uff!...OK, maybe if you truly are more organized, maybe you have just a tiny corner in your house, a small box with "items" (yet, you still labeled the box "random things"), a little shelf (a hidden shelf, of course!) that holds a few papers or "stuff". The hidden disorganization. I believe I can live with that!

The reason why I decided to write about disorganization, is because I believe chronic disorganization can ruin our goals. This is so sad. I've seen people giving up because they couldn't find their "to do list" they were working on and after starting a new one, they once again misplace it. I've seen people not going to the gym because they postponed doing their laundry, didn't check detergent was actually missing and had nothing to wear to the gym. Their enthusiasm, so great, was eaten up by disorganization. I've also seen people avoid calling important people, or getting back via e-mail because (and they told me that), they misplaced their contact info! Wow!
I've experienced being silently ignored by someone who had so much, so much in his hands, he couldn't even schedule answering me back in his amazingly busy 24h day. He told me he didn't sleep, so I figured ... "Hey, maybe I have a chance of receiving an e-mail from him, even if it's at 3 a.m. I wouldn't mind!" He couldn't really fit me into his 24h day, and while I move on, my perception of him changed quite a bit.

I wrote a previous post about the following: We live in a society. No matter who we are, who we want to be or what beliefs we have, it is how OTHERS PERCEIVE us that will, partly, influence how successful our social life, our social interactions are. If you come across as a snob, yet you feel you are not one, you are clearly doing something wrong. If you come across as rude, yet you are perplexed to hear that Mary gossiped to Lauren and John about your rude remarks and they all agreed on it, you're certainly doing something wrong! Don't kid yourself. This is serious stuff.

If I interact with you one day, and the next day I meet you say, in your office, you are inviting me in to explore more of who you are. If your office is a mess, a chaotic dump, you are telling me this about you. I might continue to consider you an extremely, friendly, outgoing, fun, capable, knowledgeable person, yet, I will also think of you as messy and disorganized. Will this have a negative impact on my future judgement of you? Maybe.

Chronic disorganization at the workplace, in your Association, in your Club, even at home, sends signals to others that something is not in sync with you. Can we really, really reach full efficiency if our surroundings are messy? Think about it. Do you picture your dream workplace as a messy place? Honestly, I don't think you would. Some would argue that most geniuses were totally disorganized. OK, but are you a genius like Einstein or Galileo? Hm.

I have a few hidden, junk drawers, junk closets and "holds whatever"- cabinets. Both at work and at home. I live peacefully with my mess. I call it organized mess, because it doesn't affect my day, it doesn't affect my goals, it doesn't bother me. Many of us realize the mess, ignore it and literally suffer from the negative effects it has on us, on our goals and possible negative perceptions others can have of us.

If you are doing business where people need to have very positive perceptions of you, re-think your office mess, your mess in your car (picking up a client for lunch?), your mess in your purse (does it take you 15 minutes to locate your business cards?). You have goals to achieve in your social and business interactions, and don't let your messy surroundings ruin them for you!