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!