XiT-AGM Hotel Sales
Adele G Mourad
Future of The front Office
Changes brought by technology tend to be overreaching in the hotel industry. Today, the most controversial are the changes in the Front Desk, affecting its structure, function and future. Around this issue, there are vigorous debates oscillating between the modern mobile concept of the desk and the traditional stationary structure.
The modern concept of a hotel Front Desk is defined by its mobility. It is a transportable desk in the fullest sense; a laptop and a small podium replace the traditional-mounted front office where guests expect their first greetings.
The traditional desk, on the other hand is the stationary mounted desk where guests expect to settle their transactions, submit their requests and voice their complaints and compliments. The divisive question is how would the moving desk replace the efficiency of the traditional one? How will it impact the overall guest experience?
We took time to survey travelers, we included hotel owners and managers, asking them to choose between the modern version of the desk and the traditional one. The results revealed 58% were for the traditional desk, 31% were for the mobile desk, and 10% did not express an inclination to either side but had forwarded concerns and questions about the issue.
Proponents of the change believe that the new concept advances the operation of the desk into twenty first century hospitality. To them, it constitutes a fresh break from traditional appearances and old practices in hotel decor and staff performance. The new desk is more personable and less formal. It is contributing much to the overall guest experience. Proponents of the modern desk are seeking simplicity and informality in settling transactions. Line forming at check-in is becoming increasingly annoying as guests wait for their turn to check in or check out. They welcome the rather casual, sit-down check-in being taken care of by a staff person who is not stationary. To them the idea of a mobile desk in the lobby creates the convenience of being in the hotel lobby in close proximity to an espresso bar, or beverage area or other places of comfort in the public area. The newness of the process exudes openness and takes away, restrictions and divisions, which inhibit a relaxed hospitality environment.
Opponents of the idea, while they embrace the efficiency of technology and the positive changes it has brought so far to the industry, prefer that technology should remain exclusively administrative. While they enjoy the efficiency of electronic reservations and on line hotel shoppings, they strongly favor the traditional internal hotel structure, especially the desk. Their concerns are many and for those who experienced the mobile desk some did not feel its appeal yet missed the old traditional desk very much.
Opponents of the notion are for the stationary desk where consistency prevails. They believe that the activity of the front office is not only a cashier one, where a small machine is enough to satisfy guests needs but to the contrary they perceive the desk responsibilities extending beyond the visual. The front desk, the traditional traveler feels, must be equipped with the necessary tools and retain a specific size and dimension to render the services needed. More so, in its absence travelers missed the consistent warm greetings and the welcoming smile upon entering the property. It was a necessary part of their stay.
Some have noted that a stable and immobile desk exudes normality and security constituting a point of reference. Typically, a steady stand-up front desk agent behind a mounted desk guarantees structure, organization and better follow-ups in guest services and guest transactions. Some added that the desk is the front of the house and must be positioned as such. Its physical structure is pertinent to a complete hotel building.
The remaining respondents had the following concerns:
How will the clerk know who to help first? Will there be a line forming? Will they have a sign-in screen when they first walk in?
Others had the following concerns:
In a large lobby it would be nice and more personal if the clerk sat by you on the couch to check you in! But how quickly could they do that and how would they be able to deal with a high volume check-in?
Other were concerned about “frequent guests treatment” such as loyalty programs: Would HHonor diamond members, have a separate sign-in screen?
We would like to hear from hotel operators, managers, owners and all hotel staff members to get their point of view on the matter. Please forward your thoughts to us on the subject.
Please let us know how do you perceive the role of technology in the future of hotels..
Forward your thoughts via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or XITAGM@yahoo.com
Or respond through the attached link.
For those hoteliers that are interested to be interviewed in our next brief on the topic, please contact us through the addresses above.