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Reception backstage

The reception is the heart and brain of the hotel. Almost all information, questions and guest requests pass through it. It is here that they lead their steps when they have problems or wishes. This is the place of the first and last contact for people arriving at the hotel.

Although it plays a key role in the hotel, its employees are often perceived as people who are only supposed to look good and smile nicely. Many people think so and this is a stereotype. This is not true, and certainly not enough to do the job well. In this article, I will show you the behind-the-scenes work and point out the features that should characterize a real receptionist. I will try to prove that despite appearances, it is a very responsible and difficult task.

When a job offer arrives at the hotel reception, we can usually read that the receptionist’s duties include check-in and check-out, invoicing, accepting payments, providing information and responding to guests’ needs. As far as the scope of duties is concerned, it is mainly knowledge of English, nice appearance, availability and good organization of work. But will every receptionist agree with this?

Me, after almost 10 years in the hotel industry, I think that work at the reception is much more than what we can expect when reading the ads.

First of all, it is not work for everyone. In my opinion, a professional receptionist should have several additional features besides those mentioned above. A person deciding to work in a hotel reception should love working with people, be open to cultural differences – and thus, have a lot of empathy, understanding and humility. Obligatorythe person should be distinguished by high personal culture and discretion. Very important features are the ability to concentrate, divide attention and the ability to alleviate conflicts. A good receptionist should be able to delegate tasks and act under the pressure of time or stress. The post of a receptionist will surely find someone with temperament, someone who will show the speed of reaction to emerging difficulties and unexpected situations. At the same time, he will be able to make the guest feel special and comfortable – and that’s what it’s all about.

An additional role of the employee is also the sale of hotel services – both those at the telephone and at the reception desk, which is why sales skills play an important role. During direct contact with the visitor, in addition to the ease of contact, it is important that the receptionist is aware of the non-verbal behavior that should be controlled. The attitude is important – the ability to maintain eye contact, upright silhouette, using naturally polite phrases, as well as the right tone of voice.

In addition to the mentioned features, it is worth paying attention to the ability to cooperate with employees of other departments of the hotel.

Good organization of work and meticulousness of the receptionist are necessary when finalizing all payments. Ability to service more and more devices, as well as the knowledge of tools that are found at the reception, starting from the payment terminal, through the key system, hotel system, modern multimedia TV systems and extranets of individual booking portals.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the receptionist is the first and last contact for people staying in the hotel. He accepts requests and complaints, it depends on him whether they will be dealt with at the highest level and in accordance with the expectations of the guests.

Sincere smile, cordiality and everyday “nice day” receptionist, makes the guest feel good, comfortable and surrounded by care and attention in a given place. You can say that this is all too much. Please, however, imagine the situation that after arriving at the hotel greets your unpleasant receptionist, in a messy outfit that treats you as if by your arrival just prevented her in something very important. Which quickly reports you to the hotel without providing any information and focuses on yourself. And your leaves are left alone in a completely new place. I think that none of us would like to be served by such staff.

In order for you to feel, though a bit of the specifics of the receptionist’s work, I will cite two situations that happened to me when I started my adventure with the hotel industry.

The first situation was the most stuck in my memory. I worked at the reception desk at the hotel, which could host over 500 people. I took over the night shift from my predecessors together with a friend who just started work. Although the hotel had a fairly full occupancy, it seemed calm. Together with a friend, we set about performing our duties. At one point we heard the sound of the alarm detector from the back. Devices that inform us about the danger of alarm turned on. We read the message: “Corridor, 6th floor”. I immediately asked the gatekeeper to check what was going on. Before he could get back, the first-degree alarm went on.

Throughout the hotel you could hear howling sirens and the message: “The object is a fire hazard. Please keep calm and go to the nearest emergency exit “. Panic panicked. Guests connected to the reception to make sure it was not an exercise. The telephone did not stop ringing. The fire brigade and technical staff were on their way. Panicked guests fled in the pajamas to the reception desk. We were able to determine that there was a short-circuit in the shafts. Together with a friend, we tried to keep as much peace as possible. We evacuated guests from the endangered floor, and two neighboring ones. We made sure that the remaining floors do not require evacuation

In a very short time three fire engines drove up to the hotel. The situation was very tense. We prepared guest lists, secured money in a safe. The employees of other departments were informed that they would wait in readiness, because we are waiting for further information from the technical department as well as from the fire brigade. The whole situation lasted two hours, after this time the fault was repaired, the guests returned safely to the rooms. It was only then that we realized that life and health of all guests was in our hands. During the entire evacuation campaign, we could not afford to panic, make bad decisions or wonder. We had to act quickly and keep cool. Fortunately, in this case it was just a short circuit, not a real fire, but you had to check everything and keep all safety rules

Despite the nerves that accompanied us, we did our best to make our guests feel that we know what we are doing, that all our activities are well thought out and that they are not in danger because they are in good hands.

Another situation, which also stuck in my mind deeply, was connected with the volcano eruption in Iceland. We received the first call from the airport with information that all flights were canceled. As many rooms as possible were needed. The telephone did not stop ringing. The faxer was throwing out more letters with the names of the guests. Airlines and guests were looking for accommodation on their own. Some have just left the hotel, others have been traveling for several or even several dozen hours. The object was not prepared for unplanned and sudden 180 arrivals. Taxis did not stop driving up to the hotel. The peacekeepers worked in the sweat of their brows and were in constant contact with the reception, informing us on an ongoing basis which rooms are already available to guests. Such an action required from us a lot of self-control, peace, patience, empathy, multitasking and meticulousness. You had to master the situation, take care of the guests, complete the formalities, make sure you pay. Correctly enter each booking into the system to later know how to settle each guest’s stay

The above-mentioned events are just two of many, with whom the receptionists in different hotels face every day. During my many years of work, I was among others witness of suicide attempt, rape, assault, theft, epileptic seizure. The dissatisfied guests, dripping ceiling, cracked pipe, broken leg, broken head, beating, loud music. There were also nice situations, such as visiting world-famous artists or sportsmen.

The list of examples and events is really big and I could exchange it for a long time.

Each of these circumstances required an individual approach, peace and all the features I mentioned at the beginning.

A hotel is a place where we can encounter many difficult to predict situations and it is usually in the least expected moment. In order to provide professional and comprehensive service, we should realize how responsible the task lies with the reception and its employees.

While building my team, I was very fortunate that I was able to choose the best pearls. People with passion and commitment who, despite the difficult moments associated with the opening of a new hotel, made everyone want to come to work. Each of them was different, unique, but it suited perfectly to the puzzle from which a great team was created. Thanks to them, guests felt a good atmosphere, positive energy and warmth and kindness.

Having these features in each of them made me able to sleep peacefully, and they bravely faced severe situations, leaving smoothly from any oppression.

Dear readers, I hope that I managed to bring you a little closer to the reception desk. The change of the receptionist is 12 hours unknown. It’s a bit like sitting on a ticking bomb.

I think that we should appreciate this profession and people who are on the other side of the reception desk and try to make our stay in the hotel not only unforgettable, but above all safe.

Natalia Zawadzka
Front Office

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