Hotel front desk agent: the skills behind the job description

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Oct 22, 2019 | Hotel Management | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Let me be honest with you: my experience as a hotel front desk agent was wonderful and stressful! Sure, I met great people and learned a lot, however, I had little time for myself and had to quickly learn how to deal with stress. Working with guests is not only about nice people, which is what they DON’T tell you in the job description!

I checked-in in the hotel life in 2011 and checked-out in 2017. On my way to hotel management, besides working at the front desk, I made stops in several sectors throughout my journey. Much more than miles, I accumulated stories and experiences that filled up my professional luggage.

I wasn’t “born” a hotelier: without knowing better, I was suddenly working at a hostel front desk. Back then, little I did I know about the duties and activities of this sector. Graduated in Psychology, the only requirement that I fulfilled was the ability to speak 3 different languages.

My expectations for the new job were simple: to talk to people from all around the world (and I like to talk a lot!) and to have fun while getting to know other cultures. Soon I found out that it takes strength, focus and lots of love for hospitality to be a good front desk agent. Of course, technical knowledge goes a long way, but it is not enough.

Here, you will find out what people don’t tell you. This includes characteristics and abilities that I consider vital to perform well as a hotel front desk agent, which are not openly described in the job postings. Hopefully, this knowledge will prepare you to face the hidden challenges of this position.

After all, a good hotel front desk agent needs to have excellent social competence, a lot of resilience, and a good sense of humor to shine behind the balcony.

So, welcome to this article, dear reader! Feel comfortable to read and get to know in a casual (and hopefully fun) way a bit more about this career that brought me so much joy along with a few headaches!

“Don’t you worry about a thing…”

Best practices in hospitality tell us that warmth and courtesy are the core of conquering guests. However, it is not easy to smile sometimes. People who work in the customer service business know how challenging it is to be nice and happy when you are going through a difficult moment in your personal life.

But the show must go on and clients can’t suffer from the consequences of the staff’s bad day. On the contrary, they must feel welcome, rain or shine. Particularly guests: people who are traveling and are literally paying to be stress-free and relaxed.

At these moments, when smiling seems like a hard task, keep calm and talk to guests. The hotel front desk agent should be able to greet the traveler full of energy and, if possible, do not reveal the storm inside him/her. It is important that he/she demonstrates true joy while providing guest service, hiding the internal chaos or a broken heart. Listening to music during breaks helped me cheer up and get back to the game.

“Smile and wave, hoteliers”

We often face stressful situations in the hotel industry. That is why I had to quickly learn how to activate the smile-and-wave mode, like a Madagascar penguin.

a hotel receptionist should smile

That means being able to keep calm and “smile and wave” when situations are getting out of hand, not showing traces of frustration, sadness or even panic. It’s to master the art of disguise, while disaster and madness are happening all around you. Believe me: it’s harder than you think.

Do like the penguins: smile and wave, and be the calm throughout the storm.

The multi-tasking hotel front-desk agent

The hotel front desk agent often has to play different roles: concierge, bellboy, reservation agent, housekeeper, and even bartender if necessary. Adaptability and versatility are key characteristics for this position.

Among the most unusual tasks that I had to perform while being a hostel receptionist, I want to highlight a stormy day when the hostel kitchen and some rooms started to flood and it was just me working at the time. Put together the non-stop phone calls, emails, and guests coming to the lobby asking for information. It was chaos! Fortunately, in the end, everything worked out!

Try to do all that with a big smile on your face. Who said the life of a hotel receptionist is easy?

Lost in translation?

I said at the beginning of the text that the only technical ability that I had when I started in the hotel industry was to be able to speak  3 different languages. Indeed, being fluent in more than one language is vital for a hotel career, especially English, but that ability didn’t prevent me from unusual scenarios.

I experienced some situations like in the “Tower of Babel”. The most memorable one was the day a Korean group arrived at the hostel without a previous booking and they did not know how to speak English or Swedish (yes, I do speak Swedish!). The whole communication was through mime and the price negotiation was numbers on a paper. Almost like real-life Pictionary!

In the end, we managed to understand each other and the group stayed a few days with us. On their last day, one of them said: “Thank you”, in English. Of course, I didn’t even try to answer back in Korean! I just smiled and waved.

Long live the hotel receptionist

The front desk is the hotel’s heart. It’s through the front desk that all veins pulse: housekeeping, sales, reservations, etc. The receptionist is also the hotel’s face. He/She is the hotel’s first impression for the traveler who has just arrived. That is why a good hotel front desk agent is the key to successful lodging.

Even with such importance for hotel operations, the position of a hotel front desk agent is hardly recognized in terms of status, value and even wages. That is extremely unfair if you ask me!

My time in the hotel industry brought me good results and many joys. Nevertheless, the little free time I had and the high work demands took a toll on me, so today I work indirectly with the hotel industry. Through my season as a hotelier, I’ve come to admire people who dedicate themselves to this industry.

Many could think that it is simple and fun, but working as a hotel receptionist is not for everyone. Only the strong survive!

🎧Hotel Cast – Podcast:

Listen now to this episode featuring Calvin Stovall, Chief Experience Officer of ICONIC Presentations, LLC , talks about how to leaders can connect and motivate through tough times and gives good examples of what we can now for a better tomorrow in hospitality:

4 comments about "Hotel front desk agent: the skills behind the job description"

  • Mohit says:

    This is actually story of front office Agent and this experience is similar to my experience .😄 I have completed 2 years with hospitality management and I had face so Many challenges like this and learned how to handle the critical situations at the desk ,after working long hours still how do to the welcome to new check-In with same energy nd smile and many moooore things .. Which would have Never know if I wouldn’t have join this industry.
    *Hospitality industry is teaches us how to live life and enjoy your
    work* .
    Thanks
    Warm Regards
    Mohit Sharma

    • Paula Carreirão says:

      Hi, Mohit! Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. To work in hospitality is a big challenge, but it can also be fun and it definitely prepares you for life!

  • ali says:

    hey
    my name is ali
    i was reading about my new job and i read your story
    can you tell me about this job more?
    exp:how should i answer to guste are angry or something aobut our hotel?
    or how should i talk to them?
    is it ok to call them by name?
    tanks for everything
    ali.

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