Hotel front desk agent: the skills behind the job description

Oct 22, 2019 | Hotel Management | Reading Time: 5 minutes

Let me be honest with you: my experience as a hotel front desk agent was a wonderful and stressful time! 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. To work with guests is not only about nice people. And THAT they don’t tell you in the job description!

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

I wasn’t “born” a hotelier: without knowing better, suddenly I was working in a hostel front desk. Back then, little I knew about the duties and activities of this sector. Graduated in Psychology, the only requirement that I fulfilled was to be able to speak in 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 a big portion of love for hospitality to be a good front desk agent. Of course, technical knowledge helps a lot. But it is not enough.

Here, you will find out what people don’t tell you. The characteristics and abilities that I consider being vital to a good performance as a hotel front desk agent, which are not openly described in the job announces. Hopefully, this knowledge will prepare you to face the challenges of this position.

After all, a good hotel front desk agent needs to have an 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 to get to know in a casual (and hopefully fun) way a bit more about this career that brought me much joy and some headaches!

“Don’t you worry about a thing…”

The good practice in hospitality tells us that warmth and courtesy are the base to 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 life.

But the show must go on and clients can’t suffer from the consequences of the staff bad day. On the contrary, they must feel welcomed, whether its raining or it’s sunny. Particularly guests: people who are traveling and, literally, are paying to not get stressed and relax.

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, not showing the storm inside her/him. It is important that he/she demonstrates true joy while doing a guest service, hiding the internal chaos or a broken heart. To listen to music during breaks helped me cheer up and get back to the game.

“Smile and wave, boys”

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

a hotel receptionist should smile

That means to be able to keep calm and “smile and wave” when situations are getting out of hand. To be a Madagascar penguin means to not show traces of frustration, sadness or even panic. It’s to master the art of disguise, while disasters and madnesses are happening around you. Believe me: it’s harder than you think.

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

The multi-task 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 hotel receptionist, I want to highlight a stormy day when the hostel’s kitchen and some rooms started to flood and there was just me working at the time. Put together the non-stop phone, 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 in 3 different languages. Indeed, to be 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 I was in the “Tower of Babel”. The most memorable one was the day a Korean group arrived at the hostel without a previous booking and not knowing 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 a 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. The receptionist is the hotel’s face. He/She is the first impression of the traveler who has just arrived. That is why a good hotel front desk agent is the key to the success of the lodging.

Even with such importance for the hotel operation, the position of a hotel front desk agent is hardly recognized in terms of status, value and even financially. That is very 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 work of the clock took a toll on me and today I work indirectly with the hotel industry. But since I was in the hotelier’s shoes and had suffered from the same problems, I learned to admire people who dedicated themselves to the hotel industry.

Many could think that it is simple and fun, but to work as a hotel receptionist is for a few. Only the strong ones survive!

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3 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* .
    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:

    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

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