Although CEOs might be the ones calling the shots on fees and check-in procedure, front desk employees have the most face time with guests and can quickly tell what's working and what's not.
Following up on Skift’s interview series, The Future of the Guest Experience, with the CEOs of global hotel groups, we went to the front lines of the hospitality workforce and asked front desk employees at five popular New York City hotels what they would change about the check-in experience.
Below we share their thoughts on mobile check-in, customer behavior, technology and fees:
Using tech to improve the guest experience:
“Whenever they need a referral for a restaurant or nail salon, you have to use Yelp to look for something nice for them. If they can’t speak our language, my bellman has Google Translate so they use that to communicate with them.” — Philip from Courtyard New York Manhattan/Chelsea
On mobile check-in:
“It’s a lot simpler. We have plenty of time to build relationships with guests, not just at check-in. Guests talk to us all the time.” — Philip from Courtyard New York Manhattan/Chelsea
“As you can tell, [Eventi] is not too technologically advanced. It’s very chic but it has a vintage look as well. If you added all that technology, it would ruin the ambience of the hotel and they wouldn’t want that.” — Front desk employee at Eventi
On losing relationships with guests due to technology:
“I think we would lose the opportunity to build a relationship with guests when they use mobile check-in because most of the time they do it to be faster. We just welcome them, thank them for using e-check-in and give them the keys.” — Front desk employee at Hampton Inn Manhattan-Madison Square Garden Area
“Mobile check-in would make my job easier but honestly it takes away from the experience for the guest if we don’t interact with them. They don’t know who is here. It’s good for them to know us, to feel comfortable asking us. I feel like technology, in some aspects, is very overrated. I feel like we should leave some things for personal experience.” — Front desk employee at Hotel Indigo New York City-Chelsea
“I encourage mobile check-ins at busier hotels but when you have a boutique hotel like ours, I feel like hands-on activity is more important than shoving a machine in their face.” – Front desk employee at Fairfield Inn and Suites New York Manhattan/Chelsea
On how front desk employees approach guests:
“We have a lot of flexibility and the approach depends on the person. We all have to hit certain points; there’s information that guests need to know. As long as we say that then we can say it however we want…as long as it’s appropriate.” – Front desk employee at Eventi
“We have a fairly good amount of flexibility depending on people’s personality. We don’t want to sound like robots; we want to make it more welcoming and personable.” — Front desk employee at Hampton Inn Manhattan-Madison Square Garden Area
“We have the 10-5 rule. They’re 10 feet from us, we smile. They’re 5 feet within us, we greet them.” — Front desk employee at Hotel Indigo New York City — Chelsea
“You always pay attention to how they come in and their demeanor. Sometimes I shorten my check-in process, sometimes I’ll talk to them more because they look like they want to talk. Everyone has their own approach to it, but there is a script that they teach you at Marriott.” — Philip from Courtyard New York Manhattan/Chelsea
On common guest misperceptions about check-in:
“Guests think that all the rooms are going to be ready at 3 pm on the dot. Check-in begins at 3 pm. We have 136 rooms at this hotel, which is relatively small, but not every room is going to be ready at 3 pm on the dot.” – Front desk employee at Hampton Inn Manhattan-Madison Square Garden Area
“People expect rooms to be ready when they walk in. They don’t realize that people check out at 12 pm and they want to check in at 12 pm. That’s not the case.” – Philip from Courtyard New York Manhattan/Chelsea
“To realize that we are also humans. To be courteous about handing us your credit card, don’t throw it at us. Be cool. People just aren’t that nice. Nobody really comes in here with a smile on their face. It’s a lot of business travelers. It’s our job to make them smile and make they happy. We put them in a better mood.” — Front desk employee at Eventi
On guests’ response to fees:
“Some guests have an issue providing a card for incidentals, which is a little weird because every hotel has to take a deposit for incidents. Our hotel is a standard limited-service hotel and it’s only $25 per night. It’s $100 per night at other hotels. It’s crazy to me that they have a problem putting a card down for $25.” – Front desk employee at Hampton Inn Manhattan-Madison Square Garden Area
“We don’t get too many complaints about fees.” – Front desk employee at Hotel Indigo New York City-Chelsea
“We don’t get complaints about fees because this is New York City. You have to dish out the money. If you want to visit in this type of environment, you have to pay.Guests know that the little fees here and there add up to something bigger.” — Front desk employee at Fairfield Inn and Suites New York Manhattan/Chelsea
On changing the check-in experience for the better:
“I’m pretty personable so it’d be better if there wasn’t a big desk between us. A little stand and a computer would be better. It allows for a more personable experience. I walk around this desk a lot. People love to feel like they’re super special.” – Front desk employee at Eventi
What Does the Future of Lodging Look Like?
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Photo credit: Front desk employees at work at the Courtyard New York Manhattan. Samantha Shankman / Skift