Front Office Communications

In addition to memorandums, face-to-face conversations, and electronic communication, successful front-office communication includes log books, information directories, mail and telephone procedures and interdepartmental exchange of information.

The front desk typically keeps a log book, which enables the staff to be aware of important events and decisions that occurred during prior shifts. A log book is a daily journal which may chronicle unusual events, guest complaints or requests, and other events. Front desk agent’s record in the log book throughout their shift and before the beginning of a shift the front desk supervisor and agents initial the log and review the log, paying particular attention to any activities, problems or situations that may require action. The log book is a management tool as well providing management with an understanding of the activity of the front desk and any ongoing issues.

The information directory is a tool for the front desk to communicate to guests answers to common questions that might relate to: local restaurant recommendations; transportation; directions to local business, shopping, places of worship, banks, ATMs, theaters, stadiums; information about hotel policies such as check-out time; and hotel facilities or recreational facilities nearby the property. As front desk agents access information not previously included in the directory it might be added. In addition, the front desk may refer guests to the reader board of daily events which might be posted on paper or viewed through a closed-circuit television system. A convention hotel may also have a group resumé book at the front desk. The book summarizes all of the group’s activities, key attendees, recreational arrangements, arrival and departure, billing instructions and other key information.

The front desk also handles delivered mail and packages for the registered guests. Procedures for handling mail and packages varies but typically includes a time-stamp of all guest mail verifying when it arrived, verification that the addressee is currently registered, due to check in or already checked out and lastly notifying the guest. Typically guest mail that is not picked up or has arrived for a guest who has already checked out is time-stamped a second time and returned to its sender or sent to a forwarding address if one has been provided by the guest.

Guests may also receive registered letters, express packages, and other mail requiring signature. If the hotel permits the front desk agent to sign for such mail after doing so the agent typically records the items delivered in the front office mail signature book. The guest would also sign for the mail in the book at the time of pickup or delivery. Packages are typically handled as mail. If the package is too large to store at the front desk, it would be taken to a secure room. The package and its location should be recorded in the front office mail signature book.

Telecommunication services provided by a hotel front office for its guests are multiple. They include telephones, voice mailboxes, facsimile, wake-up services, email, and TDD (see below). Most hotels provide in-room local and longdistance service 24 hours a day. Modern telephone systems are typically programmed to automatically turn on the guestroom message light when the guest is away from the room and a call is received from the front office computer.

In addition it is very common for a hotel to provide its guests with a voice mailbox. Voice mailboxes are devices which can record messages for guests. A caller wishing to leave a message for a guest simply speaks into the phone; his or her message is then recorded by the voice mailbox system. To retrieve the message, the guest typically dials a special telephone number which connects to the voice mailbox. A key advantage of voice mail is that the message is captured in the caller’s voice. This may be very important when the caller does not speak the local language clearly. This system also allows several guests to receive messages at the same time, thereby freeing the hotel operator( s) for other duties.

Facsimiles, another form. of communication handled by the front office, should be treated like mail, but with special care. Since guests are typically waiting for these documents special handling is required. If an incoming fax has special delivery instructions, such as deliver immediately to a specific room, the front desk must be prepared to dispatch a member of the bell staff with the fax right away. Typically the front office maintains a fax log or combined fax and mail log for tracking purposes.

Wake-up services are a key communication and guest satisfier. Very often a component of the hotel’s property management system can be programmed to receive and place the calls and play a recorded wake-up message. However, many hotels still prefer that the front desk agents or hotel operator place wake-up calls. In such cases, a clock used for wake-up purposes will often be found at the front desk or in the PBX (private branch exchange) area. This is known as the hotel clock and shows the official time of the hotel. Thus, the clock must be checked daily to be sure it is correct.

Many hotel business and leisure guests have e-mail capability and thus will want to send and receive e-mail communication. Thus, the telecommunication equipment in each guestroom and in other areas of the hotel should be configured to allow the guest to plug in a laptop and communicate with office, home or other corporate network.

A TDD is a specially designed piece of equipment for placing and conducting calls for those guests with a hearing and/or speech impairment.
In many countries the thr people With Disabilities Act requires that hotels make available, upon request, a TDD for use by a guest who
has impaired hearing or related communication disorder. It is also important that the front desk have a TDD device to handle in-house calls from hearing- or speech-impaired guests.

Front office communication also will include interdepartmental communications. The front office generally exchanges information with personnel in the housekeeping and engineering departments relative to room status, repairs, and work orders. In addition, the front office through the property management system compiles the guest’s charges from food, beverage, room service, laundry/valet, gift shops, telecommunication, business center, valet parking, health and recreational facilities and banquets or catering on a daily basis.

Conclusion: In summary, the front office is responsible for ensuring that guests are provided with the highest level of service in a pleasant atmosphere. It is important to understand that guests have very high expectations regarding their experience at the hotel.