New Roles for Front of House Staff

EHL Editorial Team | 5 Sep, 2016

It should not come as news that changing technology is disrupting many industries, including hospitality. From complimentary wireless throughout the hotel to digital check-in, technology promises efficiencies and convenience for guests.

As hotels continue to embrace technology, the roles of service-facing staff will shift. Learn what innovations are shaping the future of front of house roles, and how staff will adapt.

Travelers today want things to be easy and quick. They may be traveling on a tight schedule for business. Or they may have had a long flight and simply want to get into their room immediately.

If hotel guests are able to scan a credit card and check into their hotel room, they see it as a desirable efficiency compared with waiting in line to speak with a staff member. If guests can use a tablet to order room service and have it delivered by a robot, they view this as preferable to picking up the phone to place an order and receiving the order from a staff member.

Having a staff robot, for example, frees up hotel staff from having to deliver extra towels, sundries, and meals to guests. Trips that could interrupt staff from their duties and are essentially "mindless" can now be completed easily by technology.

Top hotel brands are introducing technologies to many touch points of the guest experience. In 2014, Starwood introduced technology that let guests not only check in electronically, but select their preferred room and even unlock the door upon arrival. As CEO of Starwood Frits van Paasschen said to CNNMoney, "There's no reason why [your smartphone] shouldn't be your portal to get to your room, ask for what you want, or anything else."

Another hotel chain, Avaya, lets guests order room service, schedule a wake-up call, request sundries, and message hotel staff through their digital device. Now guests don't need to be tethered to their hotel room or flag down a staff member in common areas to get needed items quickly.

While some may view hospitality's embrace of technology as a threat to jobs, the move opens up roles that have been constrained by tradition.

When guests have the option to check in electronically, front of house staff have more time to spend interacting with guests who do come to the reception area. They can "go the extra mile" with service instead of spending the day on rote tasks or rushing through an interaction to process the next guest in line. Guests who want insider advice on where to go and what to do in a city will love the extra attention from staff, who are area experts after all.

Hotel staff can also act as tour guides and travel agents for hotel guests, offering more personalized concierge services. Imagine a website page filled with day trips, excursions, and unique adventures (i.e. a heli-ski deal). Guests could browse this in advance, speak with hotel staff before or after arrival, and select with confidence a preferred tour. Staff can finalize the details for guests, offer any special tips to improve the guest's experience, and help guests select the right tour. Combined with traditional concierge duties, this enhances the guest experience and promotes cultural connections as a part of travel.

Technology can also help hospitality staff remember what guests like and treat guests like a VIP by getting everything just the way they like it ahead of time. Imagine if you head to your room and it's your third stay at a hotel. You find the lights, television, and climate control just as you want them. Even better, that extra pillow you requested is waiting for you.

Or you text the bar that you're heading down with colleagues. You may even have the option to pre-order drinks and food items. When you arrive, there's a table waiting in a quiet corner.

Hotels are seeing more families traveling. When customer-facing staff have extra free time, they can offer programs aimed at teens, tweens, or young children. Such programs can be a perk offered gratis by the hotel to distinguish their brand from others. Compared with the current setup, where hotels can arrange a nanny (for a fee), parents will love the option to provide children with structured, age-appropriate care. Children will enjoy hanging out with peers in a teen lounge or by the pool.

These innovations improve the guest experience and help hotel brands distinguish their service offerings. Staff will enjoy the greater opportunities to think creatively, problem solve, and work with people engendered by these changing hospitality roles.

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