Guest check-in is an important touchpoint between a hotel and guest. Usually the first time a guest comes face to face with a property, check-in is the moment where the guest’s initial impressions are formed — and, as we all know, first impressions count.
As a guest you’ve probably experienced a cold, indifferent check-in process at some point — you know, that one that made you feel like nothing more than a reservation confirmation number. Nothing diminishes expectations of service than being treated like just a number. While some guests might want to skip the chitchat and get to their room pronto, a warm welcome never fails to start a hotel-guest relationship on the right foot.
A recent Quartz article about how Hyatt Hotels is redesigning their check-in process with the guest experience in mind highlights the importance of empathy in the design of front desk processes. Viewing the check-in process from the guest perspective is key to balancing administrative processes with treating guests like people rather than bookings.
With mobile technology increasingly in demand by hotels and their guests, many hotel brands consider it important to offer guests a choice between mobile/self-check in and checking in at the front desk. However your property manages check-in, what matters most to your customers is an efficient and pleasant process that makes them feel like welcome guests.
The Right Technology
An efficient, guest-centered check-in process starts with user-friendly front-desk technology.
Without an intuitive front-desk system in place, staff must navigate complicated administrative processes, which, despite best efforts, typically result in an impersonal check-in experience characterized by extended moments of silence (except for the sound of keystrokes) and no eye contact while the guest just stands there waiting (for too long).
On the other hand, hotel management software with a simple check-in process and an intuitive user interface enables front desk staff to focus on the guest. Supported by technology that doesn’t distract from the customer, check-in staff can offer each and every guest a warm, personal welcome in an efficient manner.
The right software makes it quick and easy to locate guest reservations in the system and reduces manual data entry requirements through automation and integration with other core hotel technology, like online booking channels, payment processors and keycard systems. Even group check-ins are a breeze backed by software that supports multiple guest check-ins at once.
A system that identifies returning guests is also fundamental to an efficient and personal check-in process. From a simple “welcome back” to proactive recognition of special preferences or requirements previously noted on a guest’s profile, check-in staff can make repeat guests feel valued.
But check-in can be streamlined and humanized even further with a mobile-friendly system that frees staff from the physical constraints of the front desk. For example, WebRezPro property management system’s paperless check-in feature allows guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards digitally on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in allows staff to register guests away from the front desk when appropriate — perhaps seated in the guest lounge or after showing the guest to their room — for a more convenient, guest-centered check-in experience.
The Right People
Of course, even the best hotel management technology is wasted without the right people operating it.
The person behind the front desk plays the role of host — and in hospitality, that role means everything. The human face of a hotel, front-desk staff simply must be personable; the way they interact with guests can make or break a property’s reputation.
At the frontline, front-desk staff are usually the first point of contact for guests arriving at the property, greeting all manner of moods; tired, hungry, frustrated and excited travelers. It’s important for front-desk staff to be empathetic, and to read and respond to people appropriately. This goes for anticipating guests’ needs too; for example, when a family with small children checks in, they should be offered any relevant services or information that could make their stay more comfortable, like a bottle warmer or information about your outdoor playground.
The ability to read people’s moods and needs also helps staff to engage guests in conversation as appropriate — a useful skill for gaining rapport with customers and finding out how their stay can be personalized and made even more enjoyable. Outgoing, happy hosts are naturally skilled at doing just that.
In addition to being “people” people, great front-desk staff are resourceful, allowing them to deal with the multitude of different (and sometimes unusual) situations and requests that crop up during their day. They are calm under pressure during busy times and stressful moments, with the ability to think on their feet.
Finding the right people to greet your guests is vital to the health of your property. With the right front-desk technology in place, employers can focus on personality rather than computer skills when recruiting front-desk staff.
The Right Touch
Making a good first impression relies on an efficient and personable check-in process, but adding a special touch can go even further to surprise and delight guests upon arrival.
From proactively making local recommendations to offering extra services, going above and beyond to make the check-in experience just that bit more special for guests doesn’t have to cost a lot of (or any!) money or effort.
Recommending the best spot nearby from which to view tonight’s local fireworks display, or offering a refreshing drink on the house upon arrival, or handing out kids’ activity packs to families with children in tow are examples of simple ways guests can be made to feel extra welcome.
Upscale properties could consider hosting live music or an artist-in-residence to liven up the lobby and surprise and delight guests. Even complimentary refreshments (like fruit, cookies, and hot and cold beverages) displayed prominently in the lobby can be an unexpected treat for weary travellers arriving at the front desk.
The way a guest is greeted and treated upon arrival forms the foundation of the hotel-guest relationship. Because first impressions count for a lot, it’s so important to get the check-in process right.