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Introduction

The front desk is virtually the heart and soul of any enterprise. It is the first line of interaction with the customer that gives the business its human face   (Ismail, 2002). The interactive transactions of the entire business are initiated and handled at the front desk more often than not   (Bhatnagar, 2009). What is required is that the front desk be the transparent eyes of the enterprise through which any prospective client can reach the very core and know at once the quality and quantum of service he or she can expect. The impression of an establishment may be made or marred by the first interaction the customer or the guest may have with the front desk. The kind of services they are offered are the projected visual merchandising of the enterprise which are essential elements of its image and brand building. 

The objective of the front desk in any establishment is to channelize the information from the client to the system and information and knowledge from the system to the client. This two way flow of information is managed in an efficient and most aesthetically coordinated manner. The tactful flow of information is presented to the guest or the client in such a manner that the communication is promoted further and builds up strong interfaces for further and future transactions. There are a number of areas where the front office itself can manage the creating of delight for the end user. It is here that the ultimate impact is created through the tasteful display of the promotional material like tariff cards, catalogues, brochures, standys and signages. This is one of the first areas of impact where the guest is able to obtain an overview of the services on offer at a glance. The foyer is another area where the ambience and inviting nature of the hotel or business enterprise is promoted favorably. The seating area with soft piped music may be a place of peace and tranquility that promoted thinking and planning as also makes for a conducive are for waiting for someone. The many niches in the foyer could be planned to have coffee table manuscripts on a variety of subjects as also the reports of recent closure on successful deals made by the business concerns, Thus, the visitors are comfortably seated in a conducive environment where they can decide as to what their next their course of action is going to be.

The area where the customer feels most comfortable I when there are well laid out signages or tent cards that give explicit directions as to where they may be able to find the necessary personnel they want to address. Thus if it is the concierge they require they can know so when they see the tent card neatly displayed on a particular part of the foyer or the front desk so that they can then approach them. There is also a great comfort for the customer when he or she can read signages and be guided to wherever they need to go because many a people feel intimidated if they have to constantly keep inquiring about simple facilities lke even the lift or the washroom.

Thus, the significance of a well laid out, open and inviting foyer and front desk has been adequately emphasized here to ensure that the hotel or the business enterprise can be head and shoulders above the competition. To be ahead and stay ahead it is essential that the business be strict about the face it is presenting to the clients and ensures that it keeps its best foot forward in the race for being placed among the top most sought after institutions.

Design and Layout of Foyer and Front Desk

The design and layout of the front desk and foyer is such that it gives the feeling of being larger than life, open, clean and absolutely secure (Bardi, 2011). The customer should get the feeling reinforced on having walked into the foyer and then to the front desk that no matter whatever they are going to deal in is going to be confidential and honored like a sacred covenant. The wide open eyed look of wonderment of a child that takes in the foyer and front desk is sure to be the best measure of the appeal and attraction of the facility being provided as the front line of interaction with the customer.

The entire presentation of the foyer and front desk should be focused on being so attractive that the person who steps in is taken in totally by the sheer appeal of the place. The floral displays placed tastefully in special areas of the foyer and on the front desk should aim at enhancing the overall visual appeal of the place. All efforts must be put in to ensure that there is no dark or dreary crevice or corner and yet there must be plenty of areas where two individuals may have the privacy of their conversation. The seating area should be open and non-cluttered.

Art work displayed with an eye to detail and with symmetrical consciousness of its mosaic appeal should provide those seated in the foyer with a vision of supreme tranquility and beauty that could keep them occupied even if they had to wait out for long durations for people who they have to meet. This kind of simplicity yet pristine beauty often attracts people who may not even be art connoisseurs.

An uncluttered yet inviting front desk where the size is not so huge that it may be scary of intimidating by its sheer vastness is desirable. The front desk should not even be so small that it seems a shoddy job. Also the necessary equipment like telephones, computers and display boards should be placed in such a manner that they do not give the impression of being crowded together. The overall presentation should be of a place that has the inviting look of ease and comfort. The client should feel drawn all at once to the front desk and he or she should be filled with the expectation that they will obtain all their answers at the front desk so inviting should it be.

While ensuring that the front desk area is a zero clutter zone the staff and services may make use of the wall behind the front desk as also the side pillar to display all sorts of  information or even hang up times of the world in various clock faces besides a having a tickertape running on the events of the world or even the business rates. All of these gadgets could be placed on shelves built into the alcove or even be suspended from the wall behind the front desk. They may add an additional charm for the visitor and especially the business person who wants to keep abreast of the world market developments.

There are a few cardinal rules to the display, placement and presentation of the front desk. These may be encapsulated into the ambience created through the right amount of sound, light, height, feel and appeal 0f the area. The overall impact should be that there are no jarring effects for the customer.

In business houses that are placed around or near thoroughfares the greatest care should be taken for sound proofing the foyer and the front desk area so that immediately as the customer steps in he or she is overwhelmed by the contrast. From the cacophony of the streets outside the hotel foyer offers a peaceful and pleasant environment that is most pleasing and very inviting. The customer is so gratified with the charm of the first step into the hotel that they are provoked to stay further and enquire about the various services on offer. And once they are gratified to find something that they require they are induced to come over and over again to the same place because the memory of that pleasant experiences is carried over long periods in time.

In case that one experience is not so favorable then it is very difficult for the customer to reconcile himself or herself to the fact that they would like to go back again for another chance. In some of the foyers in a few of the hotels placed internationally it has been found that they have special business centers or computer areas  or even banking services like an ATM machine installed within the foyer area. All these add-ons make the foyer a most attractive and busy space popular among the clientele. Normally there would be someone at the computers accessing the wi-fi facilitated internet access or even the business centre for ascertaining the market indices to understand the share market and commodities markets. For those who are travelling with their families the foyer is a happy meeting ground when there is laid out play pools and banks of computer to play video and computer games on. While the older children go in for gaming the younger ones are delighted with the play pen and the toys that they can play with in the foyer. Whilst the children are busy the mothers can chat on the computers and the access the social and media sites for their personal entertainment and comfort. Thus, the foyer for all purposes is virtually the living area of the hotel. Whilst one can see all the comings and goings on happening around while being seated in the foyer the front desk is the regulatory mechanism by which the staff and the management can keep an eye out for the customers and their wards. 

Thus, while the foyer on the one hand is the entry point and main pulse of the entire operations of a hotel or a business centre, on the other it is also a comfort zone for the clientele where they are accessing services and many of them are gratis especially the ambience and the charming seating area.  

Services at the Foyer and Front Desk

The first and lasting impression anyone every gets of an establishment is from the services being rendered at the front desk and in the foyer (Bhatnagar, 2009). The face of the personnel at the front desk is the face of the entire enterprise and it is their expertise that will make or mar the relationships that the enterprise is to have in the future with its clientele  (Abbott and Lewry, 2008). The most significant decision of any customer to invest his or her times, resources and finances would depend largely on how they are dealt with at the front desk of the establishment.

To all events and purposes the front desk is the social and economic currency desk as it is the single window towards addressing all the need s of the customer and also the only place that exhibits how well the business is running.

The services being delivered at the front desk, it goes without saying can make or break the connectivity of the client and the business on first impact itself. The first line of work here is the language in operation. In several countries that are non–English speaking there is tremendous hardship for the tourist is locating the required series. In fact one can visualize the utter confusion and anguish that may surface if the client is English speaking and the hotel despite all its appointments is unable to come up with one English speaking person on its staff. The utter confusion would entail a lot of rancor on the part of the client and much discomfort and embarrassment on the part of the hotel. Thus, many of the international outlets have made it mandatory that the staff have some members who are well-versed in a few foreign languages. Thus in French speaking hotels there are bound to be a few staff members who can speak in German, English, Spanish and in the present scenario even Chinese and Japanese.

The other factor that makes a tremendous impact on the clients is the cultural folkways and mores of a people. In some cases certain cultures insist on hanging up some talisman of their cultural being eg, Chinese like hanging up red lanterns of prayer cords to bring prosperity. However, these cultural talismans should not be too overpowering that they offend the clients. Thus, the language and culture apart the staff of the hotel should ensure that the client comes first in all circumstances. Thus, whether it is the land, air or sea across which the client has travelled to reach the destination is a very important part of their hospitality.  Each mode of travel has its own problems like jet lag etc. Thus, the staff can provide specialized welcome drink, a hot shower or even a basket of cookies and a mocktail. All these are again freebies which the client appreciated tremendously as her she is not being billed for them. Within the cost of the services that they are getting they have also been extended these extras which are highly appreciated and that too repeatedly making a lasting impression on the client.

Other add-ons that the client is offered as the hotel keeping abreast of various profitable schemes being held in the master client area. Special holiday packages from Kuoni and Thomas Cook have been known to favor those hotels that give larger volumes of bookings and these are the special schemes which the business enterprises offers to some of its faithful clientele who in turn reward the business house by carrying their business forwards to others by showing their extreme satisfaction and pleasure at the offers being made to them. Thus, in a cyclical mechanism the clients and the business complement the efforts of each other and flourish and make profits. 

Critical Impact Expectations

The impression created by a clutter free and unhampered approach to the front desk is probably one of the greatest assets of any business (Abbott and Lewry, 2008). Therefore it is imperative that not only the first face that the business establishment puts before its prospective clients should be the best but it should also have the net appeal to attract the attention as well as the business of the customer.

In this day and age of tremendous competition it is only the enterprise that has something different to offer which will succeed. Special initiatives like going green through the utilization of energy conservation and water conservation or environment friendly mechanisms are all favorably looked upon by the more aware and knowledgeable clients of these days. Thus if any enterprise has the scientific bent of mind and the scientific temper to take up such environment conservation options it would be preferred more and would have a definitive edge over its competition. Once such processes are in place they may be flaunted openly among the clientele through messages posted in the foyer and in and around the front desk.

Conclusion

The design, layout and services rendered at the front desk of any establishment is the approach road towards building bridges and bonds of relationships between the clientele and the business enterprise (Bardi, 2011).  Thus it is essential for the people who man the front desk be hand-picked with an eye to choosing personnel who think on their feet, are agile mentally and physically and have the ability to understand customer demands with an efficient manner that pleases and gives the impression of being always ready and alert to the needs of the clientele (Rutherford,  & O'Fallon, 2006). The best of management skills need to be diverted towards the setting up of a streamlines front desk that is the hub of the activities of the enterprise be it a business house, a hotel or any other industry.

 In this presently competitive world there is always someone assessing the strength of the domestic and international services on offer in the hotel industry especially since the world has reduced to a small place and the entire globe is travelling from one part to another. At all times there are comparisons and weighing of the pros and cons to assess who is doing what and to what extent. Therefore it is to the benefit of the business enterprise to keep ahead and ensure that they are offering what is the top most in their bracket. The race against adequate resources is always there but what can be provided within the means is what is really going to help the business enterprise obtain its place at the top of all the listings. The provision of the ideal front desk services and a comfortable foyer to sit and plan in are the provisions that every hotel can and does offer. The really successful business enterprise will be the one that offers an entire package of services within these two areas that make it the envy of all other similar enterprises. And this would be assured when it is the most sought after place by its clientele.

 There is a large and widespread area of appeasement of the clientele in the hospitality industry. However it takes just about a small innovative initiative to get the business enterprise ahead of its competition as can be seen in many of the hotels that have brought in a number of initiatives that have made them unique and much sought after by their permanent and ever increasing newer clientele. People all over the world are constantly judging the services being provided and assessing the strengths of the domestic and international services being provided despite all kinds of constraints.

In a fast shrinking world there are many opportunities for the frequent travelers to compare notes on the international hospitality opportunities that they have availed themselves off and it has been observed that those units that are ahead of the competition are only ahead because of their hard work, sincere efforts as also their   special ability to take up initiatives that are well within their resources and yet make a tremendous difference to their clients. It is these enterprises that are always finding ways of maintaining their position at the top of the popularity list of their customers whether they may be regular guests or a totally new clientele.

References

Ismail, Ahmed. (2002). Front Office Operations and Management.Thomson Learning, Delmar.     Albany USA

 

Bhatnagar, S.K. (2009). Front Office Management. Frank Bros and Co. New Delhi

 

Abbott, Peter and Lewry, Sue. (2008). Front Office. Elsevier, Oxford, UK

 

Bardi, James. A. (2011). Hotel Front Office Management. John Wiley & Sons, USA

 

Rutherford, Denney G., Michael J. O'Fallon (2006). Hotel Management and Operations. John      Wiley & Sons, USA

Ahmed Ismail, 2002 Front Office Operations & Management Cengage Learning

Ripley Hotch,& Carl Glassman 2005  How to Start and Run Your Own Bed and Breakfast Inn    Stackpole Books,

Amelia Painter 2007 Opening and Operating a Bed & Breakfast in the 21st Century -        Innkeepers Assoc,

 

Andrews. 2007 ,  Textbook Of Front Office Mgmt & Op Tata McGraw-Hill Education

Lovelock. 2010 - Services Marketing, 6/E Pearson Education India, 

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