Day in the Life of a Front Desk Clerk
HOTEL VS. TIMESHARE - THE JOB IS NOT THE SAME
Luis Santos has seen both sides of working as a front desk clerk - at a hotel chain and a timeshare - and he's here to tell you the job description is not the same.
"Everything is different, from your training to the customer service experience to the way your day unfolds," says Santos, who has worked at both the Comfort Suites and Island One Resorts, where he is currently a front desk manager.
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
To become a front desk clerk at the timeshare resort, Santos took 30 days of in-house training when he was hired, then was put on a 90-day probation before assuming his new position. Island One offers training at its corporate office, seminars and upgrade courses at least once a month.
"When training to work the front desk at a hotel, it was straight to the point," Santos says. "The learning was very specific, you learn very quickly, and there's not much to learn the system. Check in, check out, calendar dates." He has never taken formal, outside courses, though he's now studying real estate law to further his career in the timeshare industry.
Unlike Santos, front desk manager Cindy Michaud, who has worked at the Great George Hotel for four years, studied for a tourism and travel management diploma, and has achieved four certifications in such areas as reservations, guest services, and front desk management. "The schooling I had was geared to tourism," she says. "When I got into it (working as a hotel clerk), I thought it was just a job, but now I see it shaping up to be more of a career."
THE CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE
While front desk clerks at both hotels and timeshare resorts are on the front lines of customer service, there are differences in their experiences. Both hotel and timeshare clerks can be the first impression a guest forms when walking through the doors. Says Michaud, "You have to really like people; being a front desk clerk is definitely not for someone who wants to be in a back office." Being a people person is paramount for both types of operations, and many of the tasks front desk clerks perform for guests are the same, but there are significant differences:
- Tend to deal with corporate clientele on business trips.
- See a steady influx of new guests, usually staying for a short duration. Even with repeat customers, you probably won't see them more than a few times a year.
- Spend a lot of your time on check in and check out of single guests as well as groups and tours.
- Arrange reservations, prepare for business meetings, offer referrals for services, troubleshoot day-to-day problems as part of the hotel team.
- Deal with owners, who are not just passing through. The mentality of the "owner" guest is entirely different from that of the more transient business traveller. Timeshare owners have a much higher customer expectation because they've paid for their room and their vacation experience.
- Interact with guests less formally. Says Santos, "They know you by name, you see them on the street. The training at a timeshare is more family-oriented. You learn to be not as formal as at a hotel because the customers are more like family."
- Develop a lasting relationship with the owners. They will ask for you by name, and you'll become more of a "friend."
HOW YOUR DAY UNFOLDS
Strong administrative skills are key for job seekers interested in working as a hotel front desk clerk. The position involves great organizational skills, from arranging room assignments, using a computer and handling cash to dealing with a variety of customer service expectations.
Here's what Cindy Michaud's day looks like:
- Arrive at 6:45 a.m. for a 7 a.m. 3 p.m. shift.
- Review what happened in the previous shift.
- Look at immediate needs.
- Count the cash.
- Review guest checks check-ins and checkouts.
- Prepare for business meetings in the hotel.
- Do room assignments.
- Handle incoming packages.
- Reconfirm dinner reservations.
- Process reservations, checkouts and check-ins.
"You're looking for any potential problems and taking care of these things ahead of time, if possible," she says.
A day in the life of a timeshare resort's front desk clerk is much less predictable.
Luis Santos's day begins and often ends at the same time as Michaud's, but the similarity ends there.
Front desk clerks at a timeshare:
- Open the front desk and get ready for the early check-ins. A lot of timeshare owners check in early because they own the unit and want to maximize their stay. A hotel, on the other hand, has a much stricter check-in policy. "You never know when they're going to show," he says.
- Make sure one owner has vacated for the next owner and ensure the room is ready.
- Get ready for the guests, do paperwork, see to guests' personal preferences.
- Put flowers in the room. If it's a VIP owner, the timeshare front desk clerk might buy groceries, a bottle of wine and muffins and put these in the room.
WHICH ONE IS FOR YOU?
The answer to this question depends on what type of customer service relationship appeals to you - the challenge of dealing with new guests everyday or the more personal experience of developing a long-term customer rapport. Each is rewarding in its own way.