By Pierre Boettner
Anyone who's gone to business school has heard the adage, "What gets measured gets managed." If something isn't measurable, it can't or won't be managed. Or, if you try, you're likely to fail. While the rise of big data may have some hotels feeling buried in measurement, I can guarantee that, still, no one knows what's going on with the front desk.
Ask industry experts how to measure the front desk, and they invariably say occupancy, ADR, by extension RevPAR, arrivals, and departures. But there's a (big) problem with this. The front desk has little to nothing to do with any of these. Occupancy and ADR are determined long before the guest ever gets to the front desk. While the quality of arrivals and departures falls to the front desk, the numbers do not. The only exception here is a small fraction of ADR that is attributable to upselling at the front desk.
Front Desk management is reduced to scheduling staff and intervening in guest service issues. These things are not management. They are administration. The front desk administers check-ins and checkouts, and we aspire for them only to contribute to the bottom line via a small margin achieved through upselling.
We can expect more and, therefore get more, from front desk management, but we must first measure. We have previously not had the means to see into their processes. To effectively evaluate the front desk, we need to know how many guests were needlessly upgraded. Needlessly downgraded? Is it possible that a front desk agent upgraded (in the interest of his commission) and displaced someone else, resulting in a downgrade? And what's the cost of this? Was the upsell worth it? How many guests received exactly the room they expected? We must be able to see how many and what type of rooms were available at the time of every transaction to get the big picture. We also need to know who does how many check-ins and checkouts. Which agents have the most discrepancies and the least?
These things are the foundation of what the front desk staff does, their greatest contribution to hotel operations. They have an impact, but no one knows what it is. A lack of information of this degree should alarm hoteliers, especially given the depth of data we have about every other department.
We do have the information now with insights. A freemium product, insights is a room operations BI tool, the first of its kind. Need to know how many suites were available when an agent upgraded a guest two days ago? And whether a guest arriving an hour later was downgraded, as a result? It's there. How many guests received exactly the room they reserved last Thursday? It's all there. Every hour, every agent, every room. As a development release, hotels can give direct feedback with ease so that we can make it work for you, giving you the tools to manage the rooms department for the first time.
I prefer the version of that adage that says, "What gets measured gets improved." So often management and administration are used interchangeably. But when you start to measure you'll see where the needs for training and growth and new systems are—where improvement can happen. This is management.