Hello, warmest greetings to all readers!

On this article, I would share to you regarding my experience as one of the participants on HarFest National Front Desk Competition 2016 which was held by Swiss German University. Hope you find this article useful, especially for the Hoteliers. So, please enjoy reading the article!

Let’s begin with one simple question: what is front office? Well, people may have different opinions regarding front office on their perspectives. People in general may easily define front office as a reception in a hotel with good-looking ladies and gentlemen. Theoretically, front office is the nerve center of a hotel because it runs the main function of hotel to welcome the guest, carry luggage, help to check-in/check-out the guest, and give helpful information to the guests. All the opinions are correct. However, on the HarFest National Front Desk Competition 2016, it was focusing on how to handle guest complaints. Therefore, on this article I define front office as a doctor of guest complaints who give solutions to cure guests’ problems.

Preparation for the Competition

The technical meeting of the competition was held on May 9, 2016 at Swiss German University. The participants from BINUS University were Sarrah (my junior and also comrade-in-arms) and I, the competition would be done individually and consisted of two parts – written test and role play. We actually had 10 days to prepare before the competition day which would be held on May 18, 2016. However, we had only two-effective-practice-together-day because we were also busy with our assignments as students at that time.

Before the two-effective-practice-together-day, we borrowed front office books from the library, we also had some materials from Ms. Rachel (our super lecturer who trained us for this front desk competition) and read it at home.

On the first day of two-effective-practice-together-day, Sarrah and I practiced together by role play, alternately took role as a guest and a front desk. We followed the procedures according to the materials from Hotel Management BINUS University which we already had on the class. After one role play has finished, the one who acted as the guest should give comments, both positive and negative comments, so both Sarrah and I could improve.

On the next day, one day prior to the competition – Sarrah and I had a theory test and continued to practice role play as a front desk with Ms. Rachel. Ms. Rachel determined the case problem and she became the guest, then Sarrah or I would perform directly to handle the complaints. The cases were various, such as accident happened on the pool, lost luggage, wrong room assignment, broken AC in guest room, etc. From the cases, I concluded one highlight to put in mind: do apologize for any inconvenience happened to the guests, then keep calm to focus on thinking for good solutions rather than being panic. Unfortunately, I went back home earlier because I was not feeling well, so I took a rest.

The Competition Day

The competition was joined by 10 participants, it is started with one-hour-written-test. The questions consisted of 35 multiple choices and 15 true/false questions. After that, the competition was continued by role play. All the participants have to perform on the stage and solve a guest’s problem within 10 minutes. It was interesting, we did not know what the guest would do to us on the stage, and that was the challenge.

Babak 1 – Written Test
Babak 1 – Written Test

I got the second turn, I got nervous, but let the show began. There was a woman coming with angry face. The case I had was there were some cockroaches in the guest suite room. The guest was so angry and disappointed, she didn’t stop complaining and showing her hands turned into red due to the cockroach. Firstly, I listened and tried to understand. Secondly, I apologized, calmed the guest and asked her room number, then I took a chair near the stage and put it on the stage, then asked her to sit down. Then I also brought a cup of hot tea (the hot tea was only an imagination) to calm her, I told her to wait for a moment because I would call the housekeeping. The guest agreed. Next, I called the housekeeping to remove the cockroaches and ensure there were no cockroach in the room. I also called the doctor to check the guest’s skin. After the housekeeping was done to clean the room, I came to the guest and apologized again, then gave her a complimentary hand massage for her inconvenience. Lastly, I escorted the guest to room and ensure there was no cockroach in her room.

After all participants performed on the stage, we had break time and waiting for the announcement: the top 5 who would continue to the next role play round. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to continue to the next round. Every participant has more complicated level of guest problem, it forced participants to think creatively to solve the problem.

Tim pertama Stella Nathalia Ignacia pada babak kedua
Tim pertama Stella Nathalia Ignacia pada babak kedua

Sarrah, Ms. Rachel, Judges and Me
Sarrah, Ms. Rachel, Judges and Me

The final announcement was announced and I won as the first winner of HarFest National Front Desk Competition 2016. It was a challenging and interesting competition, it gave me experience and opportunity to ‘grow’! Thank you very much to Ms. Rachel for being a great trainer for this competition who supported and had great understanding to Sarrah and me as your students. Thank you very much to Sarrah for being a partner to practice, we supported each other and were having a great experience.

Stella Nathalia Ignacia (kedua dari kiri) menerima piala sebagai pemenang Juara I Front Desk Competition
Stella Nathalia Ignacia (kedua dari kiri) menerima piala sebagai pemenang Juara I Front Desk Competition

Tips for Front Office Competiton

Joining the front desk competition with having on-the-job training experience will be very beneficial. However, practice is the best way to learn, knowing the common cases and the solution, so do not be worry if you have not had your training yet. In addition, I got several tips for you on how to handle guest complaints, hopefully it will be useful.

  1. Start with a smile

No matter how angry a guest coming to you, always greet them and smile. It shows positive attitude and remember, first impression will be always important.

  1. Listen with empathy

Listen to understand and ‘catch’ what the guest is trying to say. Eye contact is also important, see his/her facial expression and body language. Take notes if you need it, to ensure you do not miss a point of the problems. Manage your face and body language to show your empathy. When the guest stop talking, start speaking with a sincere apologize.

  1. Ask to clarify

Repeat to conclude the problems, to ensure there is no misunderstanding between you and the guest. If there is something unclear, ask politely to the guest.

  1. Focus on thinking the solutions

Keep calm and do not panic. Place yourself at the guest’s position, what you can do to solve the problem.

  1. Notify the guest

After you had the solution on your mind, ask the guest whether he/she agrees with the solution. Always try to give he/she some choices that can be chosen. Give a reasonable complimentary if needed, to maximize guest satisfaction. Last but not least, always ask for any other assistance needed by the guest.

Thank you for reading this article, wish you will be an excellent doctor for guest complaints!

Myself (right) with Sarrah (left)
Myself (right) with Sarrah (left)

Stella Nathalia Ignacia