The Role of the Front Office in Marketing and Sales
The front ofﬁce is often seen as an information source and a request center for guests and hotel employees. Front ofﬁce staff may need to ﬁeld questions such as: “Has the front ofﬁce manager produced the room sales forecast yet?”; “Is there a block of rooms available for June 3–7?”; “To which rooms is this seminar group assigned?”; “Is there someone on duty who can greet and provide information for the tourist group that is arriving this after- noon?”; “Has the daily event board been set up in the lobby?”; or “Has the daily message been set on the great sign?” These are typical questions asked of the front ofﬁce by other departments in the hotel. These tasks are a necessary part of any hotel’s operations. However, today more than ever, hotel management demands more of the front ofﬁce.
In an article published in Canadian Hotel and Restaurant, Avinash Narula reports:
As market conditions have changed, the nature and importance of the functions performed by the front ofﬁce have also changed from being an order-taking de- partment to an order-generating or sales department. If one looks at the balance sheet of any hotel, it will become obvious that the major portion of the proﬁts, on average 60 percent, come from room sales.
This change in the nature of the front ofﬁce’s role, from a passive order taker to an active order generator, challenges the front ofﬁce manager to review the front ofﬁce staff’s established routine. The front ofﬁce manager needs to ﬁgure out the best way to direct the energies of the staff to support the efforts of the marketing and sales department. The front ofﬁce manager must ﬁrst consider the attitudes of the front ofﬁce staff. These employees have been trained and rewarded for accurate performance of clerical tasks, playing a passive role in the sales of services. How easy will it be to transform them into active salespeople, persuading guests to purchase additional reservations, services in the dining room and lounge, or products in the gift shop? At the outset, most front ofﬁce managers would say this is a tall order. Established, routine habits are comfortable and less stressful. However, the front ofﬁce manager is a member of the management team and will need to interact with members of the team as well as the employees as a plan is developed.
Planning a Point-of-Sale Front Office
To plan for a point-of-sale front ofﬁce, a front ofﬁce staff must promote other proﬁt centers of the hotel.
This planning includes setting objectives, brainstorming areas for promotion, evaluating alternatives, drawing up budgets, and developing an evaluation tool for feedback. Without a plan, a point-of-sale front ofﬁce will have little chance of being successful. This plan should be developed in consultation with hotel management, department managers, and frontline employees from various departments. Team members are selected to assist in ensuring that a workable, proﬁtable plan is developed. Some of the goals Narula provides for the front ofﬁce as it adopts a sales department attitude include the following:
- Sell rooms to guests who have not made prior reservations.
- Upsell [encourage a customer to consider buying a higher-priced product or service than originally anticipated] to guests who have made prior reserva- tions.
- Maintain the inventory of the product, i.e., the rooms.
- Convey information to guests about other products available for sale at the property, for example, food and beverages. The objective of the front ofﬁce is to sell all available facilities at the hotel to the guests. Front ofﬁce staff is probably the most important means of letting the guest know what services are available.
- Ensure that maximum revenue is generated from the sale of rooms by striking a balance between overbooking and a full house.
- Obtain guest feedback.
If we take these goals as well as Narula’s other goal of increasing communication between the front ofﬁce and marketing and sales, then the planning can begin. Valuable information about the guest, essential for formulating an effective marketing strategy, can be conveyed by the front ofﬁce staff. Changing market conditions require that such in- formation be used by the marketing and sales division.3 Based on this suggestion, we can infer that the marketing and sales department needs the vital feedback regarding customer satisfaction with the availability of hotel products and services.