Front-desk agents and the art of conversation

Front-desk staff at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash., are trained to know the surrounding area well enough to act as a concierge for guests.Pictured: Front-desk staff at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash., are trained to know the surrounding area well enough to act as a concierge for guests.

For guests to get the most out of a front-desk experience, the front-desk agent must be able to determine a guest’s interests in order to best inform them on the local area. According to Barbara Kulwiec, GM of the Hotel Indigo Asheville, N.C., Hotel Indigo’s front-desk workers are trained to observe guests and ask questions in order to identify their reason for travel and general personality.

“If a guest comes to Asheville and wants to see live music, our front-desk staff can learn what genre they are interested in and what setting they prefer before making a recommendation,” Kulwiec said.

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The hotel’s front desk is able to acquire this information through casual conversation, skills that are taught by the property’s concierge team through one-on-one interaction and observation. The hotel also holds monthly training sessions to talk about any major changes in the local area and update a series of top five recommendations for guests to visit.

“It’s easy to talk about a place that you enjoy,” said Zachary Lipton, assistant front-desk manager at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash. Lipton’s property specifies certain questions to ask guests to help with recommendations. He also holds weekly quizzes on Spokane’s best pubs and restaurants, and meets with agents frequently to learn of new attractions.

“We try to keep [front-desk agents] up to date, and when they don’t know something, we bring them details or ask them to personally sample a location,” Lipton said. These extra bursts of information can help agents when they feel overwhelmed with learning so much new stuff about a destination.

“It helps to have the front desk understand the difference between two locations before they even sample one, such as an authentic Italian restaurant verses an Americanized one,” Lipton said. “With that base they will have more in their knowledge repertoire right off the bat.”

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