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Front Desk Clerk


Description

Imagine someone who has just arrived in New York after a three-day trip on boat, plane, and train from their home in the depths of the Brazilian jungle to visit their city cousins. They are hot, tired, and feel as though they haven't slept, eaten, or showered properly in months. Staggering into their hotel in the early evening, they are greeted by a pleasant, respectful, and patient front desk clerk, who arranges for a room, gives them a book of coupons for restaurants in the area, and promises to call them in the late morning to ensure they are awake. The clerk then calls in an assistant to carry their bags, and wishes them an enjoyable stay.

Front desk clerks do more than just answer the phone and hand out room keys. They are responsible for those things, yes, but also many other tasks. They give out information on local restaurants, tourist hot spots, and tours around the community. They keep track of guests tabs, and take payments. They use computer systems to manage accounts, bookings, and cancellations, and respond to complaints. They work as security, housekeepers, nurses, and maintenance, depending on the incidents that come up in the front lobby of the establishment.

Front desk clerks work in large, historic hotels, small bed-and-breakfasts, youth hostels, and roadside motels. They are sometimes the owners as well as staff, but often in larger hotels, the front desk clerks work exclusively at the front desk.

Front desk clerks are important, because they are the face of the establishment. Though the world is becoming increasingly computerized, and human interaction is becoming phased out in a number of service environments, chances are there will always be people working at front desks. Upon arriving in a new city or town, it is nice to be greeted by a friendly face, one that is understanding, intuitive, and willing to do anything to ensure a pleasant and memorable stay.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Front desk clerks need to be patient, calm, and work well under pressure. They need to be a naturally polite person, who is warm, approachable, and a good listener. They should also be tactful, organized, and have a methodical approach to tasks. Front desk clerks enjoy helping and serving others.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Welcome and register guests
  • Assign rooms, issue room keys
  • Tell interested guests about services within the establishment and the community
  • Review accounts and receive proper payments
  • Communicate regularly with housekeeping, management, kitchen staff, and security
  • Maintain an inventory of reservations and guests
  • Respond to questions, comments, and complaints posed in person and over the phone
  • The typical day for a front desk clerk involves a lot of standing, smiling, listening, and smiling some more. A front desk clerk may do as little as book rooms and balance accounts or as much as arrange tours, clean bathrooms, supervise assistants, carry baggage, and advise people on sights, restaurants, and other tourist options. The tasks depend on the size and location of the establishment. Front desk clerks get to meet a lot of different people, from all over the world.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Front desk clerks work wherever there are guests to greet, rooms to register, and accounts to settle. This includes hotels, motels, hostels, YM/YWCAs, and bed-and-breakfasts. They work shifts, usually six to eight hours at a time. This can include over night, weekends, and holidays. Front desk clerks work standing for long periods of time, and often work alone. However, larger establishments might have two or more staff working at once.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Front desk clerks can become supervisors of other clerks, or managers of motels, hotels, or restaurants. They can buy or start up a restaurant, hostel, hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast. They can become cruise directors, travel agents, tourist information officers, or tour guides.
 

  Educational Paths  
Experience working with people in the service industry, such as at a hotel, retail store or restaurant is an asset for aspiring front desk clerks. As for education, one should consider taking a college course in hotel and tourism management, business administration, or a general bachelor of arts. Programs that offer internships provide students with education and experience. Basic knowledge or one or more major languages, like French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese will be of benefit to any individual looking for work as a front desk clerk.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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