Front Desk / Reception

A robot-like receptionist

A tired, middle-aged couple, Sveinn and Ása, who are on holiday celebrating Ása´s fiftieth birthday, finally arrive at a recently-opened country hotel where they have a reservation. A well-dressed employee with uncombed hair sits hunched over a computer as the couple enter the hotel around 7 pm. As they stand at the reception desk, the employee barely acknowledges them and addresses them in a disinterested manner. He doesn´t introduce himself and doesn´t have a name tag. In a monotone he informs them that the washing machine is broken; however their room is ready but lacks fresh towels. He adds that their room is “unfortunately on the ground floor”, but it does have a sea view. When the couple enter their room, the bed is still unmade! The room is for the most part neat, after all it´s a new hotel. When a car noisily drives up and parks just outside the window the couple immediately understand what the receptionist meant with “unfortunately on the ground floor”.


What information is lacking in order that the couple fully understand what the receptionist is saying? How should the employee have tackled the existing circumstances when speaking to the guests? What could the employee have done in order to pleasantly surprise the couple? Act out how the employee mumbled in a monotone voice. What conclusions can we draw about this hotel concerning management, communication, the exchange of information and cooperation between front desk and housekeeping? What effect does it have when, as in this case, a staff member says “unfortunately on the ground floor”? Taking on the role of the employee, offer the couple the necessary information in a clear and polite manner (I´m sorry etc.), both in English and Icelandic. Act it out.

Is the customer always right?

Sveinn and Ása settle their bill. The following day when Sveinn and Ása are ready to leave, they feel it only proper to inform the front desk, even though they had long ago paid through the hotel´s online booking system. There´s a long queue at the front desk and so they have to wait quite some time. When it´s their turn and they inform the receptionist, he seems confused and needs to check back and forth both on the computer and in files. After some delay they inform him that they woke up early because they are anxious to get on the road and that this delay is really inconvenient. After all, they had paid for their accommodation well in advance. The receptionist claims that according to his records the bill has not been paid and blames the the “people” in Reykjavik for the mixup. In a pleasant tone he asks them to please verify the transaction through their online banking account on the hotel´s computer in the lobby. Upon doing this the couple discover that the receptionist is actually right, the bill had not been paid. After some further delay the couple can finally check out and are delighted to start their journey in glorious weather.


What could be done at this hotel to improve communication between staff and guests? How could all this delay have been avoided in a simple way? How do you think the employee felt in this situation? What mistake did the employee make and how could he have responded in a better way? Experiment with your voice. Demonstrate a soft smooth tone, as well as a deep or demanding one.

Who´s responsible and why?

The story of Sveinn and Ása continued …: When they had been driving for about an hour Ása and Sveinn discovered that they had forgotten some hand luggage by the computer in the hotel lobby. The bag contained a number of important items. They were quite upset and immediately called the hotel. The receptionist answered and said that he could see the bag was there beside the computer in the lobby. He added in a tired voice that right now he was in the middle of answering over two hundred e-mails, but would keep an eye on the bag. The couple quickly drove back to the hotel, but when they entered there was no employee to be seen! Fortunately, the bag was still sitting there by the computer. They checked to make sure that everything was in the bag. As they were in a hurry they decided not to look for the receptionist but to simply leave.


How do you think the couple felt on the way back to fetch the bag? How do you think the receptionist felt when he came into the lobby and saw that the bag was gone? Come with a number of different answers. What could the receptionist have done so that everyone would have been happier with the situation? What do you think the couple thought when on coming back they discovered there was no one at the front desk? What would happen at the hotel if this incident were to be reported online?


My friend and I were travelling abroad and finally arrived quite tired at our destination. Here´s the comment left by them on “Don´t go near this hotel or this town! I´m deadly serious when I say this – Don´t visit this place, stay someplace else. These people don ´t have a clue when it comes to service.” The choice of accommodation in the town is limited, if at all possible rather stay someplace else. Organise your day trips here so that you come and leave on the same day. The only advantage the hotel offers is that it´s by the harbour. However, if you´re not planning on taking a boat trip then there´s really nothing else to do. There were no signs as we neared the hotel, except for a small yellow one outside the front entrance. It wasn´t easy dragging suitcases across a rough gravel parking lot to the reception area. We even needed to carefully avoid some pot holes! There was no one at the front desk, just a sign giving us a phone number we should call for assistance. In an unfriendly tone, the person who answered promised that someone would be there in 5 to 10 minutes.


What impression do you think the parking lot and reception facilities of this hotel have on guests? How do you think staff feel when they read such negative comments on social media? How should management respond when they read these comments? Why do you think guests write such negative comments? Are they justified? Try using your voice in different ways, displaying both an unfriendly one and a warm tone with a smile.

Keeping a promise

When a confident, slightly smiling employee finally got around to checking us in, he informed us that we would be staying at another hotel. My friend started to laugh as he thought the receptionist was joking. In a rather offhand manner the receptionist answered: “No. I ´m serious.” We asked for an explanation, but he simply shrugged and said: “The hotel is fully booked.” I was confused and asked how this could be the case as we had a reservation. The receptionist explained that it´s common practice internationally for hotels to overbook. I knew that this explanation wasn´t true as I had worked at a hotel and overbooking was never a practice, especially in cases where guests had fully paid in advance, so even when there was a no show the hotel didn´t lose out financially. We were politely told that the only reason we were being accommodated was because another guest had postponed their arrival by one day.


How would you describe the receptionist´s attitude? When it comes to service and communication skills, what could the receptionist do to improve? How do you think a guest receiving such a “welcome“ feels? How would you evaluate this case from, on the one hand, the receptionist´s point of view, and, on the other hand, the manager´s? Act out how the receptionist is overly confident and smiling and is offhand in attitude

A perfect choice?

I had reserved a room with twin beds but decided to get confirmation from the receptionist before being unwillingly sent to another hotel. To make things worse, the receptionist added with a broad smile, “Well, yes and no. In fact, in all double rooms there are single beds that can be pushed together. We didn´t bother having them separated in your case.” My friend said hardly a word and hesitatingly entered the room, which was quite dark. There was only one socket in the room to recharge both a laptop and mobile phone. The television set was an old tube model and the remote was held together with tape. The upholstery on the chairs was stained and the soap dispenser in the shower was empty. If your idea of fun is to mop up water, both while taking a shower and afterwards, then this hotel is the perfect choice!


How would you describe the receptionist´s behaviour? How do you think a guest getting such a welcome feels? What effect do these hotel conditions have on a guest? Are there ways in which to make improvements here? Come up with some suggestions. How do you think management has defined the concept “hospitality” for its hotel staff?

We believe what we see – Was perhaps too much promised in the advertisement and booking confirmation?

We woke up well rested. The sun was shining outside. We started to laugh about the events of yesterday. But the madness was to continue. The breakfast was so totally unappetising. The usual continental breakfast consisting of bread, cold meat cuts and vegetables is definitely nothing to get excited about, but what was served here hit a new low. There was one dish with sliced tomato, cucumber and orange. There was only one type of confectionery, which was actually stale, a few dishes with cold meat slices, one type of cheese and a few varieties of cereal. Checking out of the hotel was also an experience in itself. Earlier I had seen four staff, now there was not a soul in sight as I waited at the reception desk. After some time someone came who didn´t speak English, snatched the key from my hand, threw it on the counter and quickly disappeared. When we took the boat trip it was so nice to be warmly greeted by broadly smiling employees who enquired “How are you?” and actually meant it.


Why do you think the service is the way it is? Give a number of reasons. Do you think the guests are too demanding? Reorganise the service offered by this hotel based on the number of stars it has. How does one snatch something from someone? Try it.

Our wonderful romantic adventure

My name´s Stephen and together with my girlfriend, Eva, we had finally realised our dream of coming to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and experience the country´s dramatic natural beauty. The hotel´s entrance and lobby were spotless when we arrived. Immediately the receptionists saw how tall I was they offered me a larger bed. We also got to check in to our room despite being early. Such a warm reception made us feel very welcome. We had a booked Northern Lights tour that night but for some reason it was cancelled. The receptionist overheard this and immediately offered to contact another bus company they did business with and reserve two places for the tour that night. We had a magical evening seeing a full moon, the stars and the Northern Lights in all their glory. For Eva and myself it was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. The next day there were fewer staff on duty at the reception desk. They didn´t appear happy, with arms crossed and furrowed brows. Guests waiting in the queue for service kept looking at their watches and were clearly growing impatient.


What effect does the condition of the lobby have on a guest? What does an irritated expression look like? Act it out. Discuss how body language can say much more than the spoken word. Practise interpreting people´s different body language and facial expressions. Conclude the story with the most likely ending, or in the way you would like it to end.

We really enjoy our retirement!

An elderly couple like nothing more than travelling and discovering new destinations. They´re happy and outgoing and usually get a warm reception. Here´s one of their stories. Before we arrived at our hotel we noticed that there was a lovely floral arrangement outside the hotel entrance, but also some cigarette stubs scattered about. A neatly dressed receptionist is sitting upright in front of a computer but stands up and smiles when he sees us and warmly welcomes us. He tells us what time breakfast is served and briefly where everything is in the hotel. He informs us there´s a small problem, that our room isn´t ready. The bed still needs to be made. He apologises and tells us that the room should be ready within the next half hour or so. He asks whether we´d like to wait or go straight to the room and they´d bring the bed linen later. We could see he felt bad about the situation and was trying to be as pleasant as he could. We decided to wait, and he invited us to sit in the restaurant and enjoy a drink on the house due to the delay. We were happy with this suggestion. In the restaurant we could sense the staff did not wish to be interrupted. We eventually got our drinks. After some time, the receptionist came and informed us that the room was ready.


What effect does the welcome a guest gets at the front desk have? What features of the communication between the receptionist and the guests in this case are exemplary? What´s the best way to deal with such mistakes/delays? Give examples. What could such a mistake cost the hotel? How can one see from the staff´s behaviour that they don´t wish to be interrupted? Show this. What grade would the couple give the hotel if communication continues in the same way? Write their review.

Misunderstanding over sightseeing trips

A young couple planned to go on several sightseeing trips of the major natural attractions in the area they were visiting. The trips were booked through the hotel they were staying at. All the times had been confirmed twice by email by two different members of the hotel staff. The couple had decided to spend the time after the sightseeing relaxing and had booked a massage and a table at a nice restaurant through the hotel. They received a warm welcome when they arrived at the hotel. However, a third member of staff noticed that the departure times that had been given for the sightseeing trips and confirmed twice were incorrect. It took the receptionist almost an hour before he finally sorted out the problem. He was quite frustrated with the amount of effort and time spent phoning back and forth. As a result of this delay the couple missed out on their massage and their dinner reservation. They had to make do with a quick snack. They were determined not to miss the sightseeing trip they were now to go on that evening instead of the following day. The trip was most enjoyable even though they were pretty exhausted after all the rush. The next day when the couple intended to pay their bill they saw that both sightseeing trips were included on the bill. The receptionist quickly corrected the mistake and apologised. What the guests didn´t know was that the next problem the receptionist faced was having to get the travel agency to refund the first trip.


What was the reason for the mixup over the couple´s booking? What conclusions can be drawn regarding management, communication and cooperation at the hotel´s front desk? How do staff give a warm welcome to guests? Act it out. What could such a mistake cost the company?

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