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Front Office Notes
Self Study Material for Semester 3rd
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1- ADVANCED GUEST CYCLE
To study the different stages of a guest contact with the hotel
To know the functions carried during every stage of guest contact with the hotel.
The guest is the most important person for the hotel. A guest’s stay at the hotel determines the flow of business within the hotel which can be described in the form of a cycle. The guest cycle suggests a systematic approach to managing front office operations. The four stages of the guest cycle is as follows.
The guest chooses a hotel during this stage. The guest’s choice can be affected by many factors including previous experiences with the hotel, advertisements, recommendations from he travel agents, friends or business associates. This decision may also be influenced by the ease of making reservations and how the reservation agent describes the hotel and its facilities, room rates and amenities. The attitude, efficiency of the front office staff may influence a caller’s decision to stay at a particular hotel. A reservation agent must be able to respond quickly and accurately to requests for future accommodation. If a reservation can be accepted as requested, the reservation agent creates a reservation record. The creation of a reservation record initiates the hotel guest cycle. This record enables the hotel to personalize guest service and schedule needed staff and facilities. By confirming a reservation, the hotel verifies a guest’s room request and personal information and assures the guest that his or her needs will be addressed. Because of information collected, the hotel may also be able to perform pre-registration. Such activities include assigning a specific room and rate for guest who have not yet arrived and creating guest folios.
The arrival stage of the guest cycle includes registration and rooming functions. When the guest arrives at the hotel, he or she establishes a business relationship with the hotel through the front office staff. The front office desk agent should determine the guest’s reservation status before beginning the registration process. Guests without reservation or the walk in guests, present an opportunity for front desk agents to sell guestrooms.
To sell successfully, the front desk agents must be very familiar with the hotel room types and guest services and be able to describe them in a positive way. A guest will not register if he or she is not convinced of the value of renting a particular hotel room. A registration record should include information about the guest’s intended method of payment, the planned length of stay, special requests such as a rollaway bed or particular room location. It should also include the guest’s telephone number, address and signature. Obtaining the guest’s signature is a very important part of the registration process. Front desk agents must possess knowledge about the difference in amenities provided in all rooms. New properties coming up should be barrier-free in design. This means that facilities and accommodation must be designed with the disabled in mind. Some of the features of barrier-free guestrooms include extra wide doors for wheelchairs, extra large bathrooms; grab bars at the toilet and in the bath, low vanity counter tops. Once the guest decides to rent a room, the front desk agent turns his attention to identifying the guest’s method of payment, the front office should take measures at the beginning of the guest cycle to ensure eventual payment. Registration is complete once methods of payment and the guest’s departure date have been established. The guest may be given the room key and the bellboy may be asked to show the guest to his room. When the guest arrives at the room and accepts it, the occupancy stage of the guest cycle begins.
The manner in which the front office staff represents the hotel is important throughout the guest cycle, particularly during the occupancy stage. The front office should respond to requests in a timely and accurate way to maximize guest satisfaction. The front office staff must encourage repeat visits. Front desk agents should carefully attend to complaints and try to find satisfactory solutions. Front desk accounting records must be periodically reviewed for accuracy and completeness.
The final element of guest service is checking the guest out of the hotel and creating a guest history record. At check out, the guest vacates the room, receives an accurate statement of account for settlement, returns the room keys and departs from the hotel. Once the guest has checked out, the front office updates the room availability status and notifies the housekeeping department. During check out, the front office determines whether the guest was satisfied with the stay and encourages the guest to return to the hotel in the future. The more information the hotel has about its guests, the better it can serve their needs and develop marketing strategies to increase business. Once the guest has checked out, the front office can analyze data related to the guest’s stay. Front office reports can be used to review operations, isolate problem areas, indicate where corrective action may be needed and point out business trends. Analysis can help managers establish a standard of performance, which can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the front office operations.
A) State the various functions carried out during the following stages:-
B) Distinguish between :-
1) Arrival & Occupancy
2) Departure & Pre-arrival
2-ROOM CHANGE PROCEDURE
To learn the reasons for a room change.
To learn the different types of room-change and procedures involved.
2.2 REASONS FOR ROOM CHANGE
A room change is a process when a guest is moved from one room to another for various reasons which can be due to request by a guest or requirement by the hotel.
Reasons for a room change can be as follows:-
2.2.1 Guests wants the change of room
The guest may want a change in room because of the following reasons.
1) Initially the room assigned to him was not as per his requirements which may be due to non-availability
2) Someone joins him during his stay as such he wants a double room instead of a single room.
3) One or more equipments or appliances in the rooms such as T.V., geyser, air-conditioner or telephone in the room is mal-functioning or not working satisfactorily.
4)The guest does not like the room ( view, colour, location etc.)
2.2.2 Hotel wants a change of room
1)Because initially the room assigned to guest was not as per his requirement probably due to non-availability.
2)Guest has overstayed in the particular room which has been pre-committed to some other guest.
Below are few more reasons for room change request from guest.
Ø A/C not working.
Ø Room Type allocated was not as per the room confirmed.
Ø Water leakage in bathroom.
Ø Noisy floor / Noise from adjacent room.
Ø Guest wanted to stay on a higher category room ( Upsell )
2.3 TYPES OF ROOM CHANGE
There are two types of room change which can be done for a guest.
1) Live move -Where the guest room is changed in the presence of the guest
2) Dead move –Where the guest room is changed in the absence of the guest but with the consent of the guest.
2.4 PROCEDURE FOR ROOM CHANGE
Whenever there is a need for a room change for a guest the housekeeping is informed about the request and a room change slip/move slip/movement slip/transfer slip is filled in and distributed to all sections such as telephones, food and beverage department, account section, housekeeping, etc.
Procedures involved in a room change are listed below.
· If no room of similar type is available, the Front Desk Supervisor may be authorized to offer upgraded accommodations at no additional cost to the guest.
· Duty Manager, Bellman, Desk Attendant, etc., should immediately be sent to the originating room to deliver the new room key.
· The individual delivering the key should offer to assist the guest with baggage, if the Bellman is not present.
· Under no circumstances should the guest be asked to return to the Desk for a new room key.
· After the room change has been completed, Housekeeping must be notified so the room may be cleaned or "tidied" as necessary. This may be communicated through PMS by entering the room move.
· Ensure that all room and rate changes are properly updated on the Property management system.
· In case of a Upsell the room rate to be changed to the higher category.
· In case of a Upgrade the room rate should not be changed.
· It is important to ensure that the room move is shown on the Property management system as this will affect the front office operations like incoming mail and telephone calls, voice mails and also to ensure proper billing at check-out.
- The room change information should also be recorded on a five part ‘Room Change Form’ and distributed as follows:
- First copy – Front desk room move file.
- Second copy – Room service department.
- Third copy -Cashier. The cashier is responsible for recording the new information on the guest folio, stapling the NCR slip to the registration card, and placing supporting guest bills from the old room rack to the new room rack.
- Fourth copy -Bellman. The Bellman is to make the room change, and the same is filed on the room move folder.
- Fifth Copy – Housekeeping, All room changes must be reported to Housekeeping so the first room can be tidied up and kept ready for other guest.
Training Summary questions:
Q1.What are the reasons for room change?
Q2.What should be done in case no room under similar category is available?
Q4.Who should offer assistance to the guest baggage in case bell men not available?
Q4.To which all departments the room change form to be distributed?
Q3.What all need to be checked before accepting personal cheques for bill settlement.
A) List the various reasons why a guest and hotel could require a room change.
B) Differentiate between a ‘live move’ and ‘dead move’
C) List the procedure for changing the room of a guest.
3. HANDLING SITUATIONS
To know various situations during the guest arrival
3.2 D. N. S (Did Not Stay).
The guest sometimes wants to move out almost immediately being shown into his room. If the room is not satisfactory to the guest, the receptionist must try to provide alternative accommodation (even in another hotel). If the guest departs for reason that are beyond the hotel’s control, the receptionist should express his regrets of assists the guest in departure. If the room has not been used, no charge will be made to the guest. All forms and records should be marked “DNS”. The management normally wants to be informed about all the DNS cases.
3.3 D. N. A (Did Not Arrive).
At the end of the day, the clerk or receptionist should take the following steps:
1. If there is reservation slip in the Reservation Rack.
2. Check the room information rack that the guest did not check in already.
4. Double check the arrival date.
4. Check with the airlines, if the airline numbers are given.
3. Attach the time-stamped reservation to the folio and mark DNA if guaranteed or deposit is paid.
6. No DNA or reservation form and place it with next days arrival often a guest arrives a day or two later.
3.4 R. N. A (Registered but Not Assigned).
A guest arriving early in the morning when rooms are not available may be as to register, deposit luggage with the bell desk and return to the hotel for the room assignment later in the day. The registration card is kept at the desk with the notation RNA. As soon as the room will be available the assignment is made. This is possible with traveling executives.
3.5 P.I.A Paid In Advance (No Luggage).
If the guest does not have luggage, payment is advance is normally requested. This situation should be handled with extreme care and tact. If the guest holds a credit card, an imprint can be made and an advance payment need not be requested.
If it is the policy of the hotel to collect the room rate in advance in “No Luggage” cases the reception should inform the guest politely and carefully collect the amount for one night accommodation gave a receipt and treat the guest politely.
After the check in the Front Office Cashier and sales outlets will be informed that the guest should pay in cash.
3.6 N.I No Information.
The guest may request that no information regarding their presence in this hotel be given to the calls. The “No Information” should be clearly marked on the slips so that the staff can respond appropriately.
3.7 SITUATIONS WHEN GUESTS CANNOT BE ACCOMMODATED:
In general, a hotel is obligated to accommodate guests. Discrimination is prohibited in places of public accommodation on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. Legitimate reasons for refusing to accommodate a guest may include a lack of available rooms, or the potential guest’s drunk or disorderly behavior or unwillingness to pay for hotel services. State laws may stipulate other reasons for denial. a front desk agent should never be the person who determines whether someone will be roomed or not. This is the responsibility of management. Management is also responsible for informing the person that he or she has been turned away. Management, with the advice of legal counsel and the state hotel association, should instruct the front office staff on policies and procedures concerning the acceptance or rejection of potential guests.
On occasion, a hotel may be short of available rooms and may not be able to accommodate guests. It is imperative that the hotel set policies for handling these situations. Seldom, if ever should a hotel be unable to accommodate a guest with a reservation – especially a guaranteed reservation. When this happens, most hotels will make other arrangements for the guest. In the case of a guaranteed reservation, most luxury hotels will pay for the guest’s room at another property. It is important to remember that the hotel may have no obligation to guests without guaranteed reservations, or to guests who arrive after the cancellation hour (often 6:00 p.m.). Generally speaking, guests with reservations who arrive before the cancellation hour should be accommodated.
The classic nightmare for the tired walk-in guest is to travel for miles and miles only to find that the hotel is booked. If a walk-in guest cannot be accommodated, front desk agents can make the situation a little easier for the guest by suggesting and providing directions to alternative hotels nearby.
Most of the time, guests who cannot be accommodated at the hotel would prefer to say at a similar property. Hotel should keep a list, with phone numbers, of comparable properties in the local area. Hotels can reap some significant benefits through mutual guest referrals. For one, guest referrals allow one hotel to compare how well it is doing on a given night with other area hotels. Competent properties, too, may reciprocate by sending their overflow business to the hotel. But mainly, referrals should be viewed as a guest relations tool. The extra care paid to walk-in guests helps create an industry-wide atmosphere of concern and goodwill.
The situation may be more difficult when a walk-in guest believes he or she has a reservation. A hotel might take the following steps to clarify the situation:
• If the guest presents a letter of confirmation, verify the date and the name of the hotel; the guest may have arrived on a different date or at the wrong property. Most confirmation letters have a confirmation number which will help the front desk agent locate the reservation. Ask whether another person made the reservation for the guest; the reservation may be at another property, or it may be misfiled under the caller’s name.
• Double-check the reservation file in view of the guest; perhaps the reservation was for another date.
• Double –check the reservations file for another spelling of the last name. For instance, B, P, and T are often confused in a telephone conversation. Also check to see if the first and last names were reversed in the reservation file.
• If the reservation made through a travel agency or representative, allow the guest to call that source for clarification.
• Ask the guest to confirm his or her arrival data, the guest may be arriving on a different day or a day late. Many hotels hold no-show registration cards from the previous day in the front of the registration file Justin case a no-show comes in a day late.
If there seems to be no alternative to waking – turning away – the guest, a manager – not a front desk agent – should explain the matter in a private office. Registering one guest in view of another who cannot be accommodated can be extremely awkward.
3.7.2 Guests with Non-Guaranteed Reservations
A number of situations or circumstances can delay a guest’s scheduled arrival. Guests frequently do not have the chance to change a non-guaranteed reservation to a guaranteed reservation by the time they realize they will arrive past the hotel’s reservation cancellation hour. As a result, the hotel may not hold the room for the guest and may not have a room available when arrives. If the hotel cannot provide a guest room, front desk agents must be extremely tactful hen informing the guest. Blame should not be placed on anyone’s shoulders since the lack of accommodations is neither the guest’s nor the hotel’s fault.
3.7.3 Guests with Guaranteed Reservations
If reservations are carefully handled and good forecasting procedures are followed, the property should never have to deny accommodations to a guest with a guaranteed reservation. Nonetheless, a property should have a policy for front desk staff to follow in such situations.
A manager should take charge and make necessary decisions when it appears the property will not have accommodations for a guest with a guaranteed reservation. This manager should:
• Review all front desk transactions.
• Take an accurate count of rooms available, using all relevant data.
• Compare the room rack, housekeeper’s report, and guest folios for discrepancies.
• Telephone due-outs – guests expected to check out today – who have not checked out and confirm their check-out time. If they do not answer the telephone, physically check the guest rooms to verify occupancy. The guest may have left the hotel without stopping at the front desk. The guest may also have expected to be billed, or may have paid in advance, and forgot to check out at the front desk. Finally, an early discovery of a skipper – that is, a guest who leaves with no
intention of paying for the room – will allow the guest room to be rented by another guest.
• Personally check all out-of-order rooms. Could an out-of-order room be readied for sale if necessary? If a guest would be willing to occupy and out-of-order room as is, should the room be rented or its rate adjusted? These decisions must be made by management and assed to the hotel’s written policies.
All front desk staff should be consistent when discussing the lack of accommodations with arriving guests. Some helpful suggestions include:
• Guests may be encouraged to return to the hotel at the earliest date of availability. Upon their return, they may be placed on a VIP list and presented with a small gift as compensation for the inconvenience of being turned away.
• a follow-up letter may be sent to guest who arrived with a reservation but could not be accommodated, apologizing again for the inconvenience and encouraging the guest to consider returning to the hotel at some future time.
• If a member of a convention block cannot be accommodated, the group’s meeting planner should be notified. The planner may be able to solve the problem by arranging for some attendees to double up. In such situations, it is important for the front office to have a good working relationship with the meeting planner.
• If a member of a tour group cannot be accommodated, the tour organizer should be notified immediately and the situation explained. This notification may better enable the organizer to deal with any membership complaints in a timely fashion.
• The hotel may pay the transportation expenses associated with having the guest travel to an alternative property. Financial considerations are especially important when walking a guest with a guaranteed reservation.
A) Explain the following:
B) What can be the reasons for guests to be refused accommodation. How can the situation be handled.
4- GUEST SERVICES 4.1 OBJECTIVES
To learn the importance of handling guest requests.
To learn the types of complaints and ways of handling them
To learn the procedures of handling of handling mail and messages.
As the center of front office activity, the front-desk is responsible for coordinating guest services. Typical guest services involve providing information and special equipment and supplies. Guest services may also include accommodating guests through special procedures. A guest’s satisfaction at the hotel hinges in part on the ability of the font desk to respond to a request. A request that falls beyond his responsibility of the front office should be referred to the appropriate person or department.
A growing number of hotels employ a concierge or other designated staff member to handle guest requests. A concierge embodies the warmth and hospitality of the entire property. As more hotel functions become automated, the concierge may become even more important for reinforcing the hotel’s personal touch in guest services.
4.2 HANDLING GUEST REQUESTS
4.2.1 Equipment and supplies
Guests may request special equipment and supplies while making a reservation, at the time of registration, or during occupancy. Reservations agents should have a reliable method of recording special requests to ensure that they are properly met. When a guest needs special equipment or supplies, he or she will almost always ask a front desk agent. The front desk agent, in turn, follows through by contacting the appropriate service center or hotel department. Equipment and supplies commonly requested by guests include:
• Roll-away beds and cribs
• Additional linens/pillows
• Irons and ironing boards
• Additional clothes hangers
• Audiovisual equipment
• Special equipment for blind, physically handicapped or hearing impaired guests
Front desk agents should have alternative ways to meet guest requests when the department that normally provides the equipment or service is closed or inaccessible. Housekeeping, for example, attends to many guest requests, but may not be staffed around the clock. In some hotels, front office personnel may have access to linen rooms during late night hours. In others, the housekeeping department may stock a centrally located linen closet and give a key to appropriate front office personnel. This technique enables the front office staff to satisfy requests for additional linen and pillows even when the housekeeping department is closed.
Guests may ask for special treatment when making a reservation, registering at the front desk, checking out – or for that matter, during any point of their stay. Sometimes, these special requests represent exceptions to standard front office procedures. Reservations agents should have a reliable method of recording special requests made during the reservations process and communicating them to appropriate front office personnel. Front desk agents should also have a way to record any procedural requests they handle.
Procedural requests may require more time and effort to fulfill than equipment and supply requests. Typical procedural requests include:
• Split account folios
• Master account folios
• Wake-up calls
• Transportation arrangements
• Entertainment reservations
• Newspaper delivery
• Secretarial services
A knowledgeable front desk agent usually can fulfill a special request involving guest folios. Business travelers most often request split folio. Essentially, these folios separate guest charges onto two or more separate folios. One folio account may be set up to record room and tax charges, this part of the folio may be billed to the guest’s company. Another folio account may be set up to track incidental charges such as telephone calls, food, and the beverages; this part of the folio will most likely be paid directly by the guest.
A convention group meeting in the hotel may request a master folio. Typically, only the charges incurred by the group are posted to the master folio and billed to the sponsoring agent. Each group member is responsible for other charges posted to his or her individual folio account. The purpose of a master folio is to collect authorized charges not appropriately posted elsewhere.
Concierges may handle other procedural requests. Hotels without a concierge may have front desk agents update and use the information directory as a resource for referrals and outside services.
4.2.3 Guest Relations
Despite staff efficiency and attentiveness, guests will occasionally be disappointed or find fault with something or someone. Hotels should anticipate guest complaints and devise strategies that help staff effectively resolve the situation.
The high visibility of the front office means front desk agents are frequently the first to learn of guest complaints. Front desk agents should be especially attentive to guests with complaints and seek a satisfactory resolution to the problem. Nothing annoys guests more than having their complaints ignored, discounted, or overlooked. While most front office staff do not enjoy receiving complaints, they should understand that very few guests actually enjoy complaining. Employees should also realize that guests who do not have the opportunity to complain to hotel staff often tell their friends, relatives and business associates instead.
When guests find it easy to express their opinions, both the hotel and the guests benefit. The hotel learns of potential or actual problems and has the opportunity to resolve them. For a guest, this means a more satisfying stay; when problems are resolved, a guest often feels that the hotel cares about his or her needs. From this perspective, every complaint should be welcomed as an opportunity to enhance guest relations. Guests who leave a hotel dissatisfied may never return.
4.3 HANDLING GUEST COMPLAINTS
Guest complaints can be divided into four categories of problems; mechanical, attitudinal, service-related, and unusual.
Most guest complaints relate to hotel equipment malfunctions. Mechanical complaints usually concern problems with climate control, lighting, electricity, room furnishings, ice machines, vending machines, door keys, plumbing, television sets, elevator, and so on. Even an excellent preventive maintenance program cannot completely eliminate all potential equipment problems. Effective use of front desk log book and maintenance work orders may help reduce the frequency of mechanical complaints.
Guests may make attitudinal complaints when they feel insulted by rude or tactless hotel staff members. Guests who overhear staff arguments or who receive complaints from staff members may also make attitudinal complaints. Guests should not overhear employees arguing or become sounding boars for employee problems. Managers and supervisor should hear and attend to the complaints and problems of staff – not guests. This is especially critical to maintaining sound guest relations.
Guests may make service related complaints when they experience a problem with service. These complaints can be wide-ranging and can be made about such things as long waits for service, lack of assistance with luggage, untidy rooms, phone difficulties, missed wake-up calls, cold or ill-prepared food, or ignored requests for additional supplies. A hotel generally receives more service-related complaints when it is operation at or near full occupancy.
Guests may also complain about the absence of a swimming pool, lack of public transportation, bad weather, and so on. Hotel generally has little or no control over the circumstances surrounding unusual complaints. Nonetheless, guests sometimes expect the hotel to resolve such situations. Front office mangers should alert front desk agents that some guests will complain about things they can do nothing about. This way, staff will be prepared to handle the situation through appropriate guest relations techniques – and avoid a potentially difficult encounter.
4.4.1 Identifying complaints
All guest complaints deserve attention, even though they differ in nature and importance. An excited guest complaining loudly at the front desk requires immediate attention. A guest making an offhand comment deserves no less attention – although the need for action may be less immediate.
Guest relations stand to improve when a hotel systematically identifies its most frequent guest complaints. By reviewing a properly kept front desk long book, management can often identify and address recurring complaints and problems. Another way to identify complaints involves the evaluation of guest comment cards or questionnaires. Guest questionnaires may be distributed at the front desk, placed conspicuously in the guestroom or mailed to guests following departure.
Identifying problems is one of the first steps in taking corrective action. By examining the number and type of complaints receive, hotel management may gain insight into common and leas common problems. Front office staff members may be better equipped to handle frequent complaints courteously and effectively, especially if they know the problem cannot be immediately corrected.
4.4.2 Handling complaints
It is usually counterproductive to ignore a guest complaint. In many hotels, front desk agents are instructed to refer complaints to supervisors or managers. But sometimes, front desk agents may not be able to pass the complaint on – especially when the complaint demands immediate attention. Hotels should have a contingency plan in place for such situations.
The front desk may receive complaints about food and beverage operations in the hotel, regardless of whether those operations are managed by the hotel. Unless the hotel and the food and beverage operators establish procedures for referring complaints, guests may continue to be upset and the hotel will continue to receive the blame. The hotel and its revenue outlets should maintain close communications and develop procedures designed to satisfactorily resolve guest complaints.
Managers and employees should keep these points in mind when handling guest complaints:
• Guests may be quite angry. Staff members should never go along to a guestroom to investigate a problem or otherwise risk potential danger.
• Staff members should never make a promise that exceeds their authority.
• If a problem cannot be solved, staff members should admit this early on. Honesty is the best policy.
• Some guests complain as part of their nature, and may never be satisfied. The front office should develop an approach for dealing with such guests.
Learning to deal effectively with complaints requires experience. Front office staff members can practice by thinking about how they might resolve some of the hotel’s most common complaints. Role-playing can also be an effective method in learning to deal with complaints. By anticipating complaints, planning and practicing responses, and receiving constructive feedback, staff members should be better prepared to deal with guest complaints.
4.4.3 Follow-up Procedures
Management may use the front desk logbook to initiate corrective action, verify that complaints have been resolved and identify recurring problems. This comprehensive written record may also enable management to contact guests who are still dissatisfied at checkout. A letter from the front office manager expressing regret about the incident is usually sufficient to promote goodwill and demonstrate concern for guest satisfaction. Some managers may telephone checked-out guests to get a more complete picture of the incident, depending on its significance. Chain hotels may also receive guest complaints channeled through chain headquarters. Cumulative records of complaints about each hotel in the chain may be compiled and sent regularly to managers. This method of feedback allows the chain’s corporate headquarters to evaluate and compare each hotel’s guest relations performance.
4.4 MAIL HANDLING PROCEDURES
Mail handling is a very important activity of the front desk and the way the mail is handled shows the efficiency and attitude of the hotel staff.
Type of mail received by the hotel can be sorted into two categories i.e. mail for guests and mail for the hotel.
4.4.1 Mail for hotel guests
Incoming mail for hotel guests can be further sorted out into three categories viz; in-house guests; Guests who have checked out ; Guests who are expected to arrive.
188.8.131.52 Mail For In-House Guests
Any mail received for in-house guests, it first checked if the guest is in the room, if he is in the room then the guest is intimidated about the mail and the same is sent to the room with a bell boy. If the guest is not in the room and the room key is also not at the reception then a message is placed on the door knob of the guest room door. If however the room key is at the reception than the mail is kept along with the room key.
184.108.40.206 Mail For Guests Who Have Checked Out
Any mail received for guests who have already checked out, their respective GR cards are checked for their addresses and or and forwarding addresses/instructions left. With the addresses, the mail is forwarded to the guests.
220.127.116.11 Mail for guests expected to arrive
Any mail for guests who are expected to arrive is first sorted according to their expected dates of arrival and then is a slip written out and placed along with the advance reservation details and on the day prior to the guest arrival the mail is sent along with the reservation correspondence to the front desk who in turn on arrival of the guest, hand over the same to the guests.
4.5 MESSAGE HANDLING PROCEDURES
Receiving messages for in-house guests during their absence, recording them and communicating them to the guests as soon as possible is an important function of the front desk. Messages can be received for guests when they are not in their room and have not given a locating slip. Messages can be received by the hotel on behalf of the guests either through the phone or someone coming in person to see the guest. In either case a ‘While you were out’ form is filled in with the identity of the caller/visitor and the message written therein. The same is the placed either along with the room key (if there) or slipped under the guests room door.
DEAR…………………………………. ROOM No.……..
WHILE YOU WERE OUT
CAME TO SEE YOU CALLED BY TEL. IS WAITING
WILL RETURN PLEASE CALL BACK IS URGENT
A) Which are the different services that a front desk staff can a assist a guest during his stay at the hotel.
B) What are the different ways a guest can ask for his account folio to be charged.
C) List and explain the different types of complaints that can be received at the front desk.
D) How should a front office staff handle a guest complaint, and what is the importance of the follow-up procedure.
E) List the various types of mail received by the front desk, how should the front desk handle the same.
F) What is the procedure for handling guest messages. Design a message form for a hotel.
5-FRONT OFFICE ACCOUNTING SYSTEM 5.1 OBJECTIVES
To learn the various accounting systems used in the front Office
To learn the account methods used in the Front Office operations
A FO accounting system monitors and charts the transactions of guests and businesses, agencies and other non-guests using the hotel’s services and facilities. An effective accounting system consists of tasks performed during each stage of the guest cycle. During the pre-arrival stage, a guest accounting system captures data related to the type of reservation guarantee and tracks payments made earlier and advance deposits. When a guest arrives at the front desk, the guest accounting system documents the application of room rate and tax at registration. During occupancy, the accounting system tracks authorized guest purchases. Finally, a guest accounting system ensures payment for outstanding goods and services at the time of check-out.
In brief, a FO accounting system
• creates and maintains an accurate accounting record for each guest or non-guest account
• tracks financial transactions through the guest cycle
• ensures internal control over cash and non-cash transactions
• records settlement for all goods and services provided
The following accounting fundamentals are discussed below :
Accounts Folios Vouchers Points of Sale Ledgers
An Account is a form on which financial data are accumulated and summarized. It is a record of charges and payments. Adding a charge or payment is called posting to the account. A charge that is posted to a customer is called a debit, and a payment is called a credit. When a debit is posted, the amount of the debit is added to the account. When a credit is posted, the amount is subtracted. The increases and decreases in an account are calculated and the resulting monetary amount is the account balance. The value of debits and credits results from the use of double-entry book keeping, which is the basis for accounting in all modern businesses.
Guest account is a record of financial transactions, which occur between a guest and the hotel. Guest accounts are created when guests guarantee their reservations or when they register at the front desk. The FO usually seeks payment for any outstanding guest balance during the settlement stage of the guest cycle.
A hotel may extend in-house charge privileges to local businesses or agencies as a means of promotion, or to groups sponsoring meetings at the hotel. The FO creates non-guest accounts to track these transactions, which may also be called house accounts or city accounts.
FO transactions are typically charted on account statements called folios. A folio is a statement of all transactions (debits and credits) affecting the balance of a single account. When an account is created, it is assigned a folio with a starting balance of zero. All debits and credits are recorded on the folio, and at settlement, a guest folio should be returned to zero balance by cash payment or by transfer to an approved credit card or direct billing account.
There are basically five types of folios used in FO accounting:
1. Guest Folios : accounts assigned to individual persons or guest rooms
2. Master Folios : accounts assigned to more than one person or guest room, usually applicable for group accounts.
4. Non-Guest Or Semi-Permanent Folios : accounts assigned to non-guest business or agencies with hotel charge purchase privileges.
4. Employee Folios : accounts assigned to employees with charge purchase privileges.
3. Split Folios : accounts assigned to a guest on his/her request to split his/her charges and payments between two personal folios -- one to record expenses to be paid by the sponsoring business company, and the other to record personal expenses to be paid by the guest. In this case, two folios are created for the same guest.
A voucher details a transaction to be posted to a FO account. This document lists detailed transaction information gathered at the source of the transaction. The voucher is then sent to the FO for posting. Several types of vouchers are used in FO accounting such as, cash vouchers, charge vouchers, transfer vouchers, allowance vouchers, paid-out vouchers.
1. Cash Voucher is a voucher used to support a cash payment transaction at the front desk.
2. Charge Voucher is a voucher used to support a charge purchase transaction that takes place somewhere other than the front desk, and also referred to as an account receivable voucher.
4. Allowance Voucher is a voucher used to support an account allowance.
4. Cash Advance Voucher is a voucher used to support cash flow out of the hotel, either directly to or on behalf of a guest.
3. Correction Voucher is a voucher used to support the correction of a posting error which is rectified before the close of business on the day the error was made.
2. Credit Card Voucher is the form designated by a credit card company to be used for imprinting a credit card and recording the amount charged.
1. Paid - out Voucher is a voucher used to support the cash disbursed by the hotel on behalf of a guest and charged to the guest’s account as a cash advance.
8. Transfer Voucher is a voucher used to support a reduction in balance on one folio and an equal increase in balance on another. Transfer vouchers are used for transfers
between guest accounts and for transfers from guest accounts to non-guest accounts when they are settled by the use of credit cards.
9. Travel Agency Voucher is a type of travel agent guaranteed reservation in which the agent forwards a voucher to the hotel as proof of payment and guarantees that the prepaid amount will be sent the hotel when the voucher is returned to the travel agency for payment.
5.6 POINTS OF SALE ( POS )
The term point of sale describes the location at which goods or services are purchased. Any hotel department that collects revenues for its goods and services is considered a revenue centre, and thus, a point of sale. The FO accounting system must ensure that all charge purchases at these points of sale are posted to the proper guest or non-guest account. A computerized POS system may allow remote terminals at the points of sale to communicate directly with a FO computer system, and helps FO staff to create a well-documented, legible folio statement with a minimum number of errors. Some basic information which must be provided by a POS includes the amount of the charge, name of the POS outlet, room number and name of the guest, and brief description of the charge.
A ledger is a summary grouping of accounts. A FO ledger is a collection of FO account folios. The folios represented in the FO are a part of the FO accounts receivable ledger. An accounts receivable represents money owed to the hotel. FO accounting uses two ledgers :
Guest Ledger : refers to the set of guest accounts that correspond to registered hotel guests. Guests’ financial transactions are recorded onto guest ledger accounts to assist in tracking guest account balances. The guest ledger is also known as Transient ledger, or Front Office Ledger or Rooms Ledger.
City Ledger : also called the non-guest ledger, is the collection of non-guest accounts. If a guest account is not settled in full by cash payment at check-out, the guest’s folio balance is transferred from the guest ledger in the FO to the city ledger in the accounting division for collection. The city ledger can contain credit card payment accounts, direct billing accounts, and accounts of past guests due for collection by the hotel.
5.8 CREATION AND MAINTENANCE OF ACCOUNTS
Guest folios are created during the reservations process or at the time of registration. To prepare a folio for use, information from the guest’s reservation or registration record must be transferred to the folio. Non-automated and semi-automated systems commonly use pre-numbered folios for internal control purposes, and the folio number is usually entered onto the GRC for cross-referencing. Manually posted or machine-posted guest folio cards are stored in a front desk folio tray, which is also referred to as a folio well or bucket. In a computerized system, guest information is automatically transferred from an electronic reservation or registration record and entered onto an electronic folio, which is
cross-referenced automatically with other computer-based records within the FO system. In some systems, a preliminary electronic folio is created automatically and simultaneously with the reservation record.
5.9 ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS
Non-Automated : Guest folios in a manual system contain a series of columns for listing debit and credit entries accumulated during occupancy. At the end of the business day, each column is totaled and the ending balance ( closing balance ) is carried forward as the opening balance of the following day.
Semi-Automated : Guest transactions are printed sequentially on a machine-posted folio with information including date, department / reference number, amount of the transaction, and new balance of the account. A column labeled “previous balance pick-up” provides an audit trail within the posting machine frame work that helps prove the current outstanding balance is correct.
Fully Automated : POS transactions may be automatically posted to an electronic folio. When a printed copy of a folio is needed, debits and credits may appear in a single column with payments distinguished by parentheses, i.e. ( ) or a minus sign -- . Computer-based systems maintain current balances for all folios.
5.10 CREDIT MONITORING
The FO must monitor guest and non-guest accounts to ensure that they remain within acceptable credit limits. Guests who present an acceptable credit card at registration may be extended credit facility equal to the floor limit authorized by the issuing credit card company. Guest and non-guest accounts with other approved credit arrangements are subject to limitations established by the FO, called House Limits. The FO auditor or Night Auditor is primarily responsible for identifying accounts which have reached or exceeded predetermined credit limits. Such accounts are called high risk or high balance accounts. The FO may deny additional charge purchase privileges to guests with high balance accounts until the situation is resolved through requesting the guest to make a partial payment or requesting the credit card company to authorize additional credit.
5.11 FRONT OFFICE ACCOUNTING FORMULA
Transaction postings in the FO conform to a basic FO accounting formula, which is :
Previous Balance + Debits -- Credits = Net Outstanding Balance
PB + Dr. -- Cr. = NOB
5.12 INTERNAL CONTROL IN THE FRONT OFFICE
Internal control in the FO involves:
a) Tracking transaction documentation
b) Verifying account entries and balances
c) Identifying vulnerabilities in the accounting system
Auditing is the process of verifying FO accounting records for accuracy and completeness. Each financial interaction produces paperwork, which documents the nature and amount of the transaction, and these documents should be checked to ensure that proper postings have been made to the correct accounts. Certain instruments are used to exercise control in FO cash, as described below:
Front Office Cash Sheet: The FO is responsible for a variety of cash transactions affecting both guest and non-guest accounts, and FO cashiers may be required to complete a FO Cash Sheet that lists each receipt or disbursement of cash. The information contained on a FO Cash Sheet is used to reconcile cash on hand at the end of a cashier shift with the documented transactions, which occurred during the shift.
Cash Bank: A second set of FO accounting control procedures involves the use of FO cashier banks. A cash bank is an amount of cash assigned to a cashier so that he/she can handle the various transactions that occur during a particular work shift. Cashiers should sign for their bank at the beginning of their shift, and only the person who signs for the bank should have access to it. At the end of a shift, each cashier is solely responsible for depositing all cash, checks and other negotiable instruments received during the shift. The cashier separates out the amount of the initial bank, and then places the remaining cash, checks, etc. in a specially designed cash voucher or FO cash envelope. The cashier normally itemizes and records the contents of the envelope on its outside before depositing it into the FO vault, which should be witnessed by another employee, and both employees should sign a log attesting the deposit was actually done, and stating the time of the deposit.
NET CASH RECEIPTS = Amount of Cash, Checks, Vouchers, etc. in the Cashier’s drawer
- Amount of initial Cash Bank + Paid Outs
Overages (i.e. total of cash and checks in a cash drawer is greater than the initial cash bank + net cash receipts) or Shortages (i.e. total of cash and checks in cash drawer is less than the initial cash bank + receipts) are determined by comparing the cash totals of the cashier’s postings against the actual cash, checks and negotiable instruments in the cashier’s bank.
Due Back: A due back occurs when a cashier pays out more than he / she receives, i.e. in other words, there is not enough cash in the drawer to restore the initial cash bank. Such a situation may arise when a cashier accepts many checks and large bills, or encashes large amount of foreign exchange offered by guests during a shift, whereby, a large amount of outflow of cash from the bank takes place. These checks and bills are deposited with other receipts, and consequently, the FO deposit may be greater than the cashier’s net cash receipts, with the excess “due back” to the FO cashier’s bank. FO due backs are normally replaced with small bills (notes) and coins before the cashier’s next shift, thereby restoring the cash bank to its full and correct amount.
Audit Control : Apart from the above mentioned measures to verify correct proceedings in the FO cash, internal auditors may make unannounced visits to the cashier’s desk for the purpose of auditing accounting records, as well as conducting spot-checks of the cash bank of the cashier on duty. A report is duly completed for management and ownership review.
5.13 SETTLEMENT OF ACCOUNTS
The collection of payment for outstanding account balances is called account settlement, which involves bringing an account balance to zero. An account can be brought to a zero balance as a result of a cash payment in full or a transfer to an approved direct billing or credit card account. All guest accounts must be settled at the time of check-out. Transfers to approved deferred payment plans move outstanding guest folio balances from the guest ledger to the city ledger.
A) Define the following:- 1)Guest account; 2)Non guest account;
5)Point of sale; 6)Guest ledger;
7)City ledger; 8)House limit;
9)Cash bank; 10)Overages;
11)Shortages; 12)Due back
B) Differentiate between 1)Guest account & Non guest account
2)Folio & Voucher
3)Guest ledger & City Ledger
4)Cash bank & Due back
5)Overages & Shortages
C) Write short notes on 1)Credit monitoring
2)Internal controls at front office.
6- CHECKOUT AND SETTLEMENT PROCESS 6.1 OBJECTIVES
To learn the procedures and methods in account settlement of guests
To learn the different methods of bill settlement and checkout.
Checkout and settlement processes are part of final stage of the guest cycle. The front office employee primarily furnishes the services and activities of the departure stage – be it a front desk agent, front desk cashier or both. Personnel in the accounting division may be involved as well. Before living the hotel the guest will generally stop at the front desk to review his or her folio, pay any outstanding account balance, receive a receipt of his or her account statement and return the room key. Many guests will forget all the previous courtesies and hard work of the hotel staff if checkout and settlement do not go smoothly.
6.3 FUNCTIONS OF CHECKOUT AND SETTLEMENT.
The function of checkout and settlement process accomplishes three very important functions:
1. Settle guest account balance.
2. Update room status information.
4. Create guest history record.
Guest account settlement depends on an affective front office accounting system that maintains accurate guest folio, verifies and authorizes a method of settlement and resolves discrepancies in account balance. Generally the front office finds it most affective to settle a guest account while the guest is still in the hotel. A guest can settle an account by paying cash, charging the balance to a credit card, differing payment to an approved direct billing or using a combination of the payment methods.
Most front office requires a guest to specify an eventual method of settlement and registration. This means that the front office will know that the guest credit card or direct billing information before he or she arrives at the desk to checkout. Such notification allows the front office to verify and authorize a credit card account or confirm a direct billing in advance of the settlement. Pre-settlement verification activity reduces the guest’s checkout time and improves the front office ability to conduct outstanding account balance. Effective front office operation depends on accurate room rate status information. When guest checks out and settles his account, the front desk performs several important tasks.
First, the agent changes the guest room status from occupied to an ‘on-change’ on the room status report. On change is a housekeeping term that means that the guest has left the hotel and that the room he occupied needs to be cleaned and readied for the next guest. After making the room status change the front desk notifies the housekeeping department that the guest has departed. In hotels with manual or semi automated systems the front desk communicates information to the housekeeping by telephone or through an electronic room status board. In hotels with fully automated property management system information is relayed automatically when the front desk agent changes the room status from occupied to ‘on-change’.A housekeeper then cleans and readies the room for inspection and resale. To maximize room sale the front office must maintain a current occupancy and housekeeping status of all rooms.
The hotel can better understand it’s clientele and determine guest trends when it maintains a guest history file. A guest history file is a collection of personal and financial data about guests who have stayed in the hotel. An individual guest history record within the file normally contains personal and transactional information relevant to the guest stay. The front office may create guest history file from expired registration card or through sophisticated computer based system, which automatically directs guest checkout information in to a guest history database. Guest history file provides a powerful database for strategic marketing.
6.4 DEPARTURE PROCEDURE.
Checkout and settlement can be a pleasant experience when the front office is well prepared and organized. This final phase of guest cycle involves several steps designed to accomplish checkout and settlement in a systematic manner.
1. Checking for mail and messages.
2. Posting outstanding charges.
4. Verifying account information.
4. Inquiring about addition recent charges.
3. Presenting guest folio.
6. Verifying the method of payment.
7. Processing the account payment.
8. Securing the room key.
9. Updating the room status.
Checkout and settlement procedures vary from property to property based on the level of service and degree of automation. The amount of face-to-face contact between the guest and front desk personnel may also vary since some hotel offer special automated or express checkout service. Despite such variations checkout and settlement represents an essential front office responsibility. Like check-in, checkout gives the hotel an opportunity to make a positive impression on the guest. The guest approaching the front desk should be greeted promptly. To prevent any messages or mail going unclaimed the front desk agent should check for any messages or mail awaiting guest pick-up. To ensure the guest folio is accurate and complete the front desk agent should process any outstanding charges that need posting. In addition the agent should ask the guest if he or she incurred any recent charges and make necessary adjustments to the guest folio. The guest receives a final copy of his or her account folio at checkout. At this time the front desk agent should verify exactly how the guest intends to settle his or her account regardless of which settlement method the guest specified at registration. This is necessary because many hotels require guest to establish credit at check-in, no matter how they plan to settle at the checkout. A guest may establish credit by presenting a credit card and then decide to settle his or her account by cash. After determining how the guest will pay the front desk agent should then bring the guest account balance to zero. This is typically called “Zeroing out the account”. The guest account balance must be settled in full for an account to be considered zeroed out. Guest account, which are zeroed out at the time of the departure are transferred to the city ledger for billing and collection by the accounting department.
6.5 METHOD OF SETTLEMENT.
A guest account can be zeroed out in several ways:
1. Cash Payment In Full.
A cash payment in full at checkout will bring a guest account balance to zero. A front desk agent should mark the folio as paid. A guest may have had a credit card imprinted at registration even though he or she intends to settle his or her account by cash. The front desk agent should destroy any credit card vouchers imprinted at registration when the guest pays in full with cash.
2. Credit Card Transfer.
Credit card settlement creates a transfer credit on the guest folio and moves the account balance from the guest ledger to the credit card account in the city ledger.
4. Direct Billing Transfer.
Like credit card settlement direct billing transfers the account balance from the guest ledger to the city ledger. Unlike credit card settlement, responsibility for billing and collecting the direct billing is the hotels, rather then an outside agency. Direct billings are not normally an acceptable method of settlement unless the billing has been arranged and approved by the hotel before or during guest registration. To complete a direct billing settlement a front desk agent should have the guest sign the folio to verify that the postings are correct and that he or she accepts all charges listed on the folio for collection.
4. Combine Settlement Method.
A guest may use more than one settlement method to zero out a folio balance. For example, the guest may make partial cash payment and charge the remainder of his or her account balance to a credit card. Front desk agent must accurately record the combined settlement method and ensure that all required paperwork is properly completed.
6.6 LATE CHECKOUT
Guest do not always checkout by the hotels posted checkouts, hotel should post checkout time notices in places, such as on the back of the guestroom door and at the front desk. A reminder of checkout time can also be included in any pre departure material distributed to the guest. Some hotels authorize a front desk to charge late checkout fees. A guest will probably be surprised to see such a fee on the folio if he or she is not familiar with the hotel’s policy. Whenever guest calls a front desk and requests a late checkout, the front desk employee should inform the guest about any additional charges.
6.7 EXPRESS CHECKOUT
Guest sometimes encounter long lines at front desk before 7:30 am and 12 noon, a prime checkout period for many guests. To ease front office pressure some properties initiate checkout activity before the guest is actually ready to leave. A common pre-departure activity involves producing and distributing guest folio to guest expected to checkout in the morning. Front office staff may quickly slip printed folios under the guestroom door before 6 am making sure that the guest folio cannot be seen or reached from the outside.
Normally the front office will distribute an express checkout form with the pre-departure folio. Express checkout may include a note requesting the guest to notify the front desk if departure plans change. Otherwise the front office will assume the guest is leaving by the hotel posted checkout time. This procedure usually encourages guest to quickly notify the front office of any changes in departure before the hotels checkout time.
By completing such a form the guest transfers his or her outstanding folio balance to the credit card voucher that was created at registration. The guest then deposits the express checkout form at the front desk at the time of departure. After the guest leaves the front office must complete the guest checkout by transferring the outstanding guest folio balance to a previously authorized method of settlement. Any additional charges the guest makes before leaving the hotel (For example, telephone calls) will be added to his or her folio before the front desk agent zeros out the account. Because of this the amount due on the guests copy of the express checkout folio may not match the charges posted to his or her credit card. This possibility should be clearly stated on the express checkout form to avoid confusion later on.
In some properties guest can check themselves out by accessing self-checkout terminal in the lobby or by using in room system. Self-checkout terminal and in room system are interfaced with the front office computer and are intended to reduce checkout time and front office traffic. Self-checkout terminal vary in design. Some resemble an automatic bank teller machine, while the other possesses video and audio capabilities. To use a self-checkout terminal the guest accesses the proper folio and reviews its contents. Guest may require to enter a credit card number by using a keypad or by inserting the credit card in the machine. Settlement can be automatically assigned to a credit card as long as the guest presents a valid card at registration.
Checkout is complete when the guest balance is posted to a credit card account and an itemized account statement is printed and dispensed to the guest. The self-checkout system then automatically communicates the updated room status to the front office computer. The system also relays information and instructions for updating or creating a guest history record.
6.9 UNPAID ACCOUNT BALANCES
No matter how carefully the front office monitors the guest’s stay, there is always the possibility that a guest will leave without settling his or her account. Some guests may honestly forget to check out. The front office may also discover late charges after a guest has checked out. Other guests may leave the hotel with no intention of settling their account. The guests are commonly referred to as skippers. Regardless of the reason, after-departure charges or balances represent unpaid account balances.
Late charges may be major concern in guest account settlement. A late charge is a transaction, requiring posting to a guest account that does not reach the front office until after the guest has checked out and closed the account. Restaurant, telephone, and room service charges are examples of potential late charges. Since the guest may not pay for these purchases before leaving, the hotel may never collect for the transactions. Even if late charges are eventually paid, the hotel incurs the additional costs involved in billing the guest. Sometimes, the extra expenses for labor, postage, stationery, and special statement forms may total more than the amount of the late charge. Few hotels can afford a large volume of late charges. Reducing late charges is important to maximizing profitability.
Front Desk agents can take several steps to help reduce the occurrence of late charges. Front office staff can:
• Post transactional vouchers as soon as they arrive at the front desk. This procedure will help minimize the volume of un-posted charges during the checkout period.
• Survey front office equipment for un-posted charges before checking a guest out. For example, telephone traffic monitors and in-room movie charge meters possess transactional information but may not be voucher-drivers.
• Ask departing guests whether they have made any charge purchases or place long-distance telephone calls, which do not appear on their folio.
While most guests will respond honestly to a direct question, many guests may not feel obligated to volunteer information about charges not posted to the folio. These guests will simply pay the outstanding balance on the folio and disregard un-posted charges. Guests are frequently unaware that they are responsible for paying un-posted charges.
Front office management at a non-automated or semi-automated property may establish a system to ensure that revenue outlet charges are delivered quickly to the front desk for posting especially during peak morning checkout periods. The front desk may employ runners to pick up revenue outlet vouchers, or may exchange voucher information by telephone. A pneumatic tube network may also be used to relay information between departments – similar to the way materials are relayed between clients and tellers at a drive-through bank.
A front office computer system that interfaces with revenue center outlets is often the most effective means of reducing or even eliminating late charges. A restaurant point-of-sale interface can instantly verify room account status, check credit authorization, and pot charges to the guest’s folio – before the guest leaves the restaurant. Similarly, a call accounting system interface can help eliminate telephone late charges. Guests who make telephone calls from their guestroom and then go directly to the front desk to checkout will find all their telephone charges listed on their folio. Call accounting system interface will instantly post a telephone charge as soon as the call is completed.
Some front offices find that requiring a room key deposit at registration helps reduce unpaid account balances. Eager to retrieve their deposits, guests will more than likely return to the front desk before they leave the hotel. While refunding a deposit, the front office cashier has an opportunity to retrieve the guest’s folio, search for any late charges, and complete the settlement process.
Guest who presents a credit card at check in time may assume that all charges will automatically be transferred to their credit card for billing. Depending on the agreement with the credit card company, the hotel may simply write ”signature on file” on the signature of the credit card voucher and receive payment for the guest’s outstanding balance. Some credit card companies allow after-departure charges to be added to the guest’s credit card voucher. Front desk agent must be sure that this is permitted by hotel management and the credit card company before adding charges to a voucher the guest has already signed.
Sometimes guests do not mean to leave the hotel without paying. A guest may be in a hurry and actually forget to settle his or her account. In any case, the front office must be sure that the guest has left without paying before indicating so on the room status report. Such an error could be detrimental to effective rooms’ management and to the hotel’s guest relations efforts.
6.10 COLLECTION OF ACCOUNTS
Late charges that are billed to former guests should not be classified un-collectible until the front office has exhausted all billing and collection procedures. A properly completed registration card contains the guest’s signature and his or her home and business addresses and telephone numbers. Procedures for billing late charges may be different for a guest who settled by cash than for a guest who settled by credit card. Guests who paid with a credit card will be billed according to the policies and procedures of the credit card company for late charge collection.
Guests’ accounts not settled at check-out by cash payment in full – regardless of the credit established or prepayments made during registration – are transferred from the guest ledger to the city (non guest) ledger for collection. At that time, the guest account is transferred from the control of the front office to the accounting division.
Typical city ledger accounts include:
• Credit card billings to authorized credit card companies.
• Direct billings to approved company and individual accounts.
• Travel agent accounts for authorized tours and groups.
• Bad check accounts resulting from former guests whose personal checks were returned unpaid.
• Skipper accounts for guests who left the hotel without paying the bill.
• Disputed bills for guests who refused to settle their accounts (in part or in full) based on a discrepancy.
• Guaranteed reservation accounts for billing no-show guests.
• Late charges accounts for guests who checked out before some charges were posted to their accounts.
• House accounts for non-guest business and promotional activities.
To be successful, a hotel must establish a policy for billing former guests with overdue accounts. Typically, management determines the procedures and billing cycle appropriate for the hotel and its clientele. Deferred billing includes determining:
• When outstanding account balances are payable
• The number of days between billings
• How to control former guests whose accounts are overdue
The sooner the collection process is started, the sooner the hotel is likely to receive payment on deferred accounts. Timing is often the key to success in preparing former guest and non-guest accounts for collection. Each property uses its own collection schedule. Collection schedule can range from aggressive (short cycle) to lenient (long cycle) depending on the property’s needs, clientele, profile, history of collection problems, and so on. Exhibit 9.3 shows a billing scheduling chart which may be used to develop or outline the methods and timing cycles for deferred payment – or account receivable – billings.
In all cases, it is important for staff to be polite – but firm – in any encounter involving a deferred payment account. Collection activities that violate a consumer’s rights can be more costly than the original debt. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit billing Act clearly state the responsibilities and rights of those involved in collection activities.
Regardless of the collection procedures followed, problems in accounts receivable billing may develop. The hotel should have a procedure for collecting overdue accounts. Some hotels appoint a credit committee to examine overdue and decide among collection options.
Some properties attribute un-collectible accounts to the department, which originally accepted the charge. Fro instance, the front office may be charged the amount of the un-collectible transaction if the post office returns a wrongly addressed billing. Postal returns can happen when a front desk agent does not ask the guest to clarify illegible writing on a registration card. Tracking receivable back to the originating departments may help identify departments whose procedures regularly result in un-collectible account balances. The credit committee, credit manager, or general manager can then analyze the departments’ procedures – or lack of them – and take necessary corrective action. Collection problems may indicate the need for re-training employees or supervising them more closely.
A) Describe the check-out and settlement procedure prior to guest check-out.
B) Explain the four different methods of bill settlement of a guest
C) Differentiate between : Late checkout & Express checkout
D) Give the benefit of Self checkout to a guest, explaining the process
E) Define –Skippers; late charges;
F) How can the front desk agents work to avoid/reduce late charges
7-FRONT OFFICE SECURITY FUNCTIONS 7.1 OBJECTIVES
To learn the role of the front office in security functions of the hotel
To learn the different key & locking systems used in the hotel
To learn the procedures in allotting safe deposit boxes to guests.
Providing security in a hotel means protecting people – guests, employees, and others and assets. Because the diversity of the lodging industry makes national security standards infeasible, each lodging property or chain must develop its own security program. Each hotel’s security program should meet the hotel’s own particular needs. The responsibility for developing and maintaining a property’s security program lies with its management. The information presented here is intended only as an introduction, and only includes those elements relevant to the front office. Hotel management should consult legal counsel to ensure that the property is in compliance with applicable laws.
7.3 THE ROLE OF THE FRONT OFFICE
A security program is most effective when all employees participate in the hotel’s security efforts. Front office personnel play a particularly important role. from desk agents, door attendants, bell persons, and parking attendants have the opportunity to observe all the people who arrive at or depart from the premises. Suspicious activities or circumstances involving a guest or a visitor can be reported to the hotel’s security department or a designated staff member.
For example, front desk agents should never give keys, room numbers, messages, or mail to anyone asking for them without first seeing appropriate identification. The front desk agent should not announce an arriving guest’s room number.
Guests may be further protected if the hotel prohibits staff members from providing guest information to callers or visitors. Generally, front desk agents should not give out guestroom numbers. People calling guests at the hotel may be directly connected to the appropriate guestroom without being told the room number. Those inquiring in person about a guest may be asked to use the house phone to call the guestroom.
Front office employees may also inform guests of personal precautions they may take. For example, front desk agents may suggest that guests hide and secure any valuables in their cars if they drove to the property. Bell persons accompanying the guest to a room generally provide instructions on the operation of room equipment. The bell person may also review the use of access control devices on the guest room doors and windows familiarize the guest with pertinent security information, and point out any decals or notices in the room relating to guest security.
A hotel also helps protect its guests’ personal property. The front office may develop a method for ensuring the safety and security of the luggage of arriving guests. Often, luggage and other articles received by a door attendant are move to a secured area; guests later recover their belongings by presenting a receipt. Other hotel employees can assist in protecting the guests’ property. A valet parking attendant, for example, should secure all parked vehicle keys so that they cannot be removed by anyone except authorized employees.
Front office personnel are also important players in asset protection. Failure to collect payment from guests is usually amore significant loss that, for instance, the theft of towels or ashtrays.
7.4 KEY CONTROL
For security reasons, most lodging properties used at least three types of guestroom keys: emergency keys, master keys, and individual guestroom keys.
An emergency key open all guestroom doors, even when they are double-locked – that is, locked with both a standard door lock and a device operable only from within the guestroom. Emergency keys should be operable only from within the guestroom. Emergency keys should be highly protected. Their use should be strictly controlled and recorded. An emergency key should never be taken from the hotel property.
A master key opens all guestrooms that are not double-locked. When not in use on the property, a master key should be secured in a designated place for safekeeping. Only authorized personnel should have access to master keys. Keys are issued to personnel based on their need to use the key – not simply on their status. A written record should be maintained of which employees have received a master key.
A guestroom key opens a single guestroom if the door is not double-locked. Front desk agents should not give a guestroom key to just anyone; who asks for the key is the guest registered to that room. In addition, front desk agents should remind guests to return keys at checkout. Additional reminders include well-secured key return boxes in the lobby, at hotel exits, and in courtesy vehicles. Some properties have reduced key loss by requiring a key deposit from each guest at registration. Key deposits also help to bring the guest back to the front desk before he or she leaves – which can contribute to the effective settlement of a guest account. The front desk should work closely with engineering and maintenance to assure that guestrooms are re-keyed periodically. Hotels have been held liable for the theft of guest items from guestrooms because they failed to change door locks. Most new mechanical key systems are designed for frequent replacement of keys.
Some properties do not list their name, address, or room numbers on guestroom keys. Then, if a guestroom key is lost and falls into the wrong hands, it cannot be traced to the property for criminal use. A code number is typically stamped on the key in place of the room number; a master code list is maintained at the front desk.
Regardless of their responsibilities or position, employees should never take hotel keys from the property. Many organizations require that all keys should be returned to security and placed in a locked cabinet in a secured area of the property. Keys issued on a temporary basis should be recorded in a log. The log should indicate the reason for issue, issue date, time out, time in, recipient’s name, and issuer’s name. Whenever there is any known or suspected compromise of a key, an unauthorized entry by key, or any loss or theft, every lock affected should be changed or rotated to another part of the property.
7.5 ELECTRONIC LOCKING SYSTEMS. An electronic locking system replaces traditional mechanical locks with sophisticated computer-based guestroom access devices. A centralized electronic locking system operates through a master control console at the front desk, which is wired to every guestroom door. At registration, a front desk agent inserts a key or card into the appropriate room slot on the console to transmit its code to the guestroom door lock. The key or card, issued to the guest, is the only working guestroom key.
Centralized electronic locking system presents an additional opportunity for improved security, and helps reduce employee theft. Many of these systems keep track of which keys or cards opened which doors – by date, and by time. If the hotel staff knows about the system’s capability, employees tempted to steal may think twice since they realize the entry record may incriminate them. Report creation and other system functions should be controlled by operator identification and password security codes.
Unlike the centralized system, a micro-fitted electronic locking system operates on an individual unit basis. Each door has its own microprocessor which contains a predetermined sequence of codes. A master console at the front desk contains a record of all code sequences stored within each guestroom door. At registration, the front desk agent encodes a key or card with the next code in the sequence for the assigned room. the console and each microprocessor must agree on which code in the sequence is currently valid. These types of locking systems don’t require the extensive computer hardware that centralized systems do which can make them an affordable option for small properties.
Most electronic locking systems provide several distinct levels of security, parallel to the levels of keying in traditional systems. Systems may include various guest safety and convenience features, such as a do not disturb signal. One form of electronic locking system does not require keys or cards at all; guests set the locking mechanism by programming their own four-digit code numbers, or by using their personal (magnetic stripe) credit card.
7.6 SURVEILLANCE AND ACCESS CONTROL
Although open to the public, a hotel is a private property. An innkeeper has the responsibility to monitor and, when appropriate, to control the activities of people on the premises. All employees should be trained to watch for suspicious people and situations. Surveillance plays a role in most aspects of guest and property protection. Discouraging suspicious or unauthorized individuals from entering the property relies in part on procedures for responding to the observations of employees.
Most lobbies are set up so the front desk agent can see the property’s entrances, elevator, escalators, and stairways. Mirrors may be placed in strategic locations to aid visibility.
Observing escalators is important for both security and safety reasons; personnel should know how to stop the escalators in an emergency.
In many hotels, someone is stationed at the front desk at all times. In a small property, a front desk agent may be the only staff member on the premises during late night hours. Under such circumstances, some properties limit access to the lobby and reception area, and give the front desk agent the authority to deny admittance. If the front desk agent needs to leave the desk area for any reason, many properties advise the agent to lock the front door. This way, no once can enter the hotel until the gent returns to the front desk.
Successful surveillance techniques typically rely on hotel personnel. Proper equipment, however, can enhance many surveillance functions. Closed-circuit television can be an effective surveillance tool in multiple-entry properties. Usually, monitors are located in a control center. Employees are assigned to watch the monitors and respond to incidents picked up by surveillance cameras.
Surveillance equipment is intended to help employees, not replace them. An elevator may be equipped and programmed to stop at a certain floor for observation, but it is still up to personnel to actually do the observing. Likewise, a closed-circuit television system is a worthless security device without people monitoring it.
7.7 PROTECTION OF FUNDS
The accounting division is primarily responsible for the protection of hotel funds. However, other departments, particularly the front office contribute by protecting certain financial assets.
The front desk cashiering function plays a critical role in the protection of hotel funds. The amount of cash in a cash register should be limited through a cash bank system. At the start of each work shift, each cashier is given the smallest amount of cash that will allow him or her to transact business normally. The cashier is responsible for this cash bank and for all cash added to it during the work shift. Ideally, only one person should have access to each cash bank, and each bank should be in a separate cash drawer.
All transactions should be recorded immediately. The cashier should close the cash register drawer after each transaction. A cashier working with an pen cash register drawer may fail to record a transaction, either accidentally or deliberately. Cashiers should complete any transaction in process before changing currency into different denominations for guests; each change requests should be handled as a new transaction to avid confusion. A supervisor or a member of the accounting division should occasionally conduct an unscheduled audit of front office cash registers.
The hotel should have a policy that states where employees should place cash during a transaction. Generally, the employee should not place currency on the cash register ledge. This can make it easy for a thief to grab the money and run. Some organizations recommend that the money be placed in the cash drawer, but above the clip until the transaction is completed. This helps prevent any disputes over what denomination and total currency was tendered.
7.8 SAFE DEPOSIT BOXES
Laws in most states limit a property’s liability for the loss of a guest’s valuables if the property has safe deposit boxes or a safe for the storage of the guest’s valuables. Liability is also contingent on whether the hotel notifies the guest that safe deposit boxes or safes are available. The required notice usually takes the form of public postings, often within the guestroom and in the lobby. Employees attending to safe deposit boxes should be properly trained, beware of the reasons for every rule, and realize the importance and seriousness of this responsibility.
Safe deposit boxes should be located in a limited-access area. Unauthorized persons, whether guests or employees should not be permitted in the area. Such a location may be in the vicinity of the front desk, where the boxes may be secured while still visible to guests.
7.8.1 Keys and Key Control. Strict safe deposit box control should include the storage, issuance, and receipt of safe deposit box keys. Only employees responsible for safe deposit boxes should have access to un-issued keys. These employees should also immediately secure safe deposit box keys when they are turned in. Spare safe deposit locks and locks out for repair should also be carefully controlled.
Two keys should be required to open any safe deposit box. The control key must be used in conjunction with the guest’s key to open the box. The control key must always be secured. Only those front office personnel authorize to provide access to safe deposit boxes should ever have possession of the key. The control key must be accounted for at each shift change.
Under no circumstances should there be more than one guest key for each safe deposit box, even when more than one guest is using, the same box. If a guest key is lost, the box should be drilled open in the presence of a witness and an additional hotel employee. The witness could be the guest or the guest’s authorized representative. The safe deposit record signed by the guest should clearly state that the guest will be responsible for all costs related to the loss of the safe deposit key.
7.8.2 Access: Controlled access is the most critical of all safe deposit box responsibilities. The identity of the guest must be verified before granting access to a safe deposit box. The guest is usually required to sign a form requesting access; the attendant then compares the access request signature with the signature on the safe deposit box record. Some properties ask guests to include a piece of personal information (for example, mother’s maiden name) on the initial agreement and an additional safeguard. If there is some doubt about the identity of the person requesting access, the attendant can ask for the additional personal information, which an imposter would be unlikely to know. Whatever the control procedure, it should be followed every time the box is accesses. Regardless of how familiar the attendant may be with the guest. No one should be granted access to the box unless that person’s signature matches the signature on the record.
After verifying the guest’s identity, the attendant should accompany the guest to the safe deposit box area. The attendant uses the control key and the guest’s key to open the box in view of the guest. Property policies vary on how to maintain the guest’s privacy regarding the contents of the box. Only the guest should place items into or remove items from a safe deposit box. The attendant should never be alone with the guest’s valuables. When the guest is finished, the attendant should lock the box in view of the guest and return the guest’s key. The attendant then returns the control key to its secured location. When the guest relinquishes the box and returns the key, the guest and the attendant should both sign a release notice.
Space limitations often make it impossible to provide a separate safe deposit box for each guest. If guests choose to share a box, each guest’s property must be sealed in a container (such as an envelope) to keep it separate from the other guest’s property. The guest key to the shared safe deposit box should be maintained in a secure place, and its under recorded.
7.8.3 Unusual Access: If a guest fails to surrender a safe deposit box at check-out the property should send the guest a registered letter requesting surrender of the box. If the guest does not respond within the appropriate legal time limit, the hotel should dispose of the contents of the box according to state law and the advice of counsel. If a guest who failed to surrender a safe deposit box mails the guest key to the property, the property should secure the key and ask (by registered letter) the guest to sign a formal release. If that same box is opened and found to contain property, the hotel should ask the guest to personally remove the contents and surrender the box, or forward a power of attorney for the guest’s representative to do so. Under no circumstances should access to a safe deposit box be allowed based solely on telephone or telegram authorization.
Legal challenges related to safe deposit boxes should be referred to the property’s management. Safe deposit box access may need to be suspended until the property’s rights and obligations are determined.
The in-room safe is another option for storing guest valuables. These safes are usually located in the guestroom closet; most are larger than the typical safe deposit box. Convenience is the main advantage of in-room safes. Several different types of safe systems exist. Some have keys, while others have electronic locks. In most-states, inn-room safes are not considered by law to offer the same level of protection for guest valuables as safe deposit boxes. This means that if a valuable is lost after being placed in an in-room safe, the hotel cannot be held liable since the item was not in the care, custody, and control of the hotel. Claims against hotels for articles that are stolen from these safes are very rare.
7.8.4 Fire Safety Alarms:
While the use of some alarm systems is usually optional, fire alarm systems are generally required by local fire and safety Laws.
Fire alarms is required to alert employees of fires or other emergency conditions. Because of this reason all hotels, motels and apartments must have a fire alarm system in proper operating condition which is tested at least every two months.
7.8.5 Burglar Alarm
These alarms are systems designed to detect unauthorized entry into a building or area. They consist of an array of sensors, a control panel and alerting system, and interconnections. Sensors detect intruders by many methods such as monitoring door and window contacts, by passive infrared motion detectors, ultrasound, vibration, electric or magnetic fields, or microwaves. Sensors may be directly wired to a control panel that provides sensor power, or may communicate wirelessly
A) Define the following 1)Emergency keys
B) How does the front office play a role in the security functions of the hotel.
C) Describe the importance & use of the different guest room keys.
D) Write short notes on :-
1) Electronic locking systems
2) Role of the Front Office in protection of hotel funds
3) Safe Deposit boxes
4) Control of access to Safe Deposit Boxes
5) Procedure in case of loss/failure to return the safe deposit box key.