Traffic-Flow Management ~ An Essential Component of Hospitality Training.
By Doug Kennedy ~ The Douglas Kennedy Company
Thursday, 6th October 2005
It's an inevitable moment in any customer-contact position when multiple customers approach a front desk, concierge or guest-services desk simultaneously, leaving one overwhelmed service provider to work through their needs individually, in order, as they stand impatiently in the queue.

What's worse, rather than flow at a steady pace, customer traffic patterns tend to bottleneck, and usually do so at the most inopportune times. Put another way, if you want your front desk to suddenly get really busy, just send someone home early and you can be assured that the last five check-ins of the night will show up simultaneously! It's almost as if guests worldwide were synchronizing their watches to plan their arrival times and coordinate their telephone calls!

Regardless of why these bottle-necks occur, it seems inevitable that all frontline service providers will face these circumstances at one time or another. So, maybe it's time to add the topic of Traffic-Flow Management to the agenda for your hotel's next training meeting.

  • Display A Calm Demeanor. The first step in successful customer traffic-flow management is to display positive body language that exudes a calm and in-control attitude, helping those who are waiting gain confidence that their needs will eventually be met when their turn comes. Alternatively, if the service provider looks panicked and out of control, guests will tend to become more impatient and pessimistic.
  • Acknowledge and Greet Those Who Join The Queue. Create a positive first impression of those who join the wait by acknowledging their presence. Besides making eye contact, a genuine welcome greeting, such as "Good morning sir, we'll be with you in just a moment," will go a long way toward securing some goodwill. Hopefully the response is "Don't worry, I'm in no hurry today," helping set others who are waiting at ease.
  • Conduct "Customer Triage" To Determine What's Required To Service Their Needs. Just as the medical profession does in an overwhelmed hospital emergency room, it is helpful to briefly assess the needs of each guest who is waiting and provide some initial help. For example, you can make sure the guest is waiting in the correct line, get them to find necessary documents (i.e. drivers license or confirmation) or have them begin completing any registration forms.
  • Reduce The Line By Fulfilling Any Simple Requests. After conducting "Customer Triage," the line of guests waiting usually can be thinned by fulfilling quick and easy requests such as passing out matches, accepting outgoing mail, or re-issuing a room key, all while a front desk agents wait for other guests to complete registration forms or review folios at check-out.
  • Focus On One Guest At A Time. Once you have acknowledged those who have just walked up, "triaged" the needs of those who have joined the wait, and dismissed any guests with easy requests, be sure to return your full attention to the guest who is in front of you at that moment and be present with them. Before you know it, you'll manage to make it through another busy period and then catch your breath and restock supplies.
  • Thank Guests For Their Extra Patience. As you complete each guest interaction, be sure to extend a genuine, authentic and sincere thank you to guests for their patience, showing your appreciation not only to them but the rest of those who have just joined the wait.
By using simple tactics such as these during those inevitable periods when the flow of guests bottlenecks momentarily, your hotel team can minimize the stress for everyone.

Douglas Kennedy has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops during in the past 16 years.

Doug Kennedy is the former President and co-founder of HSA International, a business he and his business partner started as a home-based cottage business and which together they grew into a world-wide player in hospitality training until Doug exited the company in a spin-off and merger of the HSA mystery shopping business with Quality Track International in June of 2003.

The Douglas Kennedy Co.

Originally published in Hotel & Motel Management Magazine

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