The functional area of front office, with its roles of reception and marketing as well asacting as the centre for liaison and communication within the operating business, playsthe role of the “brain” in the hotel. Employees working in front office undertake animportant task in building up a hotel’s image and reputation. Therefore, skills andquality of staff are among the most important factors in underpinning the competitivesuccess of the hotel (Kong Hai-yan, Tom Baum, 2005).
Vallen and Vallen (2004) define front office in terms of its role as the main contact pointfor guests within the hotel, irrespective of hotel type. Generally, front office can betaken to include those areas of activity which centre on the reception desk and its alliedareas where the main focus is on “meeting and greeting” guests, providing informationduring their stay and processing their departure, including payment. It can alsoinvolve the concierge or portering function, along with back office activities in somesmaller properties such as reservations and accounts.
Baum and Odgers (2001) report a study across eight European countries into thenature of work in hotel front office. They identified the central role of front office inthe organization of hotels, both in terms of the flow of management information andin relation to how the guest experiences the range of products and services on offerwith the establishment. Baum (2005) undertook an international comparative study tolook at the social construction of skills in hospitality and suggested that there was evidence to support the contention that hotel work, especially in front office, wassocially constructed and work by multinational companies and international agenciesthat ignored such divergence was ill-advised.
Woods (2003) conducted a study on thetraining of hotel employees and concluded that there was underinvestment andneglect by many operators in this regard. Angelo and Vladimir (2004) analyzed theresponsibility of staffs in front office, conducting a research study of how to choosesuitable professions and proposed ways to support training and development withinoperations. Johnson (2004) undertook a comprehensive analysis on the development ofpersonal ability in this area of work. These examples support the contention that thereis increasing international interest in the development of skills as a major factor inenhancing business success within the hospitality sector.
In China, scholars have undertaken considerable work into the study of skills andskills development in relation to hotel work generally (Zhang et al., 2005) and the contextof front office employees specifically. Liu (2002) suggests that people working in frontoffice should be quick-witted, amiable, be good at foreign language and communication. Guo (2004) noted attributes with regard to the skills of employees. In order to improve the satisfaction of guests, first of all, all staff in front office should understand guests,then be familiar with the hotel product and further be proficient at marketing.
In addition, employees should also exhibit skills of communication and emotion control. Lou (2003)analyzed the structure of allocation of hotel manager and worked out appropriatemeasures. Xv and He (2005) undertook a study that proposed strategies to improve workquality in hotel front office. Lin and Dai (2005) made a study on the control of the hotelemployees turnover based on psychological contract theory.