Ask TrueGuest: PBX Basics

Dear TrueGuest,

I was recently promoted to PBX Manager at a 4 diamond hotel.  Our service scores in PBX have been awful.  Can you help?

Thanks,

April


phone

We can help.  Good phone skills are a lost art.  If you are experiencing poor scores when it comes to handling phone calls, focus on the basics.  The secret to PBX is consistency.  Here are some basic tips:

1.  Make it your goal to have every single phone call answered within 3 rings.  Test to make sure that it is happening.  Call the hotel during different times of the day and score each shift.  Don’t forget night audit.  We often call night audit and don’t get an answer even after 20 rings.

2.  Place a small mirror by every phone in the PBX office and teach every operator to answer every call with a smile in their voice.  If they have a smile in their voice, they also have a smile on their face…  hence the mirror.

Basics on answering external calls

All calls should be answered by using a greeting (good morning, good afternoon, good evening), announcing the name of the hotel, and announcing the name of the person answering the call, and an offer to help.  Example:  Good morning, thank you for calling the World’s Best Hotel, this is April, How may I help you?

The secret here is consistency.  The phone should be answered the same by every operator on every shift.

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The Ultimate Arrival Experience

welcome-matMany hotels have valet service, bell service, and a good team at the front desk but still fail to provide a great arrival experience.The main problem is that the three teams do not work together as one team with the guest’s interest at heart.  While the valet attendant, the bellman, and the guest service agent may all do a great job individually, the guest sees the arrival as one experience and may be frustrated.

The solution is communication…  communication between associates and to the guest.  Here is how the ultimate arrival experience takes place:

A guest pulls up to the hotel and is immediately greeted by the valet attendant.The valet attendant welcomes the guest to the hotel and offers luggage assistance.  The valet attendant does the normal tasks such as filling out a luggage ticket and asking the guest his/her name.  The valet attendant loads up all of the luggage onto a bell cart and escorts the guest to the front entrance of the hotel.  The valet attendant is then ready to hand off the guest to the waiting bellman.

Here is where the first important communication is required.  The valet attendant should introduce the guest to the bellman and the bellman to the guest by saying something like “Mr. Smith, this is John.  He is going to assist you with the check in and then escort you up to your room”.  We also recommend that the valet attendant discretely hands the bellman a small card with the guest’s name on it.  Hopefully, the valet attendant got the guest name when the guest first pulled up.

Now the bellman can escort the guest to the front desk to check in.  Again, here is where communication is key.  The bellman should introduce the guest to the GSA and the GSA to the guest by saying something like “Hello Lisa, this is Mr. Smith.  He has a reservation for this evening.”  Again, the bellman can refer to the card the valet attendant gave him if the name is difficult.  Lisa can then handle the check in while the bellman waits off to the side.  Once the guest is checked in, the bellman is ready to escort the guest to the room.  The bellman can escort the guest to the room, tell the guest about the hotel’s amenities, and thank him/her for staying at the hotel.

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Cash Control Basics

cash registerWe have all heard stories of hotels that have had accounting employees commit serious fraud. Maybe it has happened at your hotel. Maybe it is happening at your hotel right now and you don’t know it. Even if you have a perfect record, it is always a good idea to review your internal controls and prevent fraud from happening.

There are some simple controls that every hotel should have, yet many hotels fail in these areas when internal audit comes around. Here are some highlights:

1. Make sure that the General Cashier does not perform any accounts payable or accounts receivable functions. This is especially tough in small hotels that may only have one employee in their accounting office. In a small hotel, we recommend having the Sales Admin or Front Desk Manager be the General Cashier… anyone who does not do A/P or A/R. If a General Cashier has access to A/P or A/R, it makes it incredibly easy to steal cash.

2. Require the General Cashier to take a vacation each year and have their job functions assumed by another associate. Quite often, a cashier will not want someone else to handle their job duties or to take a vacation at all. This is often a red flag that the cashier is committing fraud and afraid of someone looking closely at his/her work.

3. Make sure that every bank in the hotel (including the main safe) is audited on a surprise basis at least once per month. This one is the most basic of basic controls yet many hotels do not do this. They typically find out of a cash shortage when an employee with a bank is terminated. This is especially important when it comes to the main safe. If it is not audited frequently on a surprise basis, it makes it so much easier for the cashier to steal or borrow money.

4. The drop safe should require two people to open. We like the drop safes that need a key and a combination. The combination should be kept by the General Cashier and the key should be kept by a separate person.

5. All deposits should be removed with a witness present and immediately logged. The deposits should be logged with a witnessed in case an envelope is missing.

6. Bank deposits should be made every day via armored car service. Do not allow your General Cashier to skip days and keep cash on hand. This makes it easier to commit fraud. Also, make sure that your deposit is picked up by armored car and not taken to the bank by the General Cashier.

7. Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable employees should never handle cash or checks. Do not allow the A/P employee to receive checks in the mail. The checks should be received and logged by someone other than the General Cashier or A/R employee. We prefer an Administrative Assistant to handle this or have the checks sent directly to your bank lock box. Also, the A/P or A/R employee should not handle cash, including petty cash.

Again, these are just the basics of control. There is more information available in the HFTP Study Guide for the CHAE Exam. More information is available at http://www.hftp.org/ or your local HFTP Chapter.