We all know the importance of first impressions – in fact, studies show that we make judgements about people, places or experiences in the first five seconds following an initial encounter.  But actually, every impression is equally important – and that’s especially true when it comes to the service delivered by the front desk staff of your condo, high-rise or other type of residential building.  

Your front desk staff is the “face” of your building – the first point of contact for homeowners and guests.  As a result, each members plays a crucial role in creating your building’s image, as well as shaping the perceptions and experiences of everyone who enters.  Consequently, when a resident or visitor walks through the front door – whether it’s their first time or hundredth – the reception and greeting they receive and the way they are treated can significantly impact their entire experience. 
But a warm and professional welcome is just the beginning.  The front desk staff must wear many hats during the course of the day – and in many cases, throughout the night – to ensure a seamless service experience at every turn  Their duties typically include providing information, accepting and distributing packages and deliveries, providing notification to residents, making appointments, assisting first responders in case of emergencies and more.   In addition, some front desk teams include dedicated concierges who can make recommendations and reservations for local dining, entertainment and recreational options – a great value-added service for residents and their guests. 
“When you walk into a hotel, the way you’re treated by the front desk staff can affect how much you enjoy your stay.  When you walk into a residential building, the level of service you receive from its front desk staff is just as important – maybe more so, because it impacts your living experiences in your home,” says FirstService Residential’s Christopher Christie, Senior Director of Residential Hospitality for the High-Rise Division in South Florida.

Your front desk team members are some of your building’s most important hires.  So how can your association ensure that you choose candidates that can provide the high level of service, professionalism and quality you’re looking for? 
If your building is self-managed and your association hires and manages personnel, including front desk staff, a good place to start is by leveraging the experience of your Board members and professional colleagues or connections.  You can also consult with a good property management company for guidance.  If your association works with a property management company, be sure it prioritizes front desk quality as much as you do. 
“We believe that property management is actually ‘residential hospitality,’ so we model our front desk operations after those at the finest hotels,” says Christie.  As part of this commitment, his company hires its own front desk associates to serve its managed buildings.  Often, his team selects qualified candidates with a strong service and hospitality focus, but sometimes, they hire qualified candidates from outside the hospitality pool as well. 

“If an applicant has never before worked in hospitality, but is pleasant, genuine, and enjoyable to be around, we take a long look at them… and usually give them a chance,” he explains. He adds that while the technical skills associated with managing the front desk can easily be taught, softer skills like understanding and caring for residents and building great relationships are often more difficult to instill.
Once hired, FirstService Residential’s front desk associates receive management support, as well as ongoing education and hands-on training through the company’s comprehensive internal school.  “Our goal is to create a culture of exceptional service and professionalism, so we empower our front desk associates to provide a level of attention and responsiveness that satisfy residents and guests and enhance their lifestyles,”  says Christie. 
The right front desk team also needs the right tools to maximize building privacy, security and quality of life.  For example, FirstService Residential’s front desk associates utilize FirstService Residential Connect, the company’s proprietary property management software program, to access an up-to-date database of their building’s residents and perform related services to enhance their quality of life – ranging from greeting guests by name to notifying residents of everything from visitors to package deliveries to emergencies. 

A polished, trained and service-focused team at your building’s front desk can create great impressions and enhance the living experiences and lifestyles of your homeowners and guests, now and in the future. Having an awesome front desk team is just one way to upgrade your high-rise amenities.
Thursday March 03, 2016