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In my Front Office Operations class, I have encountered an extensive amount of information about the department. The class studies all the contributing and comprehensive aspects of front office operations and the roles it play in the hospitality industry. For instance, several departments are categorized under front office operations because of the services that they provide to their clients. Moreover, each department operating under the front office has respective functions and roles that play in the industry.
In one particular assignment in the front office operations class, we were assigned a task about “mystery shopping.
” Each student were give reservations for an accommodation to a particular hotel establishment and it was our task to observe the hotel’s front office and experience their services in order to evaluate the quality and efficiency of their services. On the reservation date, we went to the hotel and checked-in. However, that was as far as we could get since our assignment was only to evaluate the operation in the front office.
Moreover, the hotel management knew that the reservations made for the particular rooms were for mystery shopping students who wanted to experience first hand and evaluate front office operations. Therefore, after checking in, we immediately cancelled our reservations. My assessment of the front office operations in the particular hotel was more on the positive side. First of all the employees were very courteous and respectful of their clients. The hotel environment upon entering was warm and welcoming. Checking-in was easy because of the prompt response from the reception.
Identification was asked, for security reasons, aside from that, there were not any hassles upon checking in, such as double reservations, or any other problems. After checking, we canceled our reservations, and just like checking-in, it was done with ease. Apparently, that was all we could evaluate, but I also observed the behavior of other front office personnel, they were attentive of guests and they were always looking around courteously smiling, seeing if they could be of assistance to their clients aside from us.
The experience of evaluating front office operations was limited and incomplete. I was not able to fully evaluate the services from the different departments of the front office, as required by my class, because direct contact and observation was only made with personnel in the reception area of the hotel establishment. “In this case [mystery shopping], the main focus is to assess the capacity of service personnel to offer services at the established standards” (110, 1). Clearly, our trip to the reception area of the hotel did not meet the focus or the standards of mystery shopping.
To begin with, full assessment was not possible because of the limited extent of our research. Therefore, the evaluation that we did is not considered efficient and reliable. Probably because the class was only about front office operations. However still, it is important to learn how to go about mystery shopping and understand its benefits and advantages to customers and business management alike. “Regular checks on the levels of service performance are essential for any service organization if it is to maintain a consistent quality of service” (110, 4).
The efficiency and reliability of evaluating a hospitality establishment is achieved when it is religiously done. In other words, consistent evaluation is instrumental in a hotel’s establishment of quality service. Aside from informing the people about the nature and standards of hospitality establishments, businesses are also made aware that they should provide quality services and focus on the needs and demands of their clients. In addition, they are also informed of the developments or improvements that they could still make in accomplishing this objective.
These are all done through continuous monitoring by several mystery shoppers. “When correctly implemented, mystery shopping can provide service managers with detailed information about what is being routinely experienced by customers at the front line of the business” (110, 21). Therefore, mystery shopping is valuable for both customers and the business establishment itself. “Mystery shopping is important because it allows a business or upper management to get real-life evaluation of how well a business functions when it does not know it is being watched” (85, 6)
Moreover, mystery shopping should follow certain rules or standards if it were to prove effective, unbiased, reliable, and useful. Mystery shopping should be done independently, without the knowledge of anyone involved in the establishment (110, 24). In our case, the manager of the front office was informed of our arrival, so probably the behavior they have shown might have been influenced it. Mystery shopping should be conducted in its truest sense, meaning it should be done consistently and objectively (110, 25).
Ultimately, “The researcher must have a comprehensive knowledge of the industry, job tasks, and procedures – combine with good observation techniques” (110, 26) The mystery shopper should be knowledgeable about the standards and quality service that the hospitality industry should offer for them to be able to evaluate comprehensively the services provided by their subject of research. The research and evaluation should not be based on ones point of view of how the front office should operate, but on how it should operate to adapt and adjust to the diversified needs of every client.
The evaluation of mystery shopping should be based on qualitative analysis, such as the physical appearance of employees, tone of voice, promptness in addressing needs of customers, courteousness, willingness to assist customers, etc. “Even so, the qualitative subjective data must be validated by a carefully designed and tested measurement process” (111, 7) I agree with the emphasized importance of mystery shopping as a form of evaluating the general services provided by the hospitality industry. Evaluating a hotel chain, for instance, without them knowing is much more realistic than conducting informed research and investigation.
The latter gives them the time to change the way the deal with customers, in such a way that they provide only the best services and facilities when there are people observing and evaluating them. Mystery shopping somehow keeps hotel establishments on their toes anticipating evaluation or assessment each and everyday. This also puts the researcher on the shoes of customers. We cannot deny the fact that in some instances of our lives, we have experienced or have heard of other people’s experiences about being treated badly by employees in hotels, even restaurants, banks, and other service organizations.
However, feedbacks from customers are not enough to reveal the kind of service that hotel establishments really offer. Mystery shopping is a good way of experiencing what customers have every time they make reservations (only to find out upon checking-in that the hotel accidentally double booked individuals), call for room service, asking for assistance from the bell attendant, etc. Since evaluation is based on certain standards that is widely accepted by a board of professionals for the proper rating, management, etc.
of hotel establishments, if there is such, then it would be easier for people to believe if the services that a particular business offer is of high quality or not. Making sure that all the standards and guidelines of mystery shopping is being met, mystery shoppers are sure to get the most reliable, accurate, and unbiased results of evaluation and assessment. Real information gathered from investigation in order to improve services and satisfy the client base makes mystery shopping is undeniably important for both customers and hotel establishment owners.
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