Our first impressions of people can make a world of difference. The Front Desk makes these first impressions for the hotel which gives the guest an impression of what their hotel experience will be like. What most people don't realize is that it's also a first impression of a guest. We're also getting an impression of what the guest will be like. If the check-in is smooth and friendly, we have a pretty good idea that the guest will not be an issue for their stay. However, if the guest comes in and immediately starts demanding room upgrades, the "best views on the highest floors" then we know that they will most likely be an issue for the remainder of their stay.
When we are working, we see hundreds of people a day (maybe thousands at the bigger resorts) and we are expected to treat every guest like they are our first check-in. We don't get to be tired and not converse because we are generally your first impression of the property or even the city and so we have to be constantly "on". Think about how much energy this must take: to constantly smile and try to converse with people who generally do not want to talk to you over and over for 8 hours. It can be exhausting. But guess what? One guest asking us how we are doing and making an effort to converse with us beyond "Man, the weather is great" replenishes that energy and then some.
Now, most people are civil but rarely, if ever, do people actually ask how we are or get to know us. We are means to an end, a voice on the phone, and the email telling you "You're confirmed." Very few guests get to know our names let alone ask how our days are or converse past the idle check in chit chat. And that's fine. We understand that people are visiting because they have meetings, a vacation, family to see, etc. They are not here to socialize with the random person checking them in. However, making some small conversation during the check in and reciprocating the questions can make our day. It's a small thing, but simply showing a tiny bit of genuine interest in how we are doing can improve our mood and make the check-in a more interesting experience than "Sign here, initial here, and here are your keys."
This is a very simple thing to do that can affect your trip very positively or very negatively. Just by being nice and getting to know people, I have gotten comp room upgrades, spa upgrades, free drinks, desserts, and food. Now, a lot of people will read this and think "Oh, sweet! Free upgrades for life!" but that's A.) not a guarantee and B.) not the point. You can ask a thousand agents how their days went and not get anything but you know what? You've made a thousand people's days. You've helped a thousand people get through one more check in. And I'm willing to bet you've made a few new friends (even just for that trip) and some great memories. It's a small thing that can have great benefits for everyone involved.
I have nearly a decade of experience in hospitality across the country. With this experience comes some stories to tell and advice to give.