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Does your reception staff have the right soft skills? Here are 5 exercises to test it!

Empathy, problem-solving, stress management and teamwork: find out why they are essential.

The soft skills important for hotel reception staff | Smartpricing

In an era when the increasing digitization of businesses and the advent of artificial intelligence are colliding with a chronic shortage of workers (77 percent of employers globally report difficulty finding staff), a crucial question is emerging: with machines increasingly capable of performing tasks once thought to be exclusively human, what skills will be considered truly essential?

One answer is already clear: in this context, it is imperative to rely on employees with not only solid technical skills (hard skills), but above all what are so-called soft skills, or a person's interpersonal and behavioral skills.

According to Deloitte research, "soft skills-intensive" occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, while hiring employees with high soft skills would have a direct effect on increasing corporate turnover.

All of this also closely affects hospitality facilities and especially reception staff, the place where the push for digitization is most strongly felt and, at the same time, the need to ensure valuable human relationships.

That's why in this article we will explore the most important soft skills and how to help your front desk staff acquire or improve them.

Active listening

Communication is a key skill in the hospitality industry, and reception staff must be able to communicate clearly and professionally with customers because this is also what can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience.

To be good at communicating, however, one must first learn to listen. And this is where active listening comes in, which means devoting sincere interest and attention to what the customer is saying (not just following along and nodding).

Active listening requires paying attention to all aspects of communication, verbal and nonverbal. This helps reception staff fully understand the customer's needs, wants, and concerns, enabling them not only to respond appropriately, but also to anticipate any additional needs.

Here are some tips to put into practice, taken from American psychologist Thomas Gordon's "Theory of Active Listening".

  • Engage in empathy that is, strive to understand the person's emotional states as well.
  • Repeating succinctly what the other person has said to demonstrate understanding and offer the opportunity to confirm or correct.
  • Ask open rather than closed questions to encourage the other person to express themselves in more detail.
  • Avoid making judgments to provide a safe space where the other person can express themselves freely.

What if while the other person is talking your mind is wandering and you are already thinking about what to answer?

Here's a little trick: simply repeat the words the other person is saying in your mind. This way you stay connected to the conversation and better memorize what is being said.


Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and perceive what they are feeling. It is a critical skill because it allows us to put those in front of us at ease, establish more meaningful relationships with them and respond to their needs and emotions appropriately.

Here are some suggestions on how to develop it:

  • Empathic Observation

Observe people's facial expressions, body language and emotions. Try to understand the nuances of their emotions and respond appropriately.

  • Practice perspective taking

Imagine what it would be like to be in the situation of the person in front of you. Try to see things from their point of view and consider the context in which they find themselves.

  • Showing Compassion

Perform acts of kindness toward others. Showing compassion is an effective way to demonstrate empathy and to help others feel understood and supported.

  • Increase emotional awareness

Improving awareness of one's emotions means better understanding how they affect interactions with others

A practical exercise to develop empathy at a hotel

You can organize role-plays in which staff members have to put themselves in the guests' shoes and simulate various situations, such as a guest who is stressed about a delay in their flight or a guest who needs special assistance.

This exercise allows them to practice putting themselves in others' shoes, understand their emotions, and respond empathetically.

Accountability and feedback

We often think that communicating clearly and directly is enough to be understood by others. However, how our words are interpreted also depends on the context, personal beliefs, and experiences of the listener. Therefore, it is essential to take responsibility for how we communicate, evaluating and adapting our message based on the responses (feedback) we receive.

Responsibility in communication begins with awareness of how our words, tone of voice, and body language influence others and can distort the message we are trying to convey. Becoming aware of these influences and trying to communicate by aligning ourselves with the person in front of us can help avoid misunderstandings and create more harmonious relationships.

In addition, to make communication more effective, it is important to listen carefully to the responses we receive. Only then can we identify any misunderstandings or ambiguities in our message and make the necessary adjustments to improve.

A practical exercise to improve hotel communication

By dividing the staff into pairs, you can propose this type of exercise to them:

  1. Choose a topic of conversation and establish a sender role and a receiver role.
  2. The sender will communicate a message to the receiver.
  3. The receiver should listen actively and ask clarifying questions if necessary, without assuming that he or she has understood the message correctly.
  4. After receiving the message, the receiver will respond with a response based on his or her understanding of the message.
  5. The sender will reflect on the response received, evaluating whether his or her message was interpreted correctly or whether it may have contributed to a response different from what he or she expected.

Observing the different interpretations that may emerge from the same communication will develop greater accountability in the ability to send a message clearly and effectively.


Reception staff in a hotel must be able to deal with and solve problems that arise during their work. This skill is called problem-solving and is critical to ensuring quality service and meeting guest needs efficiently.

A few elements are required to develop this skill:

  • Thorough knowledge of the facility and procedures

It is essential to have a thorough knowledge of the hotel (services offered, rooms, common areas, restaurant, etc.) and the procedures or service standards. This knowledge will enable you to detect possible problems in advance and identify guidelines to follow in solving problems.

  • Autonomy of action

The ability to make autonomous decisions and act quickly is essential to solve problems, avoid inconvenience to customers, and ensure a positive experience. Autonomy of action will be more effective the higher management's confidence in the staff's abilities.

  • Critical thinking skills

Problem-solving requires the ability to accurately analyze the situation and evaluate the different options available. Developing critical thinking skills will enable you to identify problems, analyze them accurately, and choose the most appropriate solution.

  • Being flexible and adaptable

Problems in the hospitality environment can emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. Being flexible, adaptable and creative is essential to address and solve any critical issues.

A practical exercise to develop problem-solving in hotels

To develop problem-solving at the hotel, you can work on case studies. Staff members can analyze problem situations that have occurred in the past and look together for the best solutions. This exercise helps develop the ability to analyze problems, evaluate available options, and make effective decisions.

Stress Management

The hotel industry is notoriously hectic and stressful: one is often faced with high-pressure situations, tight deadlines and constant customer demands. Effective stress management therefore becomes essential to maintain mental and physical balance.

In stress management, mental attitude plays an essential role. Here are some suggestions for developing a positive mental attitude:

  • Change perspective

Try to see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning rather than as insurmountable problems. This change in perspective can increase motivation and reduce anxiety.

  • Cultivate gratitude

Focusing on the positive things in your life and work, such as making a daily list of things for which you are grateful, can help reduce stress and create emotional balance.

  • Practicing self-care

Taking care of yourself is essential to maintaining a positive mental attitude. Finding activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as sports, leisure or meditation, can help recharge your energy and reduce accumulated stress.

A practical exercise for stress management in hotels

When stress increases, breathing can become shallow and accelerated, further fueling the state of tension. Here are a few ways in which breathing can be used as a tool to reduce stress in the immediate term:

  • Deep breathing

Inhale deeply through your nose, expand your chest and diaphragm, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This simple exercise can promote relaxation and restore our internal balance.

  • 4-7-8 Breath

Inhaling slowly through the nose while counting to 4, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale slowly through the mouth counting to 8. Repeat the cycle for a few minutes.

  • Conscious breathing during breaks

During your work shift, try to find times to take breaks to focus on your breathing. Even a few minutes of mindful breathing can help decrease accumulated stress and restore inner calm.

Capacity for teamwork

Reception staff in a hotel often work as a team and must be able to collaborate effectively to ensure a positive guest experience.

The first step in creating an effective team is to accept and appreciate the differences among team members. Each individual brings with them a unique set of skills, viewpoints, and ways of working. These differences can enrich the team by enabling it to address a wide range of problems and come up with innovative solutions.

However, it is also important to recognize and respect differences of opinion. Open dialogue and mutual respect are key to overcoming these differences and coming to a common agreement.

Finally, sharing knowledge and experience, mutual trust and support are essential elements in creating a collaborative working environment.

A practical exercise to develop teamwork skills in hotels

One of the best ways to encourage teamwork is through team building activities.

A good example is to plan an escape room experience, which requires maximum collaboration and communication among group members. This exercise improves team cohesion, mutual trust and the ability to work together toward a common goal.

Developing these soft skills takes time and practice, but the result will be a reception staff that can provide an extraordinary experience for your guests, allowing your facility to stand out from the competition in quality of service.

Increasing quality means being able to aspire to better results, and Smartpricing can give you a hand in maximizing your efforts, seeing concrete results in terms of revenue as well.

Smartpricing is the Dynamic Pricing and Revenue management software that helps you increase the effectiveness of your pricing decisions, considering every variable: both those internal to your facility (such as past and future booking data) and external (such as price trends in your target market and the impact of events).

The more than 3,000 accommodations that trust Smartpricing have seen an increase in revenue, of +30% per year, on average.

If you would like to learn more about Smartpricing and find out what a difference it could make for your hospitality establishment, book a personalized demonstration now!