This post is a good read if you have a less than perfect reservation staff and desire to increase your conversion rate on inbound calls. It is also a bit anecdotal and may remind some of their current or past situations. This isn’t an all out training, more of some helpful tips and if you already know these tips – a couple quick reminders.
I’ve listened to several thousand inbound reservation calls over the last 5 years. I’ve heard the good, the very good, the bad, and the very bad. One thing I know for sure is good people are hard to find. This has never been more true than in the hospitality business. Front desk and reservation managers are constantly on the prowl looking for talented reservation artists who live for the deal…oh wait…do these people exist?
Aren’t most talented sales people in the group or direct sales business on the hotel side?
This is true in most cases. So what are we left with? Either young, green, inexperienced customer service reps who are more worried about playing words with friends then being responsive – or the complete opposite – older, end of career CSR’s who are, let’s be honest… a few years past their prime. What’s that old saying about teaching an old dog new tricks? Or maybe worse. It could be a family owned property and they’ve had the same cousin in law running the front desk for the last 10 years who sounds legitimately angry every time they answer the phone.
We’ve all seen or been a part of this. Here is a typical call I hear a lot and a perfect example of what not to do if you’re trying to get someone to purchase a stay on their initial availability call.
(In a tired and hurried voice)
Staff: “Thank you for calling our resort can I help you?”
Caller: “Yes, I’m calling to check availability”
Staff: “Hold On”
…phone goes on hold for 30 seconds
Staff picks up…
Staff: “Ok how many nights?’
Caller: “Well we’re thinking about staying 3 days sometime in March”
Staff: “Hold on”
Silence…then caller hears the CSR in the background shouting at someone
Staff: “How many people?”
Caller: “There would be 4 of us, 2 adults 2 children”
Staff: “Ok but for what nights?”
Caller: “Well we’re not sure yet – we were thinking the 5th through the 8th”
Staff: “We have a pretty large group in house you might not want to come that weekend”
Caller: “Oh…ok…well thank you”
Staff: “Yep” (caller hears CSR yelling at someone across the room as the call ends)
Think I’m joking? I’m not – I hear this all the time, it’s tough to listen to.
Here’s an example of how the best properties teach their CSR’s to answer and sell their experience – an example of the right way to do it.
In a polite, warm voice (probably smiling as they answer)
Staff: “Thank you for calling our resort, my name is Michelle, may I have your name please?”
Caller: “Jane Smith”
Staff: “Hi Jane, how may I help you?”
Caller: “I wanted to check your availability”
Staff: “Great! I can help you with that! When would you like to come visit us?”
Caller: “We were thinking 3 days sometime in March”
Staff: “Oh great! That is a great time to come, how many will be staying with us?”
Caller: “We have 4 – 2 adults, 2 children”
Staff: “Excellent – how old are the children?”
Caller: “They are 5 and 12″
Staff: “Oh, fantastic, well we have an amazing kids program, they will have a great time…lot’s of activities for them here at the property”
Caller: “That’s great, yeah we’re looking forward to getting away”
Staff: “I can get you the rates but they are based on the availability of the days you’re looking for – do you know which dates I can check for you?”
Caller: “Yes, how about the 5th through the 8th?”
Staff: “Ok excellent, let me take a look. It looks like we have some availability, are we looking for 2 separate rooms or together?”
Caller: “2 Separate rooms”
Staff: “Ok great, I can get you a great rate and let’s get this vacation booked!”
Wow – what a difference right? I could go into all kinds of stats and figures to back up these assertions – but let’s just use common sense here…which do you think has a higher probability of creating a buy now moment?
So without further adieu – here are 3 quick, practical tips when training or retraining your front desk staff:
1. Don’t be afraid to personalize a quick call – ask for their name, call them by their name, relate to the guest. People like talking to people they feel like they know and they don’t like talking to people who don’t make them feel appreciated.
2. Sell the experience. Most hotel rooms are going to be relatively similar – chances are they will be more likely book if they believe they going to have a great experience. Ask them why they’re coming and then sell them on why your property is a great fit.
3. Ask for the business. This is such an easy thing to forget – don’t make it difficult to purchase, tell them the rates, give them a great deal and suggest making the reservation for them.
Side note: If they’re not quite ready and your policies allow, put a courtesy hold on it and get their email address. Develop a system that allows follow up with interested parties – maybe you have a CRM or some type of system to track guests – create a list of potential or pending sales and follow up on them. Don’t be afraid to go out and get back in touch with people. If they called you they’re interested.
There is a sea of information and guests literally have the world at their finger tips. As it becomes increasingly expensive to acquire new guests, don’t do your marketing team an injustice by undermining their work in creating in bound leads. That is what these calls are – they are inbound sales leads. They are important and need to be handled accordingly.
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About Matt Renner
Matt Renner is Vice President of Business Development for TravelNet Solutions and has over 7 years experience in the Online Hospitality Marketing arena.