Do you know the conversion percentage of your hotel’s reservations department?
The hotel industry seems to put a lot of focus on its online conversions, but how many queries to call centers are we actually then converting into bookings.
Phone sales are a very important direct sales channel for hotels, with consumers making the effort to contact you directly, so should be easy to convert. Why is it though that many hotels have such a poor sales process?
Is hotel management not on the ball?
It seems perhaps that we have lost focus, concentrating instead on developments with the web.
In fact, reservations departments have for many years already been regarded as an operational department rather than a commercial one.
Backing up my rant of this apparent disinterest to generate direct sales, we carried out some test calls to various hotels in different cities.
[NB: I did not want to publicly embarass anyone, so decided to remove the hotel and agent name.
Test call #1Â [opens in new window]
These guys only quote prices when I called. They did not even react to my buying signals and motivation for the trip.
Test call #2Â [opens in new window]
This one was trying, but the operator was mumbling. I could simply not make out what she was saying. Unfortunately they did not get me to book.
Test call #3Â [opens in new window]
And here a really shameful situation: an agent referring me back to the website…
In this particular case the hotelâ€™s management was under the impression the hotel was performing on target as the correct average rate per person was achieved.
Unfortunately the average occupancy per person per room was actually 20% lower than normal, which made it impossible to reach total revenue target, because the average room rate was totally off.
Hotels have to train their reservation staff to go beyond the price quoting approach. They have to implement a sales process which can then be customized to the individual caller to make it feel more personal.
We need to sell the destination as well as the location and the hotel’s surroundings.
Even the simple things matter:
- Address the caller by his or her name.
- Ask questions to find out why they are traveling so the hotel can better assist their needs.
Call center agents also have to be aware of what is going on in town and be able to give some recommendations on restaurants, public transport and activities.
Below is an overview of a possible sales script you can use to increase the conversion of your reservations call center:
1 Answer within three rings 2 My Hotel reservations greeting "Good [Morning, Afternoon, or Evening], My Hotel reservations. [Insert Name] speaking!"
Note caller ID to determine language
3 Listen to the Callerâ€™s request! A. Redirect call, if applicable
B. Process change request, if applicable
C. Begin reservation process
4 Search for availability on the requested nights Ensure to obtain the following information:
Length of stay/departure date
Number of people/rooms
If the hotel has availability, restate the arrival and departure dates (confirming the day of the week) and proceed to 5.
If the hotel is not available, suggest days surrounding the anticipated arrival date when the Hotel does have availability.
If you cannot accommodate the caller, place the them on the hotelâ€™s wait-list or refer the caller to another property. Only when the Caller asks you to recommend an alternative hotel, should you do so.
NB: Never refer the guest to another distribution channel (wholesalers, travel agency, etc.)
5 Have you stayed with us before? If "No", go to #6. If "Yes", go to #9.
6 Are you traveling on business or pleasure? If "Business", ask the caller which company he/she works for. Proceed to #7; however, while you are describing the hotel, look up the callerâ€™s employer to link the reservation to the company profile.
If "Pleasure", go to #8.
NB: This question is asked so that we can customize our sales methodology to the callerâ€™s needs.
7 Hotel overview (business) Explain the hotel's concept (real business USPs)
Location (proximity to transportation, offices, restaurant areas, business district)
Facilities (food and beverage, congress, fitness, parking, restaurant space, more)
Room overview (emphasize special amenities for business travelers)
Go to #11.
8 Hotel overview (leisure) Explain the hotel's concept (mention real leisure USPâ€™s)
Location (proximity to transportation and attractions)
Facilities (food and beverage, restaurant, fitness, parking)
Room overview (emphasize leisure related amenities)
Go to #11
9 Obtain the guestâ€™s name "Great! Welcome back! May I have your last name so that I can find your details immediately?"
10 Search guest history Use the guestâ€™s name throughout the remainder of the sales process (at least three times)
11 Guest rooms (it's showtime!) - sell, sell, sellâ€¦ Repeat guest
Scan guest history and confirm address and personal details.
"I have a [room type] available at a rate of [insert price]..."
NB: In response to rate resistance, highlight the hotelâ€™s limited availability and re-state the fact that the rate that you quoted was the best available. If applicable, note that availability is limited due to city-wide demand (cite the event/reason). Never use the terms "cheaper", "inexpensive", etc. And never apologize for a price - the price is right.
Mention that the rate is the best available rate at this moment. You canâ€™t guarantee the same rate to be available in the future. If more bookings are made the rate might move up.
Upon further resistance, suggest alternative dates where other price offers are available.
Converting a booking and selling is easier when you give the guest psychological reasons not to wait with booking a room.
12 Convert the call Option 1: "Would you like to confirm the reservation?"
Option 2: "May I book the reservation for you?"
13 Process the reservation Enter data in all required fields, including the company name (even if the company does not have an account with the hotel).
Reconfirm details (including the spelling of the guestâ€™s last name), advise the guest of the Hotelâ€™s cancellation and change policy, arrival and departure times, as well as early departure fees, and issue a confirmation number.
14 Close Ask the caller if thereâ€™s anything else you can assist them with.
Send confirmation letter (useful links for what to do in the city, public transportation, taxi services etc.)
Thank the caller and let them know that we look forward to their return/arrival.
Here is a schematic overview of the sales process for hotel reservations:
This is not something that it is implemented overnight. It requires many hours of training, creative brain storming and constant motivation to keep it up.
We highly recommend implementing a mystery calling program, with test calls, scoring cards, following up coaching, and all tied into an incentive program.
Importantly, we should not to forget to measure the financial results. Hotels need to track the success of each agent and the department as a whole.
NB: For more ideas, visit our hotel blog.
NB2: Image via Shutterstock.