Fielding Reservations Calls At The Front Desk
|by Doug Kennedy, October 2006
It’s a fact of life at most mid-scale and economy lodging properties that the front desk staff has to shoulder the responsibility for fielding the majority of reservations inquires. Yet even at full service and luxury hotels with a dedicated, on premise reservations staff backed up by a brand or third-party central reservations office, it seems inevitable that some calls still end up coming into the front desk. Even more inevitable is that these calls seem to come in at the most inopportune times, such as when the last three check-ins of the shift have all shown up at once, and when the mid-shift “extra” has just been sent home early since it was slow the whole shift so far.
One has to pause to wonder why consumers would choose to place a long-distance toll call directly to a hotel, vs. calling 800 numbers going directly to reservations. But then again if you’ve ever read articles in USA Today, Consumer Reports and other popular consumer news resources it should come as no surprise, since these articles always advocate calling the hotel front desk directly to double-check that this is the lowest rate.
Smart hoteliers have learned to make this trend work in their favor, having trained their front desk staff to “channel convert” these callers into direct bookings, especially when the caller states that they are at a third party site (such as Expedia, Travelocity, or even the hotel brand website) so that they can save transaction costs.
At other hotels where this subject has never been addressed, when the guests says “can I book that with you directly?” the front desk staff instead tells them to just book it online, essentially forfeiting 10% - 30% of the topline profits to cover transaction fees and/or commissions.
Not to mention that with this passive, reactive approach we are left to but hope that the caller will in fact follow through and actually book with us, and not find what they think is a better option elsewhere when they go back online.
Why does the front desk staff miss this opportunity? Are they unwilling to do so? Are they too busy with more important priorities? Or perhaps it is just that they are not aware of what significant revenue optimization opportunities these calls afford a hotel these days.
By informing your staff on the tremendous upsides of fielding these calls, and by providing them with the strategies an tactics for doing so successfully, you an ensure that your hotel is prepared to capitalize on these opportunities encountered daily.
Step one in the process is training your staff on the various distribution channels in place at your hotel, and the associated costs of each channel. Chances are that most are unaware that reservations booked through third-party websites cost the hotel money, even if it is booked through the “brand” website, which in most cases charge a transaction fee or percentage for each reservation. Help them understand that any time we can convince a caller who has found us via a third party website or channel to book with the hotel directly we are cutting costs significantly.
Step two is to acknowledge what a challenge it can be for a front desk associate trained only in check-in, check-out, and other operational duties to successfully field reservations calls, especially when the desk is busy. Here are some training tips and tactics for converting calls at the front desk that you can use at your next meeting:
Let Callers Know You Are At The Front Desk. In today’s world of out-sourced and off-premise reservations departments, most callers will be more than pleased to learn they have reached someone actually at the hotel who has specifics on the property and the area.By investing in training your front desk staff to property field reservations inquires, you can help them overcome the challenges of selling reservations over the phone when you are staring at waiting guests across the desk.
|Also See:||The Hotels Reservations Sales Process; Today’s Callers Want a Personalized and Customized Experience / Doug Kennedy / October 2006|
|It’s Time To Give Hotel Guests What They REALLY Need and Want Daily! Key Basics Some Hotels Still Fall Short On / Doug Kennedy / September 2006|
|Have You Listened To What Your Hotel Sales and Reservations Agents Are Saying To Real Customers? / Doug Kennedy / August 2006|
|Next Step In Revenue Optimization: Train Your Front Desk and Reservations Staff To “Maintain The Rate Fences” / Doug Kennedy / July 2006|
|Beyond “Outrageous,” and “Legendary” Customer Service Training: Creating “Ordinary Excellence, Daily!” / Doug Kennedy / June 2006|
|The Politics of Revenue Management / Doug Kennedy / June 2006|
|Hotel Sales “Steps” and “Processes” Are Out; Today’s Inquiry Caller’s Want A Personalized Sales Experience / Doug Kennedy / June 2006|