Being in the hotel front desk, reservations and sales mystery shopping business it is interesting to hear the descriptions that frontline agents provide when asked for information about their hotels. Those who have not been specifically trained to properly handle such questions tend to respond in one of three ways. Some sound surprised that a guest would ask questions about the hotel itself and/or its amenities, services and facilities. Many of these agents are "Millennials" or "Gen X-ers" who might wonder why a guest would not just go online themselves to find this information. They fail to recognize the interplay of electronic and voice channels and do not understand that some callers don't trust the information they have read online and instead seek reassurance. When asked for general information such as "What does your hotel offer?" or "What is your hotel like?" these agents often sound annoyed.

Other agents respond with a "30 second commercial" about the hotel, which ends up sounding like a scripted "message on hold" and is not personalized to the callers "story" or situation.

Still other agents make an honest attempt to describe the hotel and its services, but lack the training to paint just the right picture in the minds of callers and planners. Instead they simply list generic features. For a typical mid-market hotel this might be "We are a 150 room hotel that is centrally located. We have an indoor pool, free parking, and a complimentary breakfast." For a luxury hotel this might be: "We are a 300 room hotel with two restaurants, a bar, and a business center. Our rooms feature irons, ironing boards, hair dryers, and in-room coffee makers."

The problem with this approach is that it does nothing to differentiate the hotel from its comp-set. Since most hotels in the same category or classification offer the same types of services and amenities, descriptions such as these make the hotel sound "just" like all of the others on their list.

Instead, today's sales staff of all departments need to be trained to understand that when it comes to information, the balance of power has shifted to the caller's side of the equation. Most have been online prior to calling; many are online while they are on the phone. According to a recently published independent PhoCusWright study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 77 percent usually or always reference TripAdvisor reviews before selecting a hotel. 80 Percent of respondents read at least 6-12 reviews before making their decision. When asked about traveler submitted photos, 73 percent of respondents said they look at these as they help them make choices.

As a result of these trends, today's front desk, reservations, and sales department colleagues need to be trained to provide descriptions of their hotel and its amenities and services that go beyond listing the same facts the caller has likely read online.

Instead, they need to first ask the right questions to determine where the caller is at in their decision making process and what details they need to hear to make their buying decision. A key question from our new Hotel Reservations Quest program is: "As I'm checking those dates for you, may I ask if you have any questions I can answer about our hotel and its amenities and services?" This question allows agents to "un-mask the story" behind the caller's plans and to determine what to say next to convince them to stop searching and start booking right now.

Once they find out what the caller needs to hear and why they have called instead of just booking online, salespeople can then provide personalized descriptions that go beyond listing, informing and notifying to instead allure and entice the caller and to appeal to their emotional desires - not just their intellect. Let's face if callers booked a room based on an intellectual decision alone, it would most likely be all about the price, since on the surface most hotels have similar offerings as their competitors in the same classification.

So I ask you to ask your team, is yours "just" a hotel? Is it "just" like all the others? Or is there something special that makes it stand out from its competitors? For complimentary access to an excerpt from KTN's Hotel Reservations Quest video on this subject visit this link to our Kennedy Training Network YouTube channel. http://www.youtube.com/

Here are some training tips for your next front desk, reservations or sales department meeting:

Make sure your team understands the importance of asking the right investigative questions, such as the example above, to clarify the caller's needs and to find out what they need to hear.

Have the team brainstorm a list of the various types of transient guests (or for hotel sales - the types of groups, conferences and events.)

Then have participants list out the primary features that would be of interest to each type of caller or planner.

Ask the group to work individually or in teams to brainstorm a list of visually and emotionally stimulating words that could be used to describe each of these features and to evoke imagery in the minds of the caller.

Have the group work individually or in teams to write out benefit statements that include these visual and emotionally descriptive words.

Finally, have the group practice role-playing the use of these statements for the various types of callers or planners they hear from daily.

About Doug Kennedy

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry's conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug's monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training authors in the world. He is the author of Still On The Road to Sales and Guest Service Excellence. Visit KTN at: www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly: doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com

Contact: Doug Kennedy

doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com / Office: 954.981.7689; Mobile: 954.558.4777

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