Want a Personalized and Customized Experience
|by Doug Kennedy, October 2006
With all of the other priorities facing hoteliers today when it comes to managing transient distribution channels, it’s more than a fair question: “Why do we need a new reservations sales process?”
Yet when you listen to recordings of actual inquiries being fielded from real customers, it’s easy to identify that today’s callers have evolved faster than most training programs. With the proliferation of technology for recording inbound reservations calls circa 2006, an increasing number of hotels and call centers of all sizes and markets now have access to some type of call monitoring technology. Here’s what they are finding when they take the time to listen-in to their own callers:
Now that it’s possible to hear how real callers react to reservations sales techniques, one thing is clear: sales steps and processes are out. Today’s callers want personalized and customized sales experiences, so it’s the perfect time to launch Reservations SAILS Training 2006!© Welcome aboard.
Situational sensitivity.S in SAILS is for Situational Sensitivity. After opening the call with a cheerful and professional greeting, which goes without saying, agents must quickly turn their attention towards understanding the circumstance, situation, or quandary which the caller is explaining during their opening remarks.
Once understanding the situation, they can then personalize the sales process and customize the caller’s experience for the duration of the transaction. Whether it’s working through a caller’s special lodging requirements, reassuring them the lowest rate has been quoted, or providing a personal opinion, a focus on Situational Sensitivity helps chart the course.
A is for Alluring descriptions. When I started training hotel reservations agents 10-15 years ago, we encouraged them to be more informative and to educate the caller on the product. While this is still sometimes necessary, it seems most callers are well-informed about the rooms, facilities, and amenities. They’ve seen thumbnail pictures if not virtual tours, and might have even read about your hotel on IgoUgo2. What’s more essential nowadays is to be alluring, which is to be enticing, tempting, and to make the product attractive for the caller.
To help make your property sound more alluring to callers, your agents still have to know the product and to be able to provide “insider tips.” Even more important is to help them expand their vocabulary of adjectives and adverbs so they can put it in their own words. (One technique is to encourage the team to continuously read your local visitor’s and tourism brochures, magazines, and websites.)
Probably the best and easiest way to become more alluring is to use needs-based recommendations and endorsements. Rather than saying “I recommend this for you…,” better to bring the caller into the equation:
Instead, SAILS training today should be customer-focused, and should allow agents some degree of flexibility in seeking out the best and most direct pathway to getting the caller’s booking before any they make any more clicks or calls.
The key for successful investigative selling is to use ad-hoc probing questions, which are best developed “mid-stream” while the call is in progress. While it is still often necessary to ask traditional question such as “What brings you to the area?” and “Have you stayed with us before?” agents usually also need to use situation-specific questions such as:
S is for Securing the reservation. In the end the goal of all sales training is the same; to secure the sale right here and now while we have our best chance to do so. While it is helpful to train your agents on tactics and techniques, the most important part is to help them understand that everyone benefits when we close the sale, including the caller. Anyone who’s ever fielded a call-back from a caller who had checked earlier and is calling back ready to book, but who finds the inventory sold out or that the rates have gone up, knows that it is in the caller’s best interest to book it now.
All too many calls these days start with “Hello, I went online and I
just have a question….” and a few minutes later end with the agent suggesting,
“So if you’ll just go online to ourhotelname-dot-com, you can just book
it there when you are ready, okay?” Afterwards, one can only hope
the caller doesn’t go to theirhotelname-dot-com instead.
|Also See:||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|