By Doug Kennedy
Although they are generally outperforming other lodging segments, most if not all focused and selective service hotels are looking to build occupancy and rate. Indeed, hoteliers can and should continue to focus on digital marketing opportunities to the full extent. However, let us not forget some old-school “analog” ways to generate revenue. Here are a few ideas for training and development.
• Offer a small cash incentive for every voice booking secured by the front desk. I know some leaders will say that taking voice bookings is already part of the job description, but I can tell you from experience that money talks! A bonus as small as a dollar or two for every confirmed (and actualized) booking will motivate the staff to be more persuasive when guests “click to call” from their smartphones. If possible, pay this incentive weekly by apps like Cashapp or Venmo so the funds are quickly accessible to the recipient. The cost will easily be off-set by increased bookings that may have gone to another area hotel or will be covered by the reduction on costs for OTA commissions and booking engine fees that would be paid if the guest booked online.
• Measure and post the number of direct bookings per front desk agent and per shift. This helps spur the creative spirit in all of us and helps those who are not yet producing see the potential opportunity. GM’s, be sure to stop by the desk periodically to ask the staff how many direct voice bookings they have secured so far today.
• Train agents how to handle callers who say upfront that they are “just checking rates.” Especially now during this pandemic era when guests perceive that there are deals out there to be had, those who typically book online often call to ensure they are getting the lowest rate. Train your team to ask and say this:
- “May I ask what website you are seeing that rate on?”
- “Did you click ‘next’ to display the terms? I believe that is an advance purchase, non-refundable rate which I can also confirm for you.”
- “As I’m checking those rates, area there any questions or requests I can assist you with?” (If the caller has requests, empower the front desk to agree to reasonable request wherever possible by blocking room types and locations or by extending special considerations such as a slightly later checkout time.)
• Equip your front desk staff with a “phone only” rate option that is slightly lower than what is shown at OTA’s. While most hotels comply with the “rate parity” clauses in most OTA agreements, the fine print generally says that rate parity applies to rates that are published online. If compliance is a concern and you think that OTA’s are going to police the voice channel, offer a value-added benefit at the same rate showing on OTA’s. (i.e. Free amenity or service, bonus loyalty points, or a gift card.)
• Hire a telephone mystery shopping service to reinforce front desk selling. While utilizing hotel telephone mystery shopping used to be a core business practice in past years, in the twenty-teens too many hoteliers obsessed only on digital distribution and neglected the voice channel. By hiring a company like Kennedy Training Network or any of our fine competitors, to shop your front desk agents each week, you will reinforce the message that phone calls are opportunities, not interruptions.