By Doug Kennedy
As my frequent readers know, I have long advocated for hoteliers to view the front desk as a revenue- generating position, not an operational expense. In previous posts I have provided training tips for upselling at registration, converting “property-direct” voice inquiries, converting those who booked via third parties to booking directly next time, and perhaps most importantly, sourcing leads that can be passed along for follow-up by the hotel sales team.
In recent years so many hotel salespeople have forgotten about this “channel,” as there was always a steady stream of leads flowing in from digital sources such as CVENT, brand.com, and website direct. With the stream bed having run dry, it is a great time to return to this “old school” source.
Most hotels are experiencing significant disruption in their traditional group / BT sources. Traditional methods of prospecting, such as targeting those who use comp-set hotels, is also a challenge those sources are also disrupted and booking elsewhere, if at all.
As a result, the best place to look for more business is to see who is staying with you right now. Years ago, hotels stationed a salesperson each day to work as “lobby lizard,” engaging in-house guests in the lobby to see if they could offer referrals from their companies and colleagues. Today, that method might prove to be challenging because of social distancing practices, as guests are not socializing in the public areas and many might not want to engage face-to-face.
However, most still stop by the front desk at some point. Even those who check-in remotely often stop by with questions, or just to chat while waiting for their colleagues or an Uber. Also, planners who would normally inquire via email or app are calling the hotel front desk at all hours of the day with questions about local area conditions and to find out what is open in the area. Here are some training tips:
– Start with one-on-one or small group discussions with your front office team to increase their awareness of how they can help with your hotel’s recovery. Remind them that more occupied rooms mean more hours for their colleagues throughout the hotel.
– Train them to obtain email addresses from those who have booked via third parties or who have not otherwise provided it.
- Avoid saying: “Please write down your email address.”
- Instead say: “May I kindly have your email address so that we can notify you of any lost-and-found items and keep you updated on our promotions?”
– Encourage them to engage guests with questions at registration and when they stop by or call. Examples:
- “May I ask what’s bringing you to our (hotel/town)?”
- “Since it’s your first time, may I ask where you usually stay when you are here?”
- “May I ask if you happen to know if your company might be having other travelers heading this way anytime soon?”
Sometimes planners will call after hours and directly ask about booking a block of rooms, especially for SMERF type business. If you have not trained your front desk staff to properly handle this question, there is a good chance they will say: “Oh, you’ve reached the front desk. Sales is gone for the day. Can you call back tomorrow?” or “Oh, you need to talk to Doug in sales; he can work out a discount for you.” Instead, train them to say:
– “We would love to host your group! Let me get your information and I’ll have our sales manager Doug reach out to you tomorrow, as he specializes in assisting with groups and events.”