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Keys to Increasing Hotel Reservations Effectiveness

Apr 26, 2015  By 

When the following principles are applied each and every call, the voice channel can be a surprisingly simple and cost effective area in which to increase sales—as much as four times current conversion rates.

In the quest for online reservations, the hotel industry has relegated the reservation sales team to order takers, assuming that when guests contact reservations they have already completed their research online and are looking to an agent for little more than confirming dates. However, if this were the case, two thirds of reservation calls wouldn’t go un-booked. Guests call because they are unsure. They call to speak with a person who will inspire their confidence about a property, and to do this effectively reservations staff must be viewed as influential sales people rather than order takers.

When the following principles are applied each and every call, the voice channel can be a surprisingly simple and cost effective area in which to increase sales—as much as four times current conversion rates.

The Empowered Agent

Guests are much more likely to spend money if they develop an affinity not just for the property but also for the person with whom they are speaking. For hotels to encourage this affinity, they must re-think the idea of the reservations agent. By definition, an agent is empowered to act on her own or, in this case, on the hotel’s behalf. It is an active role, one that requires confidence, knowledge of the product, and a social nature. Think motivated (and incentivized) extrovert.

Tone & Cadence

A reservations agent may be trained regarding exactly what to say and still have low conversion rates. Just 7% of communication is about words while tone of voice accounts for 55%. Encourage reservation sales agents to smile when they speak, show their enthusiasm for the property, and be confident.

An agent’s rhythm should be steady. Words spoken too quickly are often misunderstood and make the caller feel as though he’s being rushed; words spoken too slowly may feel too time consuming or make the agent sound bored. Role-play inquiries with agents to ensure they know where they can improve their tone and cadence.

Key Call Elements

1) Greeting. Use a proper, professional greeting and begin gathering contact information right away. It’s worth noting that using a guest’s name throughout the conversation is shown to increase the likelihood of booking the reservation by 2.5 times.

2) Loyalty/Welcome. With CMS-integrated data technology such as NAVIS Narrowcast, inbound reservation closing rates increase anywhere from 30-50%. The ability to welcome back a return guest or to properly acknowledge a loyalty member is meaningful when establishing a rapport.

 

3) Permission. The words May I should happen at some point in every guest conversation. For instance, “May I ask why you are visiting Orlando?”

4) Tell Me About. As reservation sales agents are checking dates, they can be gathering invaluable information that personalizes the conversation. And the best way to personalize is through storytelling, sharing either their own or other guests’ experiences of the property. Using a stacking and funnelling technique, agents can start with open-ended questions and dig deeper with each answer. For instance:

Q: Tell me about what brings you to Central Oregon.
A: Family Vacation.

Q: Wonderful, what’s most important to your family to make this a great vacation?
A: Well, my kids love to swim so if we could be close to the pool that would be great.

Q: We can certainly do that, what are your kids’ ages if you don’t mind me asking?
A: They are 5 and 7.

Q: Perfect, they will love our water course and pool play area. Are there any other activities you might be interested in?

5). Based on what you’ve shared… Agents can tailor their accommodations and package recommendations to the guest based on the conversation. Reservations staff should be able to address property highlights for the hotel’s primary market segments with ease.

 Ask for the Reservation

While this is really a key call element, it is important enough to stand on its own because it currently only happens about half the time. Guests are four times more likely to book if the agent asks for the reservation. Some agents succeed by adding urgency or exclusivity to the request or by adding cancellation policy details, but ultimately, the act of asking on its own is essential.

Measure

Mystery shoppers have been the go-to for evaluating reservations agents for some time now, but technology offers more valuable tools for understanding team and individual performance. For instance, the NAVIS suite of technology and services records calls and measures individual agent KPIs with ease. This means that rather than pulling a conversion goal out of thin air, hotels can actually review their historical data and set realistic goals based on their own background and demand.

Where Hotel Service Begins

A reservation sales agent is often the first truly personal touch point with a hotel, and the conversation during that first call reflects to the guest the service they will receive if they choose to commit. Being the first point of contact for an industry that’s built on service is a vitally important role. With consistent techniques and coaching reservation agents can not only drive far more revenue but also enhance the guest experience bringing them back to the property again and again.

About Brise Carpenter

Brise Carpenter

Brise Carpenter has  15 years of hospitality, finance and business operations experience, Brise manages the West Coast group of NAVIS’ Client Advocates. The Client Advocates act as intimate business advisors and consultants for

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