From airlines to fast food restaurants, all kinds of businesses use upselling and cross-selling to enhance the customer experience and maximize revenue on existing sales. We’re talking about airlines offering seat upgrades and wine to enhance a flight, or the McDonald’s® server asking, “Do you want fries with that?” While not all upselling efforts are well-received by customers — particularly efforts driven by the sole desire to make more money — upselling or cross-selling done right is a great way for hotels to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty as well as profit and ADR (Average Daily Rate). Is your property taking advantage of this effective marketing and revenue-generating strategy?
Technically, the terms “upselling” and “cross-selling” refer to two slightly different methods: Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of the service or product your customer is buying, like a room upgrade or package deal, while cross-selling is the process of selling an additional, supplementary product or service to complement the product or service your customer is buying — activities or in-room treats, for example.
Ultimately, both methods result in your customer getting more value from your property, and, in return, your property earning more loyalty and revenue from your customer; it’s a win-win situation:
- Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty through service personalization and added value.
- Higher profitability and ADR through increased customer spending.
- Richer guest data for future personalization.
- Greater utilization of property amenities.
“Upselling” is often used to refer to both techniques, defined as the process of selling a more expensive or additional service or product to an existing customer, and so, for simplicity’s sake, we will do the same in this post.
What Can You Upsell?
You don’t have to run a luxury boutique property to offer guests added value — all types of properties can upsell. The trick is proposing products or services that offer perceived value to guests in relation to their stay at your property. Here are some examples of products and services that can be upsold (or cross-sold):
- Room upgrades – this is a no-brainer. Hospitality training expert, Doug Kennedy, offers some great tips on upselling rooms.
- Packages – value-added packages offer high perceived value to your guests.
- Food and beverages – think a dinner-for-two add-on, breakfast, cocktail hour, or simply having wait staff suggest meal accompaniments to guests dining onsite.
- In-room extras – a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, DVD rentals or in-room massages, for example.
- Activities – run by your property or by third parties.
- Souvenirs – they sell themselves really!
Upselling Done Right
Focus on Enhancing Your Guest’s Stay. In the list of the benefits of upselling, above, notice how we put “increased customer satisfaction and loyalty” at the top, above “higher profitability”? That’s because strengthening your relationship with the customer is the primary goal; if you achieve that, increased revenue will follow, naturally.
How do you use upselling to strengthen a customer’s loyalty? First and foremost, you need to understand your guests.
Use guest profile data to get to know your customer — and simply listen to them — so that you can be intuitive to your guests’ needs and make educated suggestions. For example, if a couple checking in is celebrating their anniversary, front desk staff could ask if they would like to upgrade their room or if they’d like a bottle of Champagne sent to their room. If you take the time to get to know your guests and keep detailed guest profiles, you can be much more effective at personalizing and enhancing the guest experience by meeting customers’ specific needs at the right time.
Don’t Be Pushy. As customers we all like to buy (especially while on vacation), but we generally don’t like being sold to. Coach your staff to approach upselling as a way to enhance the guest experience and they will naturally veer away from the hard sell and demonstrate a genuine desire to satisfy the guest, which usually goes over well.
Position Relevant Offers Throughout the Guest Cycle. Since the purpose of upselling is to augment the guest’s experience then it has a place throughout the guest cycle, as long as the value is apparent.
1- During Booking: Front desk staff should gauge the needs of callers and walk-ins and offer relevant room suggestions, services and special offers. And ensure your rooms are portrayed well on your website, highlighting the advantages of each one; clear descriptions of room amenities and quality images can help rooms upsell themselves. A booking engine that allows hotel staff and online bookers to select added extras during the booking process makes upselling easy, seamless and successful.
2- Pre-arrival: Confirmation emails and other pre-stay emails can politely inform customers of relevant services, special offers or room upgrades to enhance their upcoming stay.
3- During Check-in: Check-in is perhaps the most opportune time to upsell. Weary travelers often welcome the option to upgrade their room or book a massage.
4- During the Stay: When guests are immersed in their stay experience, they are typically more open to opportunities to enhance it. During a guest’s stay, you can promote relevant services to them through interactions with hotel staff, email (your emails are mobile-friendly, right?), in-room guest information books, and mobile apps.
5- During Check-out and Post-stay: Yup, you can even upsell to guests when they are checking out and after they have left the premises! Upon check-out, invite the guest to join your loyalty program, or offer them a discount or free breakfast for their next stay. After they have checked out, post-stay emails thanking them for visiting can also promote return offers. Enticing customers to return with special offers helps strengthen the guest relationship, and the opportunity to upsell to them in the future.
Use the Right Technology. Through access to rich guest data and the ability to automate the upsell process, your Property Management System (PMS) and booking engine can make effective upselling a breeze.
For example, online booking engines that display slideshows of each room provide great potential for upselling directly within the booking process. WebRezPro PMS also offers a Booking Options feature, which allows properties to set up additional options, from in-room extras to activities, that are included in the booking form and allows users —online bookers and reservation clerks — to easily and quickly select add-ons as they complete the room booking.
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